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Brands Waking Up to the Amazon Effect

Category : Blog

In a bold move, Nike has decided to pull the plug on direct retail with Amazon. Decrying that “Amazon is just a traffic aggregator that reduces friction in consumption… It doesn’t build communities,” Jefferies analyst Randy Konik hits the nail on the head.

The ‘community’ Amazon would probably express in rebuttal (if ever they answer the article) would be all the buyers attached to its service as well as its massive network of resellers who’ve long made a living conducting business on their platforms. But even looking at these groups, as an Amazon customer, I rarely interact with other buyers outside of reading some reviews which have been widely known to be plagued with fake booster testimonies for years. And it only takes one visit to the Amazon seller forums to see how disgruntled many of the sellers are with the lack of affect support and every changing anomalies putting to risk many seller’s way of life.

Two communities that are notably missing are the brand owners and manufacturers. Until recently, there really hadn’t been any true enforcement of Minimum Advertised Price to protect an IP’s value integrity, or counterfeit/copycat regulation, which are the two communities that don’t make as much vocal noise, but affect the platform drastically from on a day to day basis. As a matter of fact, in many cases, Amazon themselves are part of the ‘copycat’ community feeding off of sales metrics of items from other sellers and brands that can be easily white labeled and sold under any number of Amazon owned brand names. You can see a rather exhaustive list here , and this is from 2018. Probably many more have been added since.

As a long time reseller on Amazon, this has been a long time coming. Although Amazon has always been the golden marketplace for small entrepreneurs, in all honesty, its really just a platform that simplifies the process of facilitating a sale for a quick buck. Stay there too long, and you’ll get the community of listing leeches undercutting you on your own product offering in no time. Trying to promote a small business on this platform has become practically non-existent as Amazon has made it impossible to enable sellers to manage customer information, and put restrictions on what you can communicate to customer through messaging, packaging, and item listing. You can’t even put a return email address in your Amazon messages without the Amazon authority knocking on your virtual door. Speaking about Amazon authority, they are ruthless in their suspensions that are well known in many cases to withhold funds for months on end. With slow response time and criteria held at a highly ambiguous standard, filing an appeal for re-reinstatement is no simple task.

The articles above are absolutely correct in that Amazon is really only about furthering their own brand impression with little regard to any brand unless a hefty investment is made, but sellers don’t need to be subject to this type of treatment.

In Amazon’s defense, I do understand that their mission is to protect the consumer at all costs, but what they don’t seem to realize is that Brands, manufacturers, and sellers are also their consumers… of their services. They are treated so differently than the consumer side that in the long run, its a losing game.

Giving away the sales metrics of your products, no price control, no appearance advantage over competition, mixed within counterfeit and low quality products. Game Over.

Nike gets it. The one thing Amazon can’t sell other than for itself is a product’s brand. With that brand comes a real community completely dedicated to not the shopping platform, but the product makers, the rabid enthusiasts, and the influential fans free of copycats, counterfeits, and ‘fake’ fans. The brand isn’t in it for the quick buck, and those who invest a little more time to experience the brand, whether it be from attending a major release event or downloading an app, deserve a product that retains its value. That’s where your long term sales potential is: in the impression of not necessarily just the product, but the brand experience. When a company has customers live streaming and Instagram posting not their newly bought shoes, but the confirmation of purchase for shoes on a branded app, that’s momentum Amazon simply hasn’t figured out yet.

There will always be a space for business for Amazon, but I do feel other brands will follow suit behind Nike in the pursuit to preserve meaning in a company community and its long term loyalty of its clients. It won’t be long until many premium brands utilize Amazon like I was told by an old friend in the anime retail biz, ‘I only use Amazon to blow items out at deep discounts. The market is cutthroat with amateur sellers trying to make a quick buck. No money to be made by racing to the bottom.’

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/13/brands-dont-need-amazon-nikes-departure-could-prompt-others-to-go.html

https://www.inc.com/cameron-albert-deitch/nike-amazon-breakup-brand-loyalty.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-13/nike-will-end-its-pilot-project-selling-products-on-amazon-site




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Introducing The Bellwether

Category : Blog

I see online that many professionals share artwork, animation samples, video edits, TED talk speeches, seminar sound bite platitudes, and incredibly well thought out articles on everything from how to score big on an interview to the top ten newest pronouns to hit the workforce this week.

