An in depth look at the My Little Pony relaunch, 2003
My Little Pony, the favourite toy of little girls in the eighties was abruptly put out to pasture in the early nineties. Deemed irrelevant it was overtaken by newer products and soon forgotten. Except by the makers, Hasbro Games. In 2001 the decision was taken to re-launch My Little Pony (MLP). After three years’ product development and testing a new MLP range was readied. Of course the product has changed. It now has “features” and “added play value” – but in essence it’s the same proposition that died through lack of interest 10 years ago. There were huge fears in Hasbro that the range would flop and their gamble would fail. Our job was to make the launch a success and do it in a few months – we were appointed in May, in essence six months before the peak buying season.
As defined by Hasbro UK the objectives were simple:
- Raise awareness and position MLP as the best toy – the latest craze
- Communicate the new range and the additional features
- Drive Sales
We added three more of our own:
- We need big features that will change buying habits.
- We need to identify today’s audience and make MLP relevant to them.
- We need to dominate the competition in the figure model market – get great share of voice at critical times
The media is saturated with stories about toys and games. We realised that we would not get coverage to change customer habits with a conventional campaign. We wanted big pieces not “mentions” and we had to develop an iconic status for MLP. For Hasbro it was a more than usually important launch. It marked a return to “innocent play” and it took them into girls toys an area in which they are not strong.
To get the ball rolling we arranged an deal with the Independent on Sunday Magazine for a guaranteed amount of coverage in return for an exclusive visit to Boston, home to “Ponytown”. We had to be careful in our choice of journalist – and had to brief the client very carefully. There is a cultural difference between USA and UK and their enthusiasm for the project could easily have resulted in a mickey-take from a cynical hack. The resulting piece was fabulous and set the tone for subsequent articles.
We set out to seek coverage way outside what would be considered the conventional media. We wanted to make MLP an icon – stylish and fashionable. We wanted to be in The Face, Sunday Times Style and other “arbitrating” publications.
It was all about creating a buzz – and we made it. From Sarah Cox talking on Radio One about playing with MLP when she was a little girl to a picture of Beyonce dressed as MLP when she was four years old (triggering a piece in Closer magazine which suggested that the diva was endorsing the product): all of sudden MLP was everywhere!
To help us communicate MLP’s new image and position it as the year’s fashion must-have we invited well known designers such as Boyd, Antoni & Alison and Michiko Koshino – as well as smaller but equally interesting names – like Preen, Julian & Sophie, Scott Henshall and Robert Cary Williams – to design a fashion item/character for My Little Pony.
The alliance with the designers provided a platform for us to create angles relevant to lifestyle titles such as Harpers & Queen and Heat magazine who otherwise would not have covered MLP’s comeback.
Our MLP fashionista ponies will be auctioned in association with ebay to raise money for Barnardo’s.
Strangely such was the success of the MLP campaign that it spawned a whole new interest in “retro” toys. However as other toy manufacturers raced to climb aboard the band wagon MLP got a new lease of life and yet more coverage as the product which started the trend.
- We started the retro toys craze!!!
- Metro picked it up and asked readers to vote – we drove this too
- MW launched a ‘Vote for MLP’ campaign – Pony came first: Top retro toy
- We made noise, we turned Pony into a fashion icon, we talked to mum (a MLP fan from first time round)
- Media value in excesss of £1m reaching more than 156 million
- All sales targets were met of exceeded – Hasbro ran out of product!
Mason Williams is the UK Consumer PR Agency for IPREX – a $350 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 115 offices worldwide. Read More