One of Disney’s most ambitious marketing campaigns pivots from a more traditional reliance on trailers and “first look” teases. Five lessons we can learn from kickoff.
Please note: I will usually refer to The Child as Baby Yoda as that is his accepted name globally. Also, unless there are significant announcements (publishing materials that inform canon) this post only discusses the first Mando Monday reveals.
Last week, Mando Mondays kicked off through a digital video launch on Star War’s YouTube Channel with the Star Wars show hosts, Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni. It was a completely 180 from last year’s lackluster merchandising push (though that was likely to keep the mic drop that was Baby Yoda from dropping too early). From the logo design to the synergy across all Disney platforms and collaborative partners, there are some lessons to learn from the initial launch:
Lesson 1: There is no doubt who Disney feels is the breadwinner on the show
Whether it translates in sales (And I think it does) Disney feels that Baby Yoda is its bread and butter. At least when it comes to marketing outside of the demographic that tends to buy toys (older white and male) but we will get to that later. According to an article from Inc.com, women drive between 70-80% of all consumer purchasing and while Baby Yoda certainly appeals to people of all genders, the little green guy is heavily marketed towards female Star Wars fans both hardcore and casual. So, it is no surprise that the home products (crockpot, toaster, coffee maker, Tupperware, etc.), accessories, and cosmetics were all adorned with Baby Yoda faces. This is not to say that all female Star Wars fans will lean towards Baby Yoda items (I am a female collector and don’t own a single Baby Yoda product or toy) but Baby Yoda’s face finds itself more female-centric products than other Mandalorian characters.
Lesson 2: Retro Collection is here to stay…and extends to non-retro properties
When it comes to action figures, Mando himself is front and center and he and his friends are coming to us in interesting ways. The Mandalorian Retro figures were rumored before the Mando Monday kick-off from sites like Yakface.com but were officially confirmed with promotional images on Mando Monday. The first wave of The Retro Collection was announced at the 2019 Toy Fair to capitalize on the popularity and out-of-reach expense of the original Kenner line. This gave collectors who wanted figures in the likeness of the ones they grew up with and new collectors who wanted retro Star Wars toys the opportunity to purchase at retail price. Wave 1 which included Darth Vader, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and a Stormtrooper was exclusive to Target and sold-out quickly, leading to a rerelease later that year. A bonus Retro Tarkin (which was never made in the original Kenner line) was included with the Escape from the Deathstar board game, which retailed for $19.99. The popularity also led to Wave 2, which focused on the Empire Strikes Back and was exclusive to Walmart. Now, instead of Wave 3 being focused on Return of the Jedi, Hasbro decided to take the modern and give it the retro treatment and will not be exclusive to a retailer. There will be mixed thoughts on this from collectors I’m sure on whether The Mandalorian has any business getting The Retro Collection treatment being a recent show, but there is no question these figures will sell (especially the proven mover and shaker Mandalorian himself). A Retro Remnant Stormtrooper is attached to The Mandalorian Monopoly and will ask collectors to shell out $49.99 for the game to get the trooper. Maybe people will genuinely get this to have another version of the most overproduced game in game history, but I think the retro Stormtrooper will drive those sales. Look for more Retro collection figures for other non-Retro Star Wars content like the incoming Obi-wan series and Cassian Andor series, and likely even the Prequel and Sequel trilogies.
Lesson 3: Accessories are a key price driver on Mandalorian toys
Even though there are still more Mando Mondays to come (including the day this is published), we have seen enough evidence of previous Mandalorian releases to know that, when it comes to toys, accessories are KING. Look no further than the Best Buy Exclusive Heavy Infantry Mandalorian released late last year during the first season that had a deluxe price tag of $29.99 (before the general Black Series increase) and sold out immediately. The figure has since been re-released in the credit collection, albeit at an even higher price tag of $34.99.
This continues for Mando Mondays with Target and Amazon Black Series exclusives. For Target, it’s the Mandalorian with child and pram (which sold out for pre-orders) at retail $34.99 and Amazon’s scout trooper with speeder and child at $49.99. Like the Heavy Infantry Mando, the price for both of these types of deluxe and vehicle toys have increased by $10 (perhaps the pricing police at Hasbro have deemed the existence of Baby Yoda and his accessories are worth a $10 increase).
Other announcements came with The Vintage Collection versions of The Armorer, a Walmart exclusive Build Up Pack with Mandalorian and The Child, and Moff Gideon, all coming with key accessories. In particular, Moff Gideon whose actual garb looks similar to Darth Vader but the big deal in that release is the Darksaber. The Darksaber makes only its second appearance in the action figure world since Pre Vizsla Clone Wars figure (that figure has risen substantially in value since its’ release) and the saber has never been made for a 6-inch scale.
Lesson 4: The Mandalorian is still lacking in publishing content…for now
In a blink and you’ll miss its announcement, LucasFilm Press also released a Poster book, and Random House also released a Little Golden Book basically recapping Season one. Back in June, LucasFilm announced a big publishing push for The Mandalorian that included a novel adaption and comics from both Marvel and IDW. We have yet to hear any new details about the planned comic runs but there are more Mando Mondays so I expect, as the new season unfolds, we will get some more information on where and when those comics take place. I am surprised at just how little publishing content was announce on Monday and feel like it was a missed opportunity to announce (not even release) a one-shot comic filling in the gaps between season one and season two. Again, I expect more publishing content to be revealed as we get further into the season so we will keep an eye out.
Lesson 5: Disney is more focus on pushing awareness of The Mandalorian through merchandise than traditional marketing.
Last year, The Mandalorian literally launched Disney+ and there was so much riding on first impressions, so it was no surprise that a healthy number of trailers and first looks were also released (and still keeping lips sealed about that little green guy). Add to that plenty of cast interviews both in and out of the Disney sphere and it was a great awareness push going into the first season launch. This year: one full trailer, a short “first look” and very few interviews with lead Pedro Pascal (Variety and GMA). Instead, it looks as if all the effort and money has gone into this Mando Monday endeavor, which is a big deal and pivot for Disney marketing. A multi-week marketing campaign heading into the holiday season that includes tons of retail partners and involves talent across all Disney-owned channels. Adding to this a Mandalorian-themed Twitter feature where liking someone’s tweet who uses the hashtag #TheMandalorian gives you a little Baby Yoda icon to call your own, Disney is placing the bet on social media and just infiltrating all spaces of consumerism to drive awareness through the season. And it might be a better bet. Time will tell but this whole campaign is new for Disney and, if it pays off, expect to see more.
Other things stood out during this launch: I’m not sure LucasFilm knows what to do with Star Wars mobile games and they continue to use Star Wars to promote their sports vertical together by including ESPN Digital Media personalities like Clinton Yates to promote Mandalorian adidas footwear. This was the first of many more Mando Mondays and I will do a recap/revisit of initial thoughts once Mando Mondays 2020 is in the books but it started off with enough product to cover an entire season. Given that there probably more surprise cameos to come this season, I can’t wait to see if there will be any surprise merchandise drops to follow.