These are things I wish I could add to my portfolio, but alas, my real calling is none of these.  What I do is harness the powers of everything that I’ve been and fold them into an ever evolving blob of processing code that I feel has finally started to come to fruition. 

This I am calling ‘The Bellwether,’ a system built that reaches across the web to aggregate data to track and rate hobby collectible products.  Of course, the details are so much more than my single line introduction… I’m still working on that…. but while I do, let me give you a little tour of the elements used to create this data churning entity.

Mission: to collect sales data across a number of sales channels on hobby collectible figures so as to be able to have a growing history of the viability of various hobby collectible product types from a variety of manufacturers working with various licenses down to the actual character selection. 

I’m putting all these elements on point.  Having worked in the marketing field and interacted with some of the brightest veteran toy marketing managers transitioning to hobby collectibles, I found the toughest questions to answer were ‘Will this toy type sell?’ ‘Who’s the number one in this segment?’ ‘What brands are hot for this demographic?’  I knew quite a bit since I had some pretty deep empirical data, but there weren’t numbers to show for it.  It was viewed as simply my ‘gut feeling,’ which is was, and it normally lean in reasonable direction, but numbers are what moved the businesses. NPD reporting was the bible by which decisions were derived, and even they were still trying to figure out how to report on the niche hobby collectibles genre.  Very much in the same way Amazon grouped hobby collectibles in the ‘toy’ category, NPD had no way of differentiating either.  For the two years we had them over for reporting, I asked the reps if there was a timeline for this info and they were ‘working on it.’ To be fair, traditionally, growth in hobby collectibles would be insignificant in the toy business, but a player like Funko broke the mold.  Every toy manager was scrambling to replicate the same idea in the mass retail segments not understanding that the strategy Funko used was carefully grown over time from collectors to mass.  Most toy producers wanted to instantly leverage their buyer connections and tried going from mass to collectors, which resulted in complete and utter failures across the board from large chain retailers to top brand toy manufacturers.  Inventory saturation due to over production was one of the very first problems presented to me that was plaguing my new corporate employer as it had become a massive stain that took years to wipe clean.

With this in mind, I wanted a tool that could gather information on products selling out in the wild and get a read on its popularity through site rankings and sell thru. In addition, apply my dormant brain trust of hobby figure knowledge to the definition of what demographics brands really cater to, and what related brands might go well with riding on the success of others.  I see this missing in even Amazon’s site where its common to see figures from a mature rated anime title being advertised as a pre-school toy for toddlers (Magica Madoka is cute and all, but definitely not for kids). Appreciation for niche category insight of this type is difficult to earn in the mass market crowd as it takes a fan to know what a fan wants, and to know why fans want it.  Apply this know how to a computer learning system, and you’ve got a kick started analytics system that can drill down to the selling success and failure of any collectibles of any character from any series by any manufacturer.  I do believe in time, systems will begin to learn more about the license associations, but over 20 years of having been a part of every angle of niche genre categories from being a fan to owning my own store, to working in a lead managerial role in a corporate office, I feel I have a unique head start.  In short, when the data comes in, you’ll still need someone who can speak geek.

I do see other sites trying to do something similar like hobbydb which feels too broad and poppriceguide which seems way more niche than I want.  Part of my angle is to roll up products to see who the most effective manufacturers are in a particular sector.  I don’t feel that from these other guys even though I really like what they’re bringing to the table. 

For the one person that got through all the dribble above, thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts on the system as I’m always looking to improve its features.

I pulled out all the stops on this one by smashing together every platform and coding language I’ve ever practically used in the last 10 years.  And, yes, I and I alone designed, programmed, and currently manage the entire system from back-end database grooming to Google Chrome Extension development to applying a weight to the likelihood someone will like Lobo if they’re into Wolverine.

