Wicked Vision is so much more than a toy company. The words spoken to ToyNews from across a Zoom chat blighted by lawnmowers passing by an open window one end of the conversation, and a WiFi that had all but given up on the other.
It wasn’t just for emphasis that David Strang, CEO of the company widely known across the industry as ‘the guys that throw the boomerangs at London Toy Fair’, repeats the sentiment, but it creates the effect all the same.
It seems an important point to leap into discussion from, because for the past 20 years of Wicked Vision’s constant evolution within the sports toys space, it has very much always been at its heart that this was a company with a far wider field of vision. In actual fact, the elements are all in place for all to see. Check out the Wicked Vision website and you’ll find not just reems of info on the company’s latest products, but articles and posts on the benefits of active play, of getting outside, and the impact that simply ‘disconnecting from screen time’ can have on the health – and mental health inclusive – of children and youngsters.
Wicked Vision’s vision extends far beyond simply supplying the components needed to have ‘active fun’, and into promoting an active lifestyle for children – and families – the world over. In essence, Wicked Vision is a lifestyle brand on a mission.
“That’s exactly what we are,” says Strang. “It has always been more of a lifestyle brand than a toy company, but it spawned from the active toy base and I think that will never change. That’s where we came from, and where we are going is – and I don’t want to sound pretentious here – but it is more about that overarching movement, or philosophy, that is all about getting back to basics and off technology.”
It’s been over the course of the UK – and the global – lockdown that that vision has manifested into something more tangible for the company. With families enjoying – or enduring – extended time together, and the nation’s population of parents in search of new activities to keep kids occupied both indoors and out, Wicked Vision was quick to spot the opportunity that began to emerge out of the pandemic.
“The lockdown period gave parents a real reality check,” continues Strang. “The whole home-schooling thing did. I don’t mean just teaching kids, but occupying kids in all of that time. We saw certain areas of the toy industry flourish in that time, and others that really bombed. Arts and Crafts did really well, Family Games did incredibly well, and of course Active Toys that ticked two boxes in getting kids active and teaching new skills.
“Coming out of [the pandemic] that experience will only shed a positive light on these areas of the toy industry, and that is standing us in very good stead as to what is important in life. This has a much bigger scale than just toy industry specific, but from our point of view it’s about being active, keeping your mind active, and keeping your body active. Not one of these things means sitting in front of a screen. It falls into what’s really important in the lives of children, I think it is only a positive thing for us and companies like us to grow.”
For the record, Strang – the Australian born company founder who kickstarted the business in 2000 by distributing returning sport boomerangs to the UK – isn’t against technology. And in fact, social media is an integral element to Wicked Vision’s home grown marketing plans (take a look at Strang’s own UKick marketing content for a masterclass in both editing and patience). Moreover, Wicked Vision is about providing kids with the “healthy choice to make.”
“Tech is amazing, I love it and it has a huge place in our society, but there is also a huge place in our society to put our phones down and get out and play,” he says. “I think that is more of a brand ethos than a product ethos. It has always been my dream really to roll Wicked Vision out as a lifestyle brand.
“And that changing consumer mind-set is something that we have to hold on to. We are going to be rebranding as a result of this, and we are in the middle of developing a corporate video that isn’t really like a oy company video. In fact, you won’t even know it is for a toy company – hopefully it will make people really think.”
With the latest heat wave now upon the UK, and a Great British summer still very much in view for a nation to enjoy largely on home turf this year, Wicked Vision is doing all it can to drive and capitalise on the interest in outdoor – or indoor, Strang is quick to emphasize – active fun.
The company’s quick reflexes mid-March this year to get a foothold in the shifting sands of a national crisis saw it pivot quickly to an e-commerce-led business that doubled down on its efforts with online platforms in light of the temporary loss of its brick and mortar network, and turn its headquarters offices into “what essentially became a warehouse for shifting product from.” It helped Wicked Vision navigate the choppiest waters and enabled it to maintain a business throughout.
Then there’s the matter that Wicked Vision is still to bring to market the portfolio of products announced during this year’s Toy Fair season. Including the likes of its MicroJet and Mega Tube, and of course the Flying Square, the range has been postponed for a 2021 full launch, by which time, we can only fully expect that this will be a company not simply known as ‘the guys that throw boomerangs at Toy Fair’ any longer.