OPINION: Kre-O - A Sound Foundation For A Major Toy Line - PART 2
Six Steps To Making Kre-O The Best It Can Be...
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As I said in my prior post about Hasbro's Kre-O line, I believe that the company best known for its 3 ¾” scale action figures has begun to put its stamp on the construction toy business segment with its high-quality interlocking block system, which is about to enter its 3rd year on the market. With the line still relatively small (only 6 themes exist), Hasbro is positioned to make bold course adjustments to help their building-block play pattern expand, grow, and ultimately improve - both in terms of quality and profitability.
How? Well, I’ve been thinking that myself, and below I’ve outlined six major steps they should take in order to make Kre-O the best product line it can be:
1) Put more focus into building. Yes, the Enterprise looked great, but Cityville Invasion's cityscape was too small, too simple, and too gimicky (inasmuch as the gimmicks were cool). Hasbro and/or Oxford must give designers more room to play and experiment, and if their designers do not want to, they need to get designers who will--builders who desperately want to create innovative and interesting builds (there’s about 10 million of these folks on Flickr). Kre-O cannot survive on the novelty of its licenses; the line needs to be strong enough to release original concepts that not only cement its uniqueness but also offer a building experience all its own.
2) Continue to offer what Lego will not. Members of the Kre-O Team appear to have read more than one message board and spent ample time in online forums. Either that, or they are reading the minds of Lego fans clamoring for parts and pieces the Lego group will not give them. Whether it’s a stud-inverter or different type of slope, Kre-O has given Lego fans elements they cannot get elsewhere—and if Hasbro continues to do this, they will succeed in attracting more builders, if for nothing more than the parts selection (same goes for Kreon Accessories/ Weapons).
3) Invest further in the web presence of Kre-O. When a fan goes to the Kre-O Site, he/she can become part of Kre-O Nation. But what’s the point? I joined and received a link to a video that did not work, and I cannot seem to find a login to get more benefits. Hasbro needs to put some real incentive into gaining citizenship. They could provide a “build your Kreon avatar” feature and e-mail citizens an annual coupon for a free “battle pack” with any Kre-O purchase. Something. Additionally, Hasbro must build the Kre-O community through a blog. Mega Bloks has a blog. Kre-O can have one, too, especially as the company is looking to build followers and fans are not doing this on their own (yet). Hasbro can provide an experience by offering commenting rights (after moderation, of course), links to articles and reviews, product previews, and more. Hasbro could even create a flickr group for people to tag pics of all their “Kreations” (and start using that word, if they do not already. Let’s make it a #hashtag).
4) Hasbro MUST go to the max with the future of Transformers and provide a transformable brick-built toy. Essentially, they have already done this with Construct-Bots, but I think they can get their builds a bit closer to the classic vehicles fans know and love (and recognize). This is paramount. LEGO has ALREADY DONE THIS. Hasbro can too. Construct-Bots are a great step; call them “phase 1”, but they can do better. Yes, it will take innovation and creativity, but after this summer, the Transformers brand will prove it is made of money. Hasbro can afford the time and energy to develop this, but they cannot afford to fail at making this happen.
5) Hasbro must keep G.I. Joe Kre-O at a vibrant premium at Toys"R"Us. The shine has worn from the Silver Star awarded to the G.I. Joe brand. Yes, guys like me who watched hours of Real American Hero still love it, and we always will. We supported Rise of Cobra to our emotional detriment, and we gave Hasbro (and Paramount) the benefit of the doubt by seeing Retaliation. You’ve got us locked... but I’m not sure who else. I actively attempted to get my nephew interested in the brand, but it did not happen. I gave him toys, and his father is in the military, but he preferred Call of Duty. The brand does not have cultural penetration of even two years ago and keeping the G.I. Joe Kre-O as a limited but successful line makes all the sense in the world. Well done, Hasbro; don’t get greedy.
6) And Hasbro needs to give Kre-O its own Concept. With Dungeons and Dragons coming this year, Kre-O will be comprised of 6 themes, all of which are based on pre-existing licenses; however, the quality of the product is such that licensing is unnecessary for success. If you want to build the brand, give it its own identity. Give the consumer something to which they can newly connect. Create the next big idea. Yes, other companies have made a killing on licenses (Hasbro knows all about this), but Kre-O has the potential to launch NEW intellectual properties. If Hasbro wants to compete in the brick-building world, then they can set a unique footprint by providing stories no other company offers. But if they want to dive into the girls’ market, they can do one more license with “My Kre-O Ponies”.
Those are the big six, for now. And yes, I am essentially telling Hasbro they should invest millions in new staffing, R&D, marketing, and distribution. The costs will be heavy, and the work will be difficult, but I believe that Hasbro has a very real winner in their roster - a winner that may not yield huge dividends for another 2-3 years, but building the foundation now can result in huge success.
As I have said, I encourage ANY and EVERY AFOL I know (and I know a few) to take a ride on the Kre-O-Train. Pick it up for the kids; let them decide. I’m not saying you need to invest in the enormous Enterprise or the upcoming Terrordome, BUT give a 10-20 set a chance. You may just want to join Kre-O Nation, too.