Platforms:
WordPress
– wooCommerce
MS-SQL Server

Coding Languages:
PHP
Python
ColdFusion
– Dynamic Image Generation
JavaScript
-JQuery
MySQL
T-SQL
HTML
CSS
XML/JSON

Automation:
Python
– DataMining – (Node.js in the future)
ColdFusion

Databases:
MySQL
MS-SQL Server
– Views
-Stored Procedures

API Connections:
WooCommerce – Python
Amazon – Python/ColdFusion
Google Chrome Extension API
eBay – TBD

 

 


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Brand Burnout – A stream of thought

Category : Blog

Having been in the hobby industry of nerds for the last 20 years and a life long fanboy of all things geek before they were chic, its been an incredible ride to see all those childhood escapes come to the forefront of popularity. These were brands that at time I’m sure were to be simply a one-and-done wonder that simply followed the standard product lifecycle which eventually dribbles into obscurity, but now seen as icons and old gold. You hardly see the reruns that burned these brands into the brains of bumbling boys and girls. Its more reboots which honestly never really hold a candle to the originals for some reason.

Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest business acquisitions in recent memory in addition to tech is entertainment holdings companies for the stable of brands. I’m talking not only in the Mouse’s purchases of Fox, Lucas, and Marvel, but also of Hasbro’s pickup of Entertainment One. The thing that tipped me off on the license grab bag dash was the fact that Hasbro now owns the Death Row Records with the IP collection that is eOne. A traditional toy company really has no need for such a brand, but its valuable nonetheless.

It’s the mental real estate that they’re after. These big companies understand that that nestled deep down in the neurological nexus of the pre-internet children is a dry wood tinder that can light at the slightest flicker of a brand blaze.

And its limited.
I asked my kids, and outside of the few titles that I’ve tried very hard to get them into (someone should pay me for this), they essentially shrugged their shoulders and continue to watch whatever spoon fed content was coming in from YouTube. Brand loyalty seems to be disappearing with the newer generation. Ask kids now if there are brands that they’re loyal to and its more personalities than a carefully crafted and calculated brand. Personalities are hard to cash in on as the volatility is too extreme unlike the control of rock solid IP.

How’s anyone’s investment in Kevin Hart after ousting from the Oscars, or internet personalities PewDiePie or Logan Paul after the controversy they stirred? Most traditionally built companies would be wise to steer clear as bigger bank rolls make for bigger targets.

‘Where are we headed?’ is the riddle that keeps me excited. Will my kids grow up to look at YouTube as the next Marvel, or will it get ‘MySpace’d? I can’t think of any brands directed to kids that stay relevant as they get older as more and more strategies revolve around hyper focusing on the segmentation of KGOY. Can you think of any memorable original titles and features from 2000’s to now that can achieve the 20,25,30 year anniversaries that so many 80’s and 90’s brands are celebrating ? Its a tad depressing that we still cling to these dinosaur brands, and its sadder to think that my kids won’t have any decent original brands they can claim for their generation.


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Interview Question: Prompt

Category : Blog

This question was posed to me in a recent interview. I was given a limit of 1,500 words or less. My initial outline was only around 300 words, and with so much excess, I needed to add more flavor. I feel my response helped me land an interview, which was quite the ‘gauntlet’ as one of my friends put it. It had been a while since I had to go into essay mode, and I felt it’d be such a waste to simply sideline since the opportunity slipped by me more likely due to the interview. I was ‘too seasoned’ (aka too nerdy for the hip cats) and would get bored of the opportunity. I’m sure this was a polite way of saying I was simply to raw or rigid for their corporate rigmarole . If they truly believed I’d get bored, then they might not of realized that the business of geekdom is really my kick, and I never get bored of analyzing marketing methodology. See my response below. Maybe it’ll help one of you out some day. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d like to hear it.

Question:
Unexpectedly, a key partner has scheduled a meeting in your office and expects a top-level presentation of marketing strategy for a game. Your manager is on vacation. What would you do, and what would you need to know to make your decision?

Answer:
Unexpected key partner visits can pose quite the challenge, but can be extremely rewarding in immediate and future opportunity. When it comes to marketing strategy, anticipation of such situations would be the greatest asset as this type of occurrence is rather commonplace in professional convention and trade events. Of course, before any other factors are to be considered, verification that a presentation in this circumstance complies with our company policy and the terms associated with the contracts of all stakeholders involved in the project. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the meeting is to occur in the company building and it falls in compliance with business and contract terms. As a marketing manager, having a marketing strategy at all levels is an essential responsibility, and ownership of that duty will demand a high level of understanding on the marketing direction that can be clearly communicated to the audience. The presentation of a top-level marketing strategy plan could lead to a discussion that becomes a great base for brainstorming with the partner that might lead to new business. As the visitor is a key partner, it would be in the company’s best interest to cooperate and ensure that when we present our strategy that we do so with the idea that anything less than the best rarely ends in success. To that end, though it is always a good sign to take on what might be an incredible opportunity for a strong business partnership, there are several factors that I would confirm before committing to a presentation. The key factors I find most important in this situation are authorization of materials, preparation of the presentation, and awareness of the company.


