When the UK operation, Vivid, was launched onto the global stage at the end of last year through the acquisition by Goliath Games, it was prepared to answer a lot of questions.
What will this mean for the company structure? What changes will customers see to its portfolio of products? Just what on earth has happened to Tiana of Toys andMe?
Resultantly, the fallout from the takeover by the US and EU giant has been rather minimal and the impact upon Vivid’s firmly established network of UK customers, ‘barely noticeable.’ Yes, there’s been a shake-up in the personnel at the company, but the benefits, according to Vivid’s now general manager Nick Thomas, came thick and fast.
Overnight, Vivid was transformed from a national heavyweight to a world titan with the might of Goliath’s global banner behind it, a wholly expanded family games division and access to one of the hottest licenses in the kids’ space of the moment.
Conversely, in Vivid, Goliath has finally got its hands on a prize it has been circling for some time, now – a direct in road into the UK market.
Make no mistake, on a global scale, companies don’t get much larger than Goliath. Internationally, it is a top ten company and currently the number three games manufacturer in the US. In France it is number two.
However, it was right up until the point of its acquisition of Vivid that Goliath had no direct access to the UK’s many and varied toy retailer. Yes it had operations in 13 different markets and a distribution deal of a smattering of some of its lines here, but unbridled access was what it really desired.
“And it has transpired to be a really positive transition for us to put our Vivid business under the Goliath family banner,” GM Nick Thomas tells ToyNews. “The fit is perfect; Vivid is a company with a great reputation in the UK with distribution partners, licensees, licensors and retail partners all to our name and with us Goliath has a great footing for the UK market.
“Conversely, we have a very strong parent company with a huge, strong portfolio and it affords us the opportunity to become global players with a combined power and bigger clout to talk to people on a bigger, global stage.
“Both myself and our marketing director, Emma Weber will be focused on the UK, we will be the sales and marketing business for the UK. It gives us the best of both worlds: an international, global presence with a local touch and our fingers on the pulse of the local market.”
If the acquisition was the note that Vivid ended 2018 on, it was Toy Fair at which it played the opening power chord of what is looking set to be one hell of a headbanging year ahead for the company, taking this year’s show as the opportunity to launch the outlook “for the whole new company,” and its even newer range.
“If you look at our business, we have three big areas,” continues Thomas. “We have toys, games and Crayola. And on toys, we have had a phenomenal start to the year with a range called Ryan’s World, the seven year old YouTube phenomenon.”
Hold on a minute, YouTube star? That certainly has a ring of familiarity about it – it was only last year that Vivid was banging the drum for Tiana the star of the YouTube channel Toys andMe, and her own unboxing toy range… what happened there then?
The biggest problem with child stars – rider demands for blue M&Ms and the correctly stirred milkshake aside – is that they have to grow up. It probably came as little surprise to the industry – and least of all Vivid – when Tiana announced her departure from the toy industry as she embarked on her journey into adolescence.
By Vivid’s own admission, its toy range skewed too high an age range for any real longevity in the market, based on a subject who was about to enter secondary school. Tiana chose a life outside of toys and left a gap in the market for an internationally famous YouTube star with an audience of millions to fill.
That star appeared in the form of Ryan’s World, the seven year old star of a YouTube channel boasting eight billion hits and an international appeal to mirror the global stage Vivid itself now operates upon.
Consider for a start that in the US alone, Ryan’s World has hit sales figures of $35 million, and you can understand Vivid’s excitement around the range.
“We have seen incredible sales so far,” explains Thomas. “From the sales figures I have seen already, it has translated as strongly, if not stronger than in the US here in the UK…”
Of course, its run with the Tiana brand has given Vivid experience of this brave new world of YouTuber stardom, lending it an expertise in handling this field of entertainment. Vivid understands viewing figures, and importantly, it recognises that YouTuber fandom itself is now skewing younger than it ever has done before.
“Ryan’s World has got over eight billion YouTube hits, which is more than Disney and Nickelodeon have to their entire portfolio,” he explains. “Kids come home and look for Ryan’s World on YouTube – not switch on the TV.”
“What this shows,” adds Vivid’s marketing director, Emma Weber, “is that even at pre-school ages, kids enjoy watching relatable YouTube stars and what they get up to. We talk about disruption in the market, we never thought it would happen as young as pre-school, but this certainly could be the case for Ryan’s World.”
YouTube numbers aside, what’s more intriguing about the property is this age range it lands with. It’s a small window the child star often operates within, so the younger aged star affords potential for greater longevity in the market… you know, before he gets into girls and emo music….
