3 Toy Brands Unexpectedly Spark a Content Marketing Adventure

3 Toy Brands Unexpectedly Spark a Content Marketing Adventure

Netflix recently released a documentary series, The Toys That Made Us, an in-depth look behind some of the most popular toy lines from the ’70s and ’80s – Star Wars, Barbie, GI Joe, and He-Man and Masters of the Universe. What makes this more interesting is how three brands – Kenner (Star Wars), Hasbro (GI Joe), and Mattel (Masters of the Universe) – used similar content marketing strategies, almost feeding and building off each other’s efforts. Star Wars During the film’s production in 1976, director George Lucas signed a deal with Stan Lee and Marvel comics to release the official Star Wars comic book. From 1977 to 1987, fans could immerse (and console) themselves in the 107-issue run of Star Wars comic books, most of which are not considered part of the official Star Wars canon.” As Buddy explains, the comics were an integral piece of the Star Wars brand marketing strategy, as many of the toys (produced by Kenner from 1977 through 1985) were promoted through the comics. He-Man and Masters of the Universe As Kenner found success with the Star Wars line, rival Mattel, which had the Barbie line, was looking to break into the action-figure market for boys and came up with a new line of figures, He-Man and Masters of the Universe. In addition, Mark and the Mattel team partnered with DC comics (much like George Lucas partnered with Marvel) to launch a He-Man and Masters of the Universe series of comics to promote the toy line. GI Joe: A Real American Hero Hasbro created a line of large-scale GI Joe dolls in the ’60s and early ’70s for boys to create adventures. Each episode featured characters and toys that could be purchased on the shelves and, just as with the Masters of the Universe line, the series was used as a launch pad for new products. Stan will always remain an incredible influence not just in the comic book industry but in the creative world as a whole. Want to be the He-Man or She-Ra of your content marketing program?

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I am a bit of a nerd and I hold to that moniker with pride. From comic books and artwork to action figures and movie memorabilia, my office (and any corner of the house my better half allows me to have) is packed with pieces of pop culture.

Speaking of my lovely wife, she accepted her fate when she married this “man-child” 20 years ago, and a bit of a hat tip to her, as she finally has agreed to let me put Star Wars sheets on our bed. (Thanks, Honey!)

As I sit in my office looking at the flair that adorns my walls and shelves, I think of the unique stories behind each piece. The stories are not just the personal memories, but the stories of what each manufacturer did to entice me to become one of its brand evangelists.

Netflix recently released a documentary series, The Toys That Made Us, an in-depth look behind some of the most popular toy lines from the ’70s and ’80s – Star Wars, Barbie, GI Joe, and He-Man and Masters of the Universe. What makes this series compelling is the interviews with the toy developers, engineers, marketers, and executives of each brand. For a toy or pop culture enthusiast, this peek behind the curtain reveals how these iconic brands not only developed the toys but how they marketed to children.

A few of the brands really put the “battle grip” on content marketing with incredible results. What makes this more interesting is how three brands – Kenner (Star Wars), Hasbro (GI Joe), and Mattel (Masters of the Universe) – used similar content marketing strategies, almost feeding and building off each other’s efforts.

I now realize that my experiences with these toy lines were my first experiences with content as a retail marketing strategy.

Star Wars

During the film’s production in 1976, director George Lucas signed a deal with Stan Lee and Marvel comics to release the official Star Wars comic book. The release of the first two issues of the comic book happened before the movie’s release to drum up publicity for the film. Not only did it succeed in what George and Stan intended, the release of the Star Wars series of comics may have single-handedly saved Marvel comics, which was in a financial slump due to poor sales.

According to Buddy Scalera, content strategist and president of Comic Book School: “Marvel Comics was a significant piece of the Star Wars content marketing effort. Between films, the comic books were a monthly fix for fans of the Star Wars universe. Marvel Comics kept the flame alive between releases of the original trilogy and long after the final frames of Return of the Jedi had flickered out. From 1977 to 1987, fans could immerse (and console) themselves in the 107-issue run of Star Wars comic books, most of which are not considered part of the official Star Wars canon.”

As Buddy explains, the comics were an integral piece of the Star Wars brand marketing strategy, as many of the toys (produced by Kenner from…

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