The flow of information is now more important than ever as timing plays a critical role in the momentum of promotion and business success in general. With the incredible value of licenses today, secrecy is a highly coveted asset. As this marketing strategy would be regarding a specific game, I would need to ensure that any focused information presented including license assets, schedules, budgets and all other marketing matters be authorized to share by both internal and external stakeholders. The premature reveal of any data before its authorization may present unnecessary risk of jeopardizing our relationship with licensors, distribution partners, and possibly the visiting party if something shown be met with critical complaints when still in development. Learning this lesson the hard way a few years ago, I had built a marketing plan around one of Japan’s most popular monthly release programs of competitively priced figure collections that were originally made to be redeemable through crane game arcade machines. My division was charged with creating a domestic program that could sell figures at a retail level as crane games are not as accessible in North America. Clients and partners were eager to hear more as it involved several popular licenses in the Japanese pop culture genre that had been evergreen or were quickly gaining momentum. These products were promoted to be targeting older teens to young adults who were tech savvy, socially connected, interested in animation and gaming, and appreciated collectibles. All the marketing numbers were set including offer dates, monthly wave release schedule, product copy, negotiated costs, client specific marketing strategies and promotional opportunities. Clients liked what they heard, they liked the calculations, but clients weren’t able to actually see the products or concepts of the actual product as images were not available due to licensor restrictions. This was proclaimed by clients and by our lead sales representatives as the single most critical component of the campaign. The program worked well in Japan as the distribution went to partners who had built a trust with the company in the confidence that the product quality was always going to be of high standard. For the most part, that was true, and that enabled the manufacturer the ability to offer products simply by name in advance of a public reveal forgoing the need for an image. However, when offering this same product line to a national chain store merchandiser in a different global region, success was limited. To resolve this, we had to reassess our strategy with our key product producer in Japan, and create a plan that allowed the proper release of image assets in a timely manner. This alignment laid down a path for our sales division to successfully secure big unit opportunities for future quarterly offers.

In addition to authorization, I would also consider the preparation of the game’s current marketing strategy presentation. Though we may have all the necessary permission for showing assets, should these data points not be arranged to deliver a meaningful story of business opportunity both with visual aid and key talking points, it may not impress upon the visitors the best perception of the prize. By being prepared, unexpected situations will be much more manageable for delivering maximum business impact, and it certainly is a vital element when making any type of presentation. As an example of needing to be prepared, one of my first assignments as a Brand Manager with my previous employer was to quickly communicate critical sales information to the collective sales managers from one of our key distribution partners presenting at the New York Toy Fair, Diamond Comics Distribution. I was two weeks into the assignment, the previous owner of the project left without delivering any copy, and our distribution partner team was going to try and sell our lines without the faintest clue on figure collections’ back story. Realizing this weakness, I arranged pre-event daily stand-up meetings with the managers collectively, and coached them through key sales points that had them presenting confidently and had earned back the trust of the partner who did have concerns about the absence of information. Having immersed myself in the product line details before heading out to the trade event, the preparation allowed me the time to consider the most important elements that I could quickly deliver to our partners in the sales effort. Needless to say, that edge opened many discussions with major clients that hadn’t known the details beforehand with one client that would later sign on directly as one of our biggest customers and product advocates, Hot Topic.


The last factor I would need to consider would be my awareness of the company offices. Should a key partner visit my office, they are not only seeing me, but the company itself. By the time the audience arrives on the premises and enters our lobby, the presentation has already started. Should there be any onsite events whether it is construction, a visit from another key partner, or absence of other key stakeholders of the game property, the impression may not be of our highest caliber. By not properly notifying key internal team members on the marketing project, and by being absent minded about the company environment, we may run the risk of damaging not only the business opportunity of the game, but also tarnish the perception of our company unit. I feel a marketing presentation does not simply showcase a game title and sales numbers, but also represents the efforts of the stakeholders that have worked on it including the company as a whole, and along with that comes the trust shared that if a game is to be featured in a presentation, those who need to know should be made aware.


