Hardly a recent convert to the philosophy that nothing sells toys like a great back-story, Lego is borrowing a page from its Bionicles playbook and launching a new battle-themed universe for boys called Exo-Force, filled with constructible action figures and vehicles.
Lego’s senior brand manager, Rahna Barthelmess, says the company wanted to tap into several different play patterns that already exist in its bag of tricks, so the line will feature mini-figures, vehicles, action figure-style machines and construction sets for building play backdrops. In terms of the mini-figures, Lego thinks it has come up with a wide enough variety of robot characters and anime-esque versions of Lego’s traditional mini-men to fuel a collectibility trend. An initial 11 SKUs are rolling out in January for between US$4.99 and US$99.99, with another product wave scheduled to hit retail at the end of the year.
Unlike Bionicles, whose development was modeled on the company’s older-skewing Technic line of gear- and rod-style construction toys, Exo-Force hits squarely at boys six to nine and has roots in Lego’s traditional brick system. What the two lines do have in common, however, is an extensive back-story that will be communicated through a massive marketing and ad campaign, extensive TV coverage and a community website going live later this month. Stories, product info, characer bios, comics and games will also be prominently featured in Lego Club Magazine, which reaches 1.5 million kids each month.
Exo’s story may not be terribly complicated (brave humans fighting evil robots for control of the world), but it will balance high action with enough embedded layers of content to keep kids hooked on uncovering new details for quite a while. The website will feature games, character bios, machine profiles and stats, comic strips that outline epic battles, and a tour of the base so kids can see how the characters live and train.
For now, Barthelmess is busy recruiting both promotional and licensing partners, and the plan is to have a first wave of ancillary product hitting shelves in tandem with the toy line in January. She’s already in discussions with some of Lego’s existing soft goods licensees, as well as cereal and snack companies, and Barthelmess is looking to cover everything from publishing and apparel, to electronics. Lego is also talking to QSR companies about possible fast-food meal promotions.