BRAND FOCUS: 25 years of Sylvanian Families

It may be celebrating a quarter of a century this year, but the Sylvanian Families brand is stronger than ever. Samantha Loveday takes a closer look?
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Sylvanian Families is in good company. 

The property celebrates its 25th birthday this year, a milestone it shares with the likes of heartthrob actor Zac Efron, Doctor Who’s most recent sidekick Karen Gillan, Scottish tennis player Andy Murray and supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley among others.

It may be marking a quarter of a century, but Sylvanian Families continues to be a firm favourite with girls. In 2009, the brand grew by 61 per cent, and by a further 51 per cent in 2010. This year, it is forecast to achieve £30 million at retail.

“The secret is the simplicity of the brand values in a very complicated world,” Vanya Hunter, brand manager at Flair, explains to ToyNews. “Sylvanian Families is special and there’s nothing else quite like it. The core values remain the same – family, nurturing, cosiness, timelessness, wholesomeness and longevity. While the marketing focus moves with the times, the brand doesn’t try to be fashionable in the same way as other ranges, and so it keeps its integrity.

“We now have mums who played with Sylvanians themselves and the brand therefore enjoys very high parental – and grandparental – endorsement. Coupled with that is an all-encompassing marketing strategy. There is always a focus on new and classic themes, and significant marketing investment in TV, consumer literature, point of sale, character costumes and the Collector’s Centres network for fans to see the range stocked.”

This year sees the addition of a holiday theme – a snowy log cabin which can be turned into a summer mountain retreat – while the range of vintage vehicles grows with a campervan complete with kitchenette, bunks and a roof rack for a bicycle and/or canoe. 

A Sylvanian Games theme was also launched in the spring, while in something of a timely coincidence, the Corgi Family – Earl, Duke, Queenie and Duchess de Pembroke – will shortly be arriving.

Hunter says that the main challenge is keeping the brand fresh and relevant: “A great deal of time and effort goes into this, meaning that year on year we are able to achieve our aim. We are never complacent about the new development, with so many brands in the market we have to ensure the new theme releases and innovation is continual. The lead time, however, is huge and we are extremely excited about what’s in the pipeline for the seasons to come.”

Going forward, growth, of course, is the aim. At the same time, Flair recognises that 2012 has so far presented challenging market conditions for the whole industry. “History does show, however, that in times of austerity the consumer tends to chose brands they trust and know well, even in the toy market,” says Hunter. “We also hope to increase the number of new collectors and we are continually looking at ways to achieve this.”

Can Sylvanian Families still have the same pull in another 25 years? 

“One would hope that the brand has timeless appeal. So as long as we continue to drive new themes, invest in development and listen to our core audience, then there is no reason why Sylvanian Families won’t still be delighting future generations in 25 years’ time,” Hunter concludes.

Family ties

Launched in the UK in 1987, Sylvanian Families has won Toy of the Year three years in a row.

- Since 1987, there have been over 80 new families launched.

- It is estimated that around 40 million Sylvanian Families figures will have been sold in the UK since launch.

- This means around two thirds of the country’s population have been joined by a Sylvanian equivalent.

- Flair produced 2.7 million Sylvanian figures for the UK alone in 2011.

- Over half a million Sylvanian cars and caravans have been sold – this equals the number of actual caravans sold each year in the UK.


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