There are several other factors that I would consider in this situation including the relevance of the title to the key partner and showroom availability, but specifically, regarding a marketing plan for a particular game, the above factors are critical. Under extremely rare circumstances, I may entertain the idea of possibly presenting a marketing plan from a previous title that had been cleared for presentation that the client may have successfully been involved with that has a similar strategy, but this is
contingent on if that type of presentation is even available as today’s marketing opportunity is constantly changing which in turn forces strategies to evolve with every title release. Depending on the strategy in place, presenting something that may be only similar may run the risk of undermining the master plan.


Should any of the above factors not be met, I would strongly move to politely approach the partner, and being honest about the situation proposition them with a later time and date where we can more fully present the strategy with the title. From my experience, honesty goes a long way in business as its part of the foundation of trust. As the visitor is a key partner, paying it forward through openness will save time on both sides and more often supports mutual respect. To present a marketing strategy plan at a moment’s notice does come with high excitement, but high risk on many levels as well if baseline requirements are not met. Once these requirements are fulfilled, we can then follow through accordingly with the highest chances of success.


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Gamestop Re-imagining Retail – 3 Ways to make it better

In a recent article shared across colleagues on LinkedIn, the video game retail store icon GameStop is looking to reinvent how retail is done using their network of brick-and-mortar locations in collaboration with innovation design firm, R/GA.

This is the secret sauce that everyone, including me, has search on high for and has yet to be found, and I seriously doubt GameStop will succeed. An undertaking of this magnitude is going to take not only a tremendous infusion of funding, but some serious insight into what it takes to get the gamer back in the doors. Last I checked, the average gamer is around 28 years old (console owners even older), and the audience is a bit more sophisticated than standard impulse buyers.

The article outlines a strategy to knuckle down on key locations, and to grow stores with a bevy of benefits including the possibility of home grown eLeague groups to retro-fitted specialty stores. There are a few more advantages mentioned as well as some fancy presentation jargon (it is a puff piece, donchaknow).

There is mention about trying games out before buying and stores solely focused on retro games and hardware, but com’on… isn’t that what downloading a demo is for, and hasn’t GameStop been in the business of retro selling of pre-owned games? Last I checked, GameStop was trying to get away from older consoles by flat lining prices on software and hardware for consoles more than 2 generations back.

Sounds to me that this is a pitch not to actual games, but to much needed investors who might not otherwise know what’s what in the gaming world aside from ‘its what all the kids are in to nowadays.’

In order to offer retro, real retro, they’ll need to have some sort of secret stash of classic games which they’d be better off selling to collectors online. If its going to simply be some lifestyle goods shop with those shoddy retro emulators, I don’t think they should waste there time.

The eLeague idea if done right can be really strong. Having fun my own fight league between 2008-2009 for Smash Brawl and Street Fighter IV, I can definitely attest to the fact that its an amazing community builder and its only gotten stronger over the years.

In addition to that possible golden nugget of a thought, I do have some ideas that I saw in Japan that might help if anyone out there really wants some hard and fast thoughts to the situation:

1) Trading Card Gaming Machines – All the fun of loot boxes, and a true multi-media experience (can’t get much more retro than that).  This is the power of arcade video gaming and trading card collecting.  It costs a dollar to play, you get a random card with each play, and highly versatile as the player doesn’t need another opponent to battle unlike traditional card games.

Dragon Ball Heroes is now in their 10th game version

2) Gundam Build Fighters – if an arcade machine can do what this animated series can do, I’d break my bank going at it. Customized part swapping model kits that transpose over to a AR battle field for competitive combat is very high on my ‘gotta play this before I die’ list.

3) Game Streaming booths – for both eLeague events as well as rentable space for stream talent. Out in Japan, I saw this kid set up a phone rig that was streaming live on Twitch his game play of a drum game called Taiko No Tatsujin. I knew of the game, but didn’t know people streamed the stuff, and man could that kid wail. The hearts and happy faces couldn’t come fast enough. Setting up stream rigs is simply but not all people really know how to do it or have a decent place to do it in. Offering this space and time might pull in some regulars who could become local celebrities.


