Cornering the market

RC2's line-up for 2009 includes additions to evergreen licences adn the expansion of newly launched IP's. Katie Roberts visited the firm to find out what's in store...
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Following a successful promotion for Caring Corners with Nick Jr, RC2’s director of marketing for pre-school youth, Ray Wooton, is considering diversifying the plans for next year’s marketing spend. “The promotion was a great success and we will look at using them more as part of our TV budget. The campaign ran during October half-term with a competition and the response was fantastic. The raised awareness also showed up in ELC’s sales.”

Promotional activity won’t replace advertising, but would help introduce newer brands like Caring Corners to the target audience. The Mrs Goodbee house launched into ELC and independents last year, and will roll out to all retailers this year.

RC2 added refreshment to the Family and Friends collection in January, with another to launch in May. Two new SKUs will be added to Special Moments in July.

The firm will add a new Happy Camper line to the Caring Corners brand in July, focusing on the great outdoors. The range’s hero product will be the Happy Camper itself – a camper van which opens up to unveil an interior with 100 activities, sounds and words.

The rest of the range includes the Family and Friends assortment – a figure with an accessory – such as Nature Walk, which comes with a Dad and a dog. Fun Times Assortment will launch with two themes, Keep Nature Green and Picnic in Paradise, which include figures, animals and accessories.
The Happy Camper Special Moments Assortment will feature two sets, including Caring for Critters and Backroads Biking.

The website,, offers games and features and will be extended to include the Happy Campers line. Brand manager Katy McLarnon says: “The site is working really well for the brand and attracts a lot of visitors.”

The range was supported by 400 TVRs in 2008 and a similar campaign is set to run through 2009, with advertising planned for March and April and then again in Q4.

Thomas & Friends continues to be a key brand for RC2 and during the year 22 new lines and six new characters will be introduced. Highlights include a new carry case, a Water Tower Figure of Eight track and Wellsworth Station with lights and sounds.

The cherry on the cake is the Knapford Rail Express, featuring lights and sounds, a flip-up mail car with mail included and a Thomas figure. Knapford will be promoted with a 20-second advert in the second half of the year, with 600-650 TVRs planned.

The Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway series will see eight new and three relaunched characters and a ‘Happy Birthday’ Thomas Gift Pack complete with personalisation stickers.

At Easter, a new Thomas and Rosie 17-piece set will be launched with TV support. In the second half of the year, the hero line will be the Thomas-saurus Rex Set with figure of eight track and a T-Rex tunnel. The set will be supported with 650 TVRs in Q4.

The Wooden Railway range has enjoyed a packaging redesign with window panels and ‘Great Value’ flashes. On the play-sets, images of the contents are exploded on the side of the box giving a clearer idea of what is included.

Retailers will be supplied with yearbooks for children and in-store support, but the greatest benefit is likely to be the price. Brand manager Nikki Smith explains: “We are trying to bring down the price points to make the product more attractive. Throughout 2009, there will be no increases on this range, which, in a climate where all prices are soaring, will seem like a drop for retailers.”

The evergreen Britains range appeals to kids and adults alike. Craig Varley, director of marketing for Farm, comments: “Boys come into the range at about age four to eight and then become collectors.”

The latest range, launched last August, is Big Farm, a 1:16 scale plastic collection developed to hit a younger age bracket. The product is ideal for indoor and outdoor play and the products are authentic, licensed versions of real farm machinery with lights and sounds.

Products are presented in window boxes with ‘try me’ openings and, so far, the nine lines in retail are doing well. Varley says: “We have been flabbergasted at the uptake. The product is literally driving itself out of the door. I was recently in ELC and kids were on the floor playing with the tractors and really getting to grips with the product.”

Products being added to the Big Farm range in 2009 include a John Deere 4WD tractor, tillage, a cultivator, a Hitachi excavator, a Bobcat Skidsteer and a Chevrolet pick-up. Items range from £14.99 to £39.99.

Varley concludes: “We believe that if young people get into the Big range, they will later graduate to die-cast.” The original range is still expanding with a 1:32 r/c John Deere tractor, which launched into retail late last year.



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