Whether you’re a Potterhead, a Thronie, or a Trekkie, there’s a Funko Pop! Vinyl for you — and for countless other fans, too.
Known for its iconic figures with oversized heads, beady eyes, and missing mouths, Funko leads the charge in affordable collectibles, selling more than $233 million worth of merchandise last year.
To date, the toymaker has produced thousands of vinyl figures for nearly every franchise you can think of, including cult classics such as the Golden Girls, superhero mainstays such as Marvel, and even celebrities such as the Royal Family. A simple collectible with an iconic design, the Pop! figure has become a staple in any fan’s pop culture collection. And for Funko, it’s all about quantity.
A Fast-Fashion Approach
Funko has seen significant growth over the last few years, with last year’s sales increasing 38% to total $233 million and its active properties increasing 34% to 583 from the previous year’s 435, according to the company’s end-of-year financial reports. This year, the company is further ramping up production of its geeky products to meet mass demand from an impressive fan base.
“I think that the way that Funko approaches collectability — especially in the past few years, and as we look into 2019 and beyond — we look at it as a take on fast-fashion in pop culture,” says Cameron Deuel, Funko’s senior manager of social. “Our concern is more about representing a variety of interests and pop culture licenses and different pop culture moments, and so we wind up with a very vast licensing catalog with a lot of different possibilities in terms of products that we can make in an effort to actively represent how wide pop culture interests can be.”
Funko’s speed to market is a huge advantage; the company can take products from concept to shelf in as few as 70 days, according to Funko’s Chief Marketing Officer Molly Hartney. Funko’s in-house creative team allows it to move products from design to presale quickly, making the company a leader in collectibles as fans become more frequent purchasers.
As more consumers find a variety of products appealing and buy more, Funko’s engagement increases, and the figures become more acceptable for fans of all things pop culture, Hartney explains.
Funko’s range of collectibles, from its iconic Pop! vinyl figures to Mystery Mini blind bags, includes characters and themes from multiple genres of pop culture, including celebrities, music, movies, and TV shows. It doesn’t matter what you love, Funko can help you bring a piece of your favorite fandom to your shelf or desk.
“Our products connect to consumers in a way that is unique to Funko,” Hartney says. “We believe we are very well-positioned to benefit the global demand for licensed products because they continue to grow. … We will continue to develop and leverage these licenses to be more excited about the future and where pop culture is headed.”
While Funko expands its product assortment multiple times a year as new films and TV shows capture fans’ attention, there are a few licenses that consistently perform well. According to Hartney, Harry Potter, Fortnite, Stranger Things, Marvel, God of War, Dr. Seuss, Deadpool, and the Royal Family are some of the toy maker’s most popular lines.
This year marks a banner year for blockbuster entertainment, and Funko has fans covered with new products based on Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, Stranger Things season three, and Avengers: Endgame. In addition to leveraging each license with new figures, Funko looks for new ways to add to each story. Exclusive figures, second waves of existing lines, and new details that highlight certain scenes put an added twist on each product, giving hardcore fans more variety for their shelves.
“We’re trying to look for ways to appeal to the fans in varying degrees,” Deuel says. “… And a lot of the time it comes down to: Is it going to be appealing as a figure, designwise, and resonate with fans? Is it pushing the boundaries of what we can do with Pop! figures, too?”
When crafting new products, Funko looks to the fans themselves and asks what they want. Hartney adds how Funko’s connection to the customer keeps a pulse on today’s pop culture and what’s trending. The toymaker welcomes all ideas to find its next hit, whether it’s from a fan, an employee, a retailer, a celebrity, or a trending topic.
Licensed characters are obviously key to Funko’s success, but the unique design of its Pop! figures is what allows Funko to be a pop culture staple itself. Its vinyl figures are must-haves for collectors, giving Funko its own vibrant fan base.
“Our stylized products connect fans with content in a way that is unique to Funko, given that we are very well-positioned to benefit the global demand to licensed products,” Hartney says. “We will connect fans to the things they love, and we’ll allow them to do so by having it all mixed together, so you can have Jem (from Jem and the Holograms) sitting next to Bob Ross with Thor on the same shelf. And for that, Funko is the premier destination for pop culture.”