Eiketsu, otherwise known as “Akihabara no Kamisama” or “God of Akihabara” just killing it

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Ninja takes Mixer of Twitch

Wicked Cool Toys, Ninja and Mixer – A license tragedy in the making, or unforeseen marketing Jujitsu

So here’s some food for thought:  earlier this year, Wicked Cool Toys proudly unveiled a collection of toys and collectibles during the NY Toy Fair.  From the LinkedIn announcement standpoint, all sounded to be a step forward in the evolving world of influencer licensing.  Things like Ryan’s Toy Reviews already had it as well as a variety of slimes by Karina ‘Slime Queen’ Garcia.  Looking at the diehard fandom of Pewdiepie, these online personas have some major level of connection, right?  With a kid audience that’s getting older, why not promote and produce along side an older video game streaming influencer?  

This is what Wicked Cool Toys did with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.   Looking to be ahead of the curve, I can see where WCT was trying to go, but admittedly, looking at the opportunity at the root, we’re looking at making of a collection of collectibles not around the subject game but of the influencer which is really nothing more than an home grown personality which at his best would be an amateur ‘reality TV’ actor.

 My kids who’ve watched him before and idolized the way he plays, but when I asked them if they wanted collectibles of him, without hesitation they both said ‘nope.’  When asked why not, they told me they liked how he played, but there was nothing outside of that that they liked about Ninja himself.

So already it looks like trouble in my eyes.  Of course, if you persist enough, you eventually find some gold I’d imagine.  I can’t say when with this, but maybe some day.

One major flaw about these online personalities is the volatility the influencer. One bad move by the influencer even by accident, and the audience numbers are taking nose dives.  Recently there’s been a few influencers that have suffered greatly at this problem including the previously mentioned Pewdiepie, Logan Paul, and fellow Twitch streamer Dr. Disrespect.  Even after their falling out, their audience is still there, but should they have had a product producer release something during these episodes, we’re probably looking at major retailers stripping shelves and abandoning the line altogether.  Anyone for an Antisemitic Pewdiepie action figure, or an ‘I see dead people’ Logan Paul doll? 

Though not as severe, Ninja has really pulled a strange move as he is abandoning the primary channel of all his fame and attention, Twitch, to go with Microsoft’s Mixer platform.

I sure hope WCT with their release hailed as ‘Twitch inspired’ are making this a one time run that’s already run its course with complete with collectible streaming theme.  Otherwise, we’re looking potential dead shelf space of figures toys that are soooo last platform…

https://www.cnet.com/news/fortnite-streamer-ninja-leads-wave-of-twitch-inspired-toy-line/

 https://www.polygon.com/2019/8/1/20750405/ninja-twitch-mixer-exclusivity-tyler-blevins


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Convention Experience Summary of work – AX 2017

Category : Blog , Videos

It took me a while, but I finally got it up. I am using some commercial music for this compilation video (love that GO!!! by FLOW), so its currently not available for viewing in Japan due to licensing restrictions.

This is a compilation video of my booth management of Anime Expo 2017 for Bandai America Inc in promotion of the Banpresto World Figure Colosseum Sculpting competition. In addition to promoting the figure line, we also promoted previously released figure collections, the Gashapon machine experience, and the premiere release of the Convention Season exclusives of the Dragon Ball Super Dragon Stars Figure collection.

Goal:
Actively promote new products with a heavy focus on social media networking by organically appealing to influencers of various interests.

Focused audience:
– Figure Collectors
– Series fans (Dragon Ball Super)
– Tactile retail experience (Gashapon Vending Machines)
– Toy sculptors and designers
– Cosplayers
– Video Game Fans

Activities included:
– Arena photo Op
– Cosplay Rock Paper Scissors competition
– Figure Giveaway
– Meeting the influencers (Kay Pike, Cos-Painter/Streamer, VampyBitMe – Streamer, Erik Sosa – renowned digital sculptor)
– Exclusive figures (Dragon Ball Super Dragon Stars action figures)
– Dragon Ball Super ‘Spin Battler’ product introduction and competition

A big thanks to all that were involved including convention staff and event organizers, DS Arts for booth construction, the BANDAI America business unit teams, the influencers, the fans, and deep down, most importantly, the volunteers who offered their precious time to run this gigantic booth experience.


