Vivid Imaginations on the enduring success of the Thunderbirds toy line

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

September 10th 2015 at 11:09AM
UPDATED September 10th 2015 at 12:03PM
Vivid Imaginations on the enduring success of the Thunderbirds toy line

As the Thunderbirds Are Go takeover gets into full swing, Mary Wood, marketing director at Vivid discusses the cross-generational success of its hit toy line.

Can you talk us through Vivid’s Thunderbirds Are Go toy line?

The core audience for the Thunderbirds Are Go toy range is kids aged five to 11, however, we know that when it comes to Thunderbirds, fans cross all generations.

Our launch range includes a collection of products across different categories and key price points. Featured in the line-up is the 9.5cm articulated action figures, each with bespoke accessories.

We also have the Thunderbirds vehicles: Thunderbird 1, Thunderbird 3 and Thunderbird 2 with mini Thunderbird 4. Each of these comes with action and rescue sounds, as well as moveable features.

In our play-set range, we have the Supersize Thunderbird 2 with Thunderbird 4 with over 20 actions and sounds and interactive sound tech.

But our hero product is the interactive Tracy Island Playset which is packed with over 50 actions, lights and sounds. You can launch your Thunderbird vehicles with the touch of a button and just like the show, launches are accompanied with the iconic 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown.

Last but not least, we have the International Role Play Uniform which is based on Scott Tracy and is perfect for any Thunderbird fan wanting to join International Rescue.

What makes Vivid the ideal toy partner for Thunderbirds Are Go?

Thunderbirds is part of our DNA here at Vivid. Having previously launched the brand on two separate occasions, we know and understand what the brand is all about as well as what the fans want.

We are delighted to be working with ITV Studios Global Entertainment on this property once more. Not only have they delivered an excellent programme in terms of production and storylines under the vigilant eye of executive producer Giles Ridge, but the team at ITVS GE have been very proactive and collaborative in both consumer and trade marketing initiatives.

What makes Thunderbirds such a successful property in the toy space?

Thunderbirds is a proven brand within the toy space. As we saw over ten years ago, there’s a real love for the property that appeals to different generations of fans, which is part of its success.

How have you seen the toy line evolve since your last launch in 2000? How has the industry evolved in that time?

With the new series, we have seen the introduction of new characters, crafts and even more cool techie features. It’s important to capture all this in the range and the new series is giving some wondering toyestic product inspiration.

As the industry has evolved with certain categories becoming more popular than before, we have seen this to be reflected in our sales and demand.

Certainly, the action figures are proving to be more popular than in the previous years. The vehicles and Tracy Island are just as strong as ever.

What is new is the popularity of female characters, particularly Kayo, who we have already seen a large demand for in the toy range. As a result, we have been quick to react and are now launching a Kayo figure in spring/summer 2016.

What are the main challenges in managing the Thunderbirds Are Go toy line?

One of the biggest challenges with Thunderbirds Are Go is that, although it’s a heritage brand with a large following, we are actually targeting new consumers in an already highly competitive landscape.

We can’t assume that because of its past success it’s going to be an automatic hit again and instead must focus our marketing efforts on the new audience.

Another challenge for us is managing demand. We know from past experience that Tracy Island caused a bit of a meltdown and the hardest challenge for us is making sure that every fan can get a Thunderbirds Are Go toy.

What’s the secret to keeping the toy line fresh and relevant for such a long time?

It’s all about innovation and making sure we put the best products out in the market. For us, it’s also important to listen to what our fans want and take that on board when launching our new products.

Social media has been a real driving force and a great tool to get immediate feedback and insights into what fans want.

What marketing plans have you got for the Thunderbirds Are Go toy line this year?

Our plans include a fully integrated strategy across TV, PR, digital and print. From launch, we started our TV campaign across the Vehicles, Supersize Thunderbirds 2 play-set and Tracy Island play-set and we have plans to advertise throughout the rest of the year.

We have a whole programme of retail activity mapped out and all the retailers have been very eager to get involved and have shown a tremendous amount of support for the brand, which culminated in Tracy Island being included in numerous retailer Christmas top tens.

We also joined the Toy Testers.TV tour, which took Tracy Island to three different locations. In addition to plans centered round the 50th anniversary, we have much more to come in the way of PR activity. A large Thunderbird 1 model made its own summer holiday tour in shopping malls around the country and will tour with Hamley’s in October as well.

What are your expectations for the range through 2016 and beyond?

Our overall goal for this year and beyond is to become the number one boys’ property. With new products expected to launch at key periods, it helps to keep things fresh and maintain the excitement.

What’s next for you and Thunderbirds Are Go?

Well, we are going to keep our feet to the floor in terms of supporting the brand into the Christmas period and securing every last piece of stock that we can, but we are also working on our new products for spring/summer 2016 which will include a Kayo figure and the iconic FAB1 among many other products that we’re sure will delight fans.