Hot Wheels, Lego and More, The Impacts of Toy Companies and Co-Branding

Javier SerranohobbyDB super user Javier Serrano, aka Fjaviserr takes us through the history of toy brands teaming up to co-brand! Read more of his wonderful guest posts here!

In the last decades, the toy industry has been changing very fast in the way we used to know it, and there are many factors which are contributing to it. Licensing has been playing an important role, bringing an avalanche of series from several brands, offering endless possibilities to the different customer segments.

Besides, toys are not just for children, and the market knows that. The collector target finally has a relevant weight for toy brands, and it is necessary to create new formulas to present limited editions. Beyond the limited pieces or the artistic collaborations, another actor comes to the scene with strength currently, the co-branding.

Co-branding does not make a reference to all licensed products that use a company logo to identify them as a licensor, is a marketing action, typically involving the brands of at least two companies on a product, as part of a strategic alliance, contributing each brand with its own know – how to create a mixed product.

Traditionally, this strategy has been used by the toy industry to distribute their products in overseas markets. These partnerships of their everyday use have been present on the market more than we think, and it is not difficult to see them worldwide. I am from Spain, and since my childhood, I have always been finding some curious examples on that market, bearing in mind The Simpsons action figures (Playmates) and Sylvanian Families (Epoch) which were distributed by Bandai and Bizak respectively.

Without forgetting the distribution partnership, nowadays, toy brands are using the co-branding concept in all its essence, with the goal of adding aggregated value to our beloved collectibles. The market is full of them, but I want to highlight some of my favorites.

In 2021 Mattel Creations shocked us when it announced the business collaboration among IWC X Hot Wheels to create one of the most beautiful sets ever made. This ultra-rare racing set contains an IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition and a specially crafted Hot Wheels Mercedes-Benz 300SL in a plated and numbered metal toolbox. This luxury set is limited to 50 pieces and was officially unveiled at the 78th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, being a masterpiece for die-cast collectors.

We also have on numerous occasions seen the collaboration Lego X Adidas, bringing amazing pieces for brick and sneaker collecting audiences, spotlighting the Lego set based on the originals Superstar, or the special sneaker edition for A-ZX Series, the Adidas ZX-8000, connecting the universal Lego colors with sneaker culture.

At last years’ IFA 2022, which is the world’s largest consumer electronics and home appliances trade show, the South Korean electronics giant LG revealed that it partnered with the renowned and beloved German toy manufacturer Playmobil, to introduce an exclusive collection of LG- themed toys. The collection includes unique character figures and toy home appliances.

Following in 2022, the Japanese companies Takara Tomy and Canon revealed the amazing project Canon X Transformers, which elevated the world of Transformers to another dimension. These Canon EOS R5 cameras morph into Optimus Prime and Decepticon Refraktor. However, being very explicit, these models are not working cameras, just replicas.

And of course, the co-branding arrives to the digital atmosphere as well, resulting in NFT’s partnerships, such as Gucci X SUPERPLASTIC and Balmain X Barbie, giving an haute couture touch to those exclusive pieces. Both are multi-pronged collections of digital and physical collectibles, showing us that the co-branding has no limits.

These examples show us that nowadays things are changing, and looking to the past, it would be shocking to think about the evolution that the toy industry has had in the last forty years, and as finally the collector segment is being relevant for it.

In the end, those changes were necessary to evolve and connect those exclusive treasures with the demanding group of collectors. However, the essence has not changed and paraphrasing the slogan of my beloved Funko, “Everyone is a fan of something.”

I hope you find this information helpful. Have an excellent week. Let me know if you’d like to know more in the comments below.

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