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Official FigWiz Logo

Hello 2019! I know, its been a while… here’s something new

Category : Blog

Well, toy news has gone seriously crazy since last year. I’m sure if you’re into it you’ve heard about the industry only having dipped about 2% since last year with gains in the action figure and dolls department.

I’ve been a busy bee myself. While everyone else was taking a break after the holiday rush, I was cracking away at programming something. I hadn’t done it in a while, and it took a bit for the brain juices to start flowing, but I had a thought: what if I could update product info in Google docs and have it automatically list to a selling marketplace?

With Google docs being so ubiquitous in today’s online landscape, and with all the intelligence built into the development of Google Sheets, I thought there might be something there.

And sure enough, I struck GOLD. I’ve been able to fully automate listing new products to Amazon and eBay, pulling in orders, creating a warehouse picklist, and updating price and quantities all within Google’s interface. I did need to do some stress inducing studying on API connections using one of my old websites. I even built out a little script that 1) hides the actual location of my images on my server, and 2) brands the images one the fly with my logo as a watermark. Of course, most major 3rd party marketplace platforms shun watermarks from sellers… especially Amazon, but hey, if I had it 10 years ago, I would have ruled them all!

It was a tough battle, but now that THAT’s out of the way, I find I’ve got more time to breathe, and that means more time to talk TOYS!

I’ll finally be able to make some toy reviews shortly, and give you my insight into the direction of the industry as news continues to unfold.

In the meantime, enjoy my new FigWiz logo that I slapped together on a moment stopping whim.

Official FigWiz Logo
Official FigWiz Logo

-Reggie


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Toy news update: Bootleg battles (FINALLY), Mattel is dying, Hasbro powering up, and Funko is OVER 9000!

Greetings, FigWizzers!

I’ve been busy with working a new job back in IT but this time a focus on building business!! As a veteran pioneer of the e-commerce landscape and a proven brick-and-mortar business battler with the bumps to prove it, I’m on the hunt to grow money this time with business partners!! More on that later. Now lets get down to the fun part Toy news!!

1) MGA’s head honcho Issac Larian has been busy working on busting the bootleggers of the popular LOL Surprise dolls. According to an article release by toyworldmag.co.uk, MGA hired investigators, lawyers, and even personal action against a retail shop producing counterfeit products. Although this is a new, aggressive move by a major toy producer here in the US, the hobby industry has been fighting counterfeits FOREVER.

I can remember bootleg Gashapon and Banpresto figures as far back as 2001 when I started my own business. Bootlegs are never as good as the original, but as time goes on and if no action is taken, they do become ‘acceptable’ but the general audience.

This is always dangerous on multiple angles including consumer safety brand integrity, and a legitimate business bottom line including authorized distributors, retailers, licensees, licensors, and producers. Its especially dangerous when the target market happens to be kids 12 years of age and younger.

I had to deal with bootlegs and because my niche was small enough, it wasn’t too hard for real collectors to be aware. Some companies took matters into there own hands by creating ‘authorized retailer’ lists on their websites and creating videos showcasing authentic vs bootleg. As a matter of fact, here’s one from my old site that I contracted out many years ago (thank you, Ryan!).

Ultimately, in order to stop this at least from China, the biggest proponent of counterfeit everything, is to tax them to high heaven. As bad as it sounds, the tariffs that are being applied should also include toys not just for the the protection of the businesses, but also for the safety of the consumer. This should go all the way down to any package, not just cargo ships, very similar to the way Brazil’s customs controls their packages. The proposed tariffs might already have this in the list, I’m not sure. Let’s hope so.

https://toyworldmag.co.uk/world-news/mga-cracks-down-on-chinese-counterfeit-l-o-l-surprise-products/

Mattel recently announced a significant layoff movement due to its forth straight quarter of losses. Not a good sign for the once powerhouse of toys and iconic figure of the Toys That Made Us documentary. I feel this will make the company very susceptible to an actual purchase before long, and Disney may very well be a dead ringer for this. After all, the princess dolls from Mattel were always known to be MUCH better than what Hasbro produced, and Disney from what I understand doesn’t really have a fleshed out toy division. It helps that Mattel is located in the the same town as Disney. If this happens, you can probably assume that Hasbro will probably lose A LOT of what’s making them hot right now.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mattel-layoffs-20180725-story.html