“No, it’s not going to be around forever,” admits Thomas, “but it could be a ten year brand. There are plans to use Ryan’s huge audience to move up the audience age group and encourage retailers to move to that older child.
“With Ryan, we have a younger kid at the start of their career. Yes, unfortunately we are in the business of trends and this is an interesting new phenomena in terms of how a trend is born and established.”
2019 certainly won’t be short of trends, and Vivid will most definitely not find itself caught out if its Toy Fair showcase was anything to go by. Innovation is high on the agenda at the toy company this year, even if that comes in the form of a gestating creature ready to give birth to twins in front of your very eyes.
“Nestlings is an interactive pet that arrives expecting two little babies that are kept inside of it,” says Thomas with a straight face.
“You nurture and play and then after 20 minutes of play, the Nestling sits on her nest and delivers her baby. Five minutes later, baby number two arrives. The two babies will then interact with their mother.”
It’s innovation at its finest. But it’s not all the company has to offer in a portfolio of tech-infused toys that includes Scoot and Lizzie, two lifelike, interactive puppies, the firm’s range of Squeezamals and of course, Pookie: a puppy with the ability to display 57,000 different expressions and emotions.
It’s Vivid’s way to stamp its presence on the tech toy market for the year ahead.
"There are a lot of options available for kids in the tech toy space today, so you have really got to have a lot of innovation to stand out from the crowd,” says Thomas. “If you look at something like Nestlings: I don’t think kids even looks at this kind of thing like tech anymore, they just buy a product and expect innovation. Innovation is normal, so that is what we are trying to produce with innovation for what kids are looking for in experiences.”
And Vivid isn’t stopping short, but continuing the journey from tech into STEM with a new distribution deal with Science 4 U, a range the business only started distributing last year but following its success, has backed fully for 2019, too.
It’s been highlighted as an area of particular growth, not just for the company, but for the industry.
“It’s an area we were really looking to get into,” explains Thomas. “The association with Science 4 U meant that we could get into it in a big way, straight away, allowing us to launch right into having a whole range that covers all aspects of the STEM sector. It’s an important aspect in order to be credible in this market…”
If we’re counting those of Vivid’s new launches for the year ahead that look set to do quite the number, we may be pushed for pages. Suffice to say, the Goliath acquisition is bringing a little more than the clout of a big name, but with it a portfolio of products not yet seen on UK shores. Among them, Boomtricks could be about to redefine the traditional marble run concept, while a line up of 20 new games titles is going to shakeup and reinvigorate the children’s and family games’ market for a good while.
“We were always a big-sized games company and we did run four or five titles from Goliath anyway,” says Emma Weber, marketing director, “but now we have the full Goliath portfolio and are going to launch with over 20 new games, we are setting ourselves up to become a big, big games specialist.
“In pre-school some of our key titles are magic Tooth Fairy, Shark Bite and Lucky Ducks or Early Bird, then we have Wordsearch – which is a strong seller always in the top 50 games, Gator Golf, Dragon Snacks and for adults, we have Ice Mask.”
That’s just to name a few. It’s a burgeoning portfolio of titles that Vivid boasts this year, made up of classic titles, returning favourites and titles that have not yet been played by UK gamers to date.
“The reaction from the trade has been fantastic,” says Weber. “We are producing new titles which the games sector needs, bringing proven best-sellers like Sequence in and we are committed to running strong promotional support on all the games in order to establish them.
“It’s just what the games sector needs and the portfolio has gone down very well. Retailers probably felt concerned there was 20 new games coming through, but actually when we talked them through it all and the marketing plans, they ended up agreeing why there were that many… Each one has a positioning, it works, it has TV and it has history and a proven track record… so there is a logic to doing that.”
Now, this is all before we even look at the Crayola brand, that according to Thomas has gone from strength to strength in the past 12 months alone to have a phenomenal last year as it continues to ride a wave of “parental kickback against screentime,” which itself is presenting an attractive growth opportunity for Vivid.
On top of this, Vivid has positioned Crayola as one of the most desirable collaboration partners in the arts and crafts sector for big names licenses, the likes of which include Frozen, Ryan’s World, PAW Patrol and PJ Masks for the year ahead.
“A silly stat we have here at Vivid is that you could circle the English coastline twice with the volume of Supertips we sold last year," recounts Thomas majestically.
“I don’t know who has had the time to count that, perhaps we put an intern to the task, but there you go… It highlights that business here is not just about toys, but stationery, back to school and the arts and crafts market that is just soaring.”
Soaring couldn’t be a better placed word, and under the wings of a giant in Goliath; it’s no wonder Vivid is eyeing a monumental year ahead from a totally new perspective.