How are Bandai and Zag redefining the interactive toy market with Zak Storm?

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

November 30th 2017 at 6:21AM
UPDATED December 6th 2017 at 10:00AM
How are Bandai and Zag redefining the interactive toy market with Zak Storm?

ToyNews talks to Andre Lake Meyer, president of global brand strategy and consumer products at Zag America about Zak Storm and its three-way interactive toy, game and TV series.

How is Zak Storm transforming children’s entertainment? 

Our founder and CEO Jeremy Zag created the Zag Heroez brand overall that incorporates the DNA of American storytelling and elements of Japanese anime to create new superheroes for today’s kids.  Everything we develop is an original IP, but based on themes that are classic and traditional. Zag Heroez Zak Storm - Super Pirate, for example, is the only transforming super-hero pirate brand for kids. 

What has reception been like to the series launch in the US?

We did a soft launch on linear and cable this fall with Discovery Kids and Kids Click, but our official launch was on November 1 with our “digital trifecta” as a way to differentiate ourselves from our competition in the crowded boy’s action market segment. 

This simultaneous launch of the TV series on Netflix, toys from Bandai available exclusively at Amazon.com for the month of November, and the free mobile game, provides a cross-platform play experience as kids can watch the series, play with toys, and level-up both the digital and physical experiences with the free to play Zak Storm – Super Pirate app.

The trifecta is an exciting concept – what are the biggest points to consider when launching such a concept so close to the series launch?

An early investment in marketing is a big part of the strategy to accelerate awareness for the brand and ensure that kids and families are aware that Zak Storm is easily accessible. 

From November 1 to the end of December, between Bandai and Zag, we have very aggressive marketing campaigns running across cable and digital platforms. It’s pretty unprecedented for Bandai to be investing TV marketing dollars when the toys are only available at Amazon (November) and Toys”R”Us, starting from December. However, they are in alignment with Zag and believe that this early investment strategy in conjunction with the digital trifecta was essential. 

In addition to the marketing we are doing across cable TV and digital, we are also building our YouTube channel as another way for kids to experience short-form content and drive eyeballs to the long-form content.

Is the brand coming to the UK?

Yes!  The series debuted earlier this year on POP, and the digital trifecta is happening with toys available at Smyths where there will be shelf strips featuring an icon that can be scanned into your phone for a level-up reward – which is a different reward than you get from the TV screen and the toys.

Smyths has an exclusive launch window and is running a TV and digital campaign for the toys and promoting the digital aspects. Additional retailers come on board after this special release.

How will the launch concept influence the kind of partners you look for when taking it to the wider licensing space?

I think that we are always going to be looking for companies that value our business model that incorporates the multi-platform pan-regional approach along with partnering with a master toy company in the early stages.  Generally speaking, we are always looking for innovative licensees that can be long-term partners for our Zag Heroez label.  While it’s important to be innovative with our products, we have to remain faithful to the essence of our brands overall to deliver an experience that kids connect with and represents the stunning execution the viewer experiences on the screen.

What are your expectations for the brand over the next year or so?

First and foremost we are looking for a full adoption of the brand with kids all over the world viewing the series and strong downloads of the gaming app which in turn will lead to purchasing of the toys.  Some of our licensees will be launching products in spring 2018, and we’ll see publishing and lifestyle products launching in the fall.  Our goal is that by back-to-school 2019, we’ll have a phenomenon on our hands.

How has the past year been for ZAG in general? With the new launch, how are you guys positioned for the year ahead?

It’s been exhilarating with two global brand launches across TV, digital and licensing - Miraculous Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir and Zak Storm - Super Pirate, so close together.

Miraculous Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir in particular, is becoming a well-known kids brand in many parts of the world, and we are seeing strong TV viewership and toy adoption. 

Bandai America is the global master toy licensee for the brand, with fashion doll and action doll sku’s being their top sellers. In France, Miraculous was third in the Fashion Doll category in October 2017, while in Brazil, it was named the “Toy of the Year” and “Brand of the Year” at the 2016 Brazil Licensing Awards; and awarded “License of the Year” in August 2017. 

In Spain, it received the coveted Chupete de Oro 2017 Award for the “Best Kids Character” at the 13th ceremony in Madrid.  We are excited about the performance of the series also - Miraculous season one ranked as “Top 10 Kids Show Overall” across Europe in September 2017 ahead of Star Wars Rebels according to Parrot Analytics.

In the US, Miraculous has seen tremendous success on Netflix holding a very solid position in the kid’s space and season 2 set to launch on Netflix in spring 2018.   

How will you maintain your position as leading innovators in the space?

Within the next five years, you can see the real integration of the Zag Heroez world. Expect to see a cross-over of characters from one series to another. In fact, we are already doing it with special episodes that we are producing for our fans around the world, and comic books are on the way.  And as we have done from the outset, we will prioritize visionary creativity and make the series that Zag believes in – we will not change our vision because others think it should be done another way.