Speaking of Hasbro, they are currently killing it with its collection of licenses and especially its games, that have propelled it’s stock to grow instantly over 10%. With Hasbro’s claim that D&D is at an all time high, and with its positive sales of Marvel and Star Wars toys, even in a year where toys felt a fatal blow with the vanishing of TRU, Hasbro is confident that it’ll stabilize by 2019, which is an amazingly strong sign. Articles talk about Hasbro and Mattel possibly merging, which would be good for Hasbro so they could have a Los Angeles office, but as the new CEO of Mattel has a history of selling out to Disney, I still stand by my initial prediction. I definitely look to see more come from Hasbro. Maybe they can cause a collector’s craze as intense as Funko has just recently.

https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/23/investing/hasbro-earnings-mattel-toys-r-us/index.html

What was that about Funko? Oh, that the offer to sell the Funimation SDCC exclusive on Funimation’s site crashed the server. For a site that hosts high def streaming shows of fan favorites like Dragon Ball Super, you can only imagine the amount of traffic needed to bring an entire platform to its knees. That’s exactly what happened according to an article on Polygon. Apparently, the day it went up for sale for a mere $24.99, the system broke within hours forcing Funimation to pull the item from its store and apologizing to all those looking to snag the coveted metallic version of the character Whis from Dragon Ball Super. Its hard for me to believe that this figure is so much in demand as I have sold this particular character in other forms for over 2 years. I admit, Funko is doing it right! Its currently selling for about $200 on eBay and other retailer sites.

https://www.polygon.com/2018/7/24/17609492/dragon-ball-super-whis-funko-pop-sdcc-2018

I’m sure you’ve seen all the coverage you need for Anime Expo and SDCC, so I won’t go there. That’s all I got for now.

Thank you, and I’m glad to be of service.

– The Keep


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The haunting, handwritten sign hanging from the inside of the Toys R Us on Jefferson Blvd in Culver City, CA.

Quick Update, Anime Expo, TRU Farewell

Category : Blog

Its been about two months and I’ve been a very busy bee making things happen on the e-commerce front again. Since TRU vanished in glorious fashion, all eyes have been on Amazon. Normally, its difficult for professionals that aren’t intimate with selling on Amazon to get familiar with the platform. Fortunately for me, having been a store owner of all things anime, I’ve got spare inventory that I can play with.

I have renounced doing direct e-commerce with the closure of my core website, PowerAnime.com, but I have taken an interest in promoting drop ship service for my inventory. So, I don’t directly sell anything to consumers; I pull, pack, and ship items that are sold by other B2C sellers. I feel this is an area that’s severely undeserved and in desperate need of strategy. I’ll be sharing more info in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be posting my offerings for view here via my wooCommerce plugin at http://www.figwiz.com/shop . If you’re interested in the dropship program, send a message directly to me.

Anime Expo has come and gone, and this year, I passed. Honestly, I didn’t really miss it as either a fan or a pro even though this was the first time in the last 17 years that I didn’t attend. But, as I see the posts from associates and long time customers, I get this itch in the back of my head that says I should have gone. It looks to have been an amazing event, and to see it thrive without me was both a sad and proud moment for me. With My Hero Acadamia all the rage, special appearances by the King of Fighters character artist and the creator of Devilman (Go Nagai), and the breakthrough showing of Tokyo Pop and Sean Danconia’s Supapop art, this was a monolithic showcasing of where this genre is headed.
Deep down, the fandom and subject matter are something of a heavy significance to me, and I’ll definitely try to do more to make an appearance next year.

I’m continuing to refine my trade with Amazon as I await my new home studio for my youtube channel and twitch streaming. Its been 18 months in the making, so its long over due. As a self proclaimed organically grown nerd of the 80’s and 90’s, I’m looking to feature truly geeky content including toy talk, gaming fits, app development, hobby shop retail talk, e-commerce trade tips, trading card game features, and gaming tournament etiquette. Oh, and giveaways… lots of giveaways… I’ve seemed to have amassed a large swath of bins containing mountains of loose figures and lifestyle goods from my adventures in retail. So, I’ll have a feature of me unboxing some pre-unboxed stuff.

– The Keep


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