The Exclusive Experience
If you’ve ever attended a fan convention such as New York Comic Con, you’ll notice that one booth in particular has a constant, wrap-around line: Funko’s. Fans wait for hours to get con-exclusive Funko Pop!s and other figures they can’t get anywhere else. Deuel explains that the company’s event-exclusive figures are cool, fun, or off-the-wall products that feature unique elements compared to the regular assortment. For Star Wars Celebration in April, Funko created Pop!s of fan-favorite Star Wars characters in a blue metallic finish. The quantities of each character were limited, and fans could not find them anywhere outside of the convention, making them highly coveted, rare collectibles.
Deuel explains that Funko uses conventions to highlight new licenses and core figures and tie the event together with experiential or commemorative moments.
“We can’t tell people what or why to collect, but there is that extreme interest in exclusives because it raises the flag for several types of collectors,” Deuel says. “We’re creating these things in hopes that they go to homes of people who will appreciate them and — I know this is controversial — hopefully will take them out of the box, and see what they look like on the back because our artists designed the full figure, and our intention is for this to get to someone who is really going to appreciate it.”
Reaching Beyond Pop!
While the company knows that figures based on beloved fandoms will always do well, they can have more fun with other out-of-the-box licenses, including I Love Lucy, Rainbow Brite, and Mister Rogers. Creating unique figures allows the company to experiment with its other lines. While Pop!s have been a driving force for the company’s success, other ranges, such as VNYL and 5 Star, add to what fans can collect.
“… We understand that Pop! is really driving our business right now, but we are really looking at ways to try other things as well,” Deuel says. “Not only do we want to appeal to Pop! and Funko and culture fans, but we want to find what else is going to resonate with people, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it, too.”
To help spread the word about its products, Funko works with several retail partners, including Amazon and GameStop, on specific events and programs. It’s nearly impossible to step foot into a video game store, comic book shop, or toy retailer without stumbling on a display of Funko figures.
“Funko’s Pop! [and] VYNL program is very important to GameStop and our fans,” says Kristina Ventura, vice president of collectibles and merchandising at GameStop. “It’s definitely a key driver for us. It fits perfect within the GameStop world because Pop! has a vast variety of IPs, and our fans have a lot of interests. They are video game fans at the core of their heart, but they’re also true fans … of movies, fans of pop culture, and they’re fans of video games. Funko addresses all of those, and they love to collect items that express their fandom.”
Specifically at GameStop, Funko collectibles have seen significant growth year after year, Ventura adds, as video game franchises — such as Overwatch, Fortnite, Kingdom Hearts, Gears of War — anime properties, and exclusives tend to sell well.
Looking for a broad variety, GameStop aims to find products for a host of fandoms, as well as plenty of exclusives to entice fans to complete their collections. With their Funko Insiders Club, members have exclusive access to giveaways, early insider information, and Funko special offers. The video game retailer also offers exclusive Funko collectibles that can only be found in their retail branches, including a DC collection with Jim Lee and Gamer Mickey and Minnie, characters that hold a video game controller and wear a gaming headset. Having such exclusives, Ventura explains, helps differentiate the retailer as a stop for unique products.
For many fans, these products become more than just a figure pertaining to their favorite film or character; they transform into something they can be a fan of, and collect, in itself.
“As a collector, you always want to collect something that’s unique or exclusive, or separates your collection from somebody else’s. That’s the true collectible nature of a fan,” Ventura says.
While many collectibles retail for higher price points in exchange for intricate details or exclusivity, Funko has kept its retail price affordable, giving more fans an entry into the market. For example, individual Pop! figures typically arrive in the market at somewhere between $10 to $15. VYNLs, which range from $15 to $25, include two figures in one package, while a 5 Star Collectibles figure — modestly priced at $10 — includes a special accessory. Despite low price points, Funko never compromises on quality.
“There are some collectible items that get so high that a lot of the market doesn’t always opt to get in,” Ventura says. “[Funko figures] are at a price point where a lot of people can play; they’re fun. They have such a broad litany of a library that you can actually curate something to reflect who you are.”
Movin’ On Up
Starting this year, Funko will look to expand from a collectible toy manufacturer into a globally recognized, independent brand in its own right. To do so, the company dives into new initiatives to position itself as a lifestyle brand, expanding into new merchandise categories, such as apparel, and launching an app and an animation studio.
“We can’t ever really take it for granted, but Pop! has been trending up ever since we launched the line, and we’re really trying to expand it in ways that make it more interactive … ,” Deuel says. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to adapt Pop! into other formats, as we look to change things up every once in a while in order to keep the attention.”
This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Spring 2019 Issue No. 3, click here to read more!