THE BIG INTERVIEW: Dave Martin, International VP, Mega Brands

Despite a challenging economic climate, Mega Brands achieved double digit growth in 2011. We caught up with International VP, Dave Martin about the challenges, opportunities, highs, lows - and the firm's biggest ever launch.
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ave Martin says 2011 was ‘as expected’ for the toy industry. “The economic climate has made it a tough time for all this year. However, it has been the same now for a number of years,” he explains.

“At Mega Brands, we have worked extremely hard during this period and that has paid off with great growth in 2011, which is still growing at a double digit rate.”

Such figures are not easy to come by at present. Product developers, marketers and everyone else within a team are having to work increasingly hard to create that key product range to drive sales.

Martin tells ToyNews that one product range has been the biggest thing to impact the Mega Brands business over the last year: “We have seen fantastic continued success with our Mega Bloks Halo brand, which has proven to be our top selling licence.

“With price points ranging from £1.99 to £99.99, the range offers products for kids right up to adults and collectors. The challenge for us now is maintaining momentum and keeping a hugely popular brand in supply.

“Looking forward, we want to continue to build on this success in 2011 and take it to a whole new level in 2012. Capitalising on the launch of Halo 4, part of a new trilogy launching main season and strengthening our ties with the Halo community will help us drive the brand to new heights.”

And Martin believes that offering great ranges like Halo is key to the survival of retailers over the next 12 months. “From a retail perspective, retailers that offer great ranges in the right areas at the right prices will continue to be a success.

“This is particularly true as we believe consumers will continue to seek out great value items with great play value whilst the economic situation remains challenging in 2012.”

Over the past year, Martin says retail has been more challenging than ever. He explains: “We have seen a number of competing promotions from retailers offering heavy discounts recently. We are confident those that have backed these promotions with the right brand and product will see a positive impact on sales.”

And this situation is set to continue, he claims: “We believe it will remain a very competitive area over the coming years, with price promotions key.”

So the plans are bigger and better than ever for 2012 to overcome these challenges and will include Mega’s biggest ever launch – a World of Warcraft licensed range. The strategy will be set out at Nuremberg Toy Fair in February 2012.

Martin explains: “It [Nuremberg] always marks for a good start to the year with opportunities to meet, and also show, the trade our great range of brands.

“This year, we’ll be displaying the really exciting World of Warcraft range on our stand, featuring a Mega Bloks Thrall built using thousands of blocks measuring more than eight-feet.”

The World of Warcraft line demonstrates the importance of licences to Mega Brands. Alongside the gaming brands – Halo, World of Warcraft and Need for Speed, the firm recently signed Moshi Monsters to its portfolio.

But it’s all about balance. Martin says: “Our own IP portfolio is also vital, including Mega Bloks, 3D Breakthrough, Dragons Universe and Battle Strikers. At Mega, we feel it is important to have the right balance of licences and our own IPs.”

With all this on offer within a challenging environment, it will be key for Mega Brands to communicate its offering clearly and with impact, taking in all mediums possible.

Martin says: “With so many mums online, on Facebook and Twitter, etc, social media is a great way to interact with our target audience in a two-way dialogue. At Mega, we have heavily invested in social media and online resources and it is an integral part of our marketing mix.

“We have seen a huge amount of interest and interaction from mums and we will continue to communicate with them more and more online.”

It seems Mega is all set to continue to buck the downward sales trend over the next year.

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