Funko, one of the biggest names in collectibles these days, came out swinging at this year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC), bringing fans a Hall H panel, a return to its Fundays fan event, and “Funkoville,” its largest convention show floor booth ever. During the show, we chatted with Funko CEO Andrew Perlmutter and Vice President of Brand and Marketing Dave Beré about the show, acquiring Mondo, pandemic-induced changes that are here to stay, and more.
The Pop Insider: So to start, can you tell me what you’re most excited for Funko fans to see at this show?
Andrew Perlmutter: Yeah, so this is our biggest and most exciting booth of all time. It’s three to four times bigger than any booth that we’ve ever had. And the newest addition this year is the Mondo brand, which we just recently acquired. And just, you know, seeing it on display next to our other brands just highlights what a great acquisition that was for our company. Their high-end action figures, their Japanese vinyl, these are the most exciting things. Just to be able to reconnect with our fans in such a grandiose way and introduce some stuff that they hadn’t seen in the past. That’s what I’m most excited about.
PI: So you already talked about Mondo, which is one thing I wanted to really focus on. I’m a huge Mondo fan and I was surprised, but not bad surprised, to see that acquisition news. Can you talk about how that came to be and why you think it’s a great fit for the Funko brand?
AP: Yes. So we’ve been long-time admirers, just like yourself, of the Mondo brand. They make such beautiful products. And as we look to expand our portfolio of products, there are things that we have the ability to do internally, and then there’s things that we would want to acquire. So Loungefly is a really good example of a skill set that maybe we could have developed over time, but we probably wouldn’t have done it very well and it would’ve taken a long time. We feel the same way about expanding our categories with posters, vinyl records, and high-end collectibles.
You know, we are the collectibles for the masses, right? We pride ourselves on entry-level price points. Everyone is a fan of something, so we try and make something for every fan. We go really wide and not that deep, and that’s sort of the magic of what we do. So we think that Mondo helps us balance that portfolio with a sort of higher-end offering. Not so high it’s unaffordable, but just a higher end, in a different stylization. So, yeah, we’re really excited. We think that it’s gonna bring people into our funnel and we’re gonna bring Mondo fans into Funko.
What’s really important is we never want to rebrand Mondo as Funko. That is not what we’re trying to do. You’re not gonna see Mondo high-end action figures at Walmart. That’s not what we’re doing. And I think there’s some people who were worried about that, but that’s not our goal. We want to build up the Mondo brand to be, you know, bigger and better and add more licenses and help do what we do really well for that brand.
PI: So I know Funko moved into the digital collectibles realm over the past year. How has the response been to that? Is that something you’re still planning to push forward into the coming years as well?
AP: Absolutely. There’s been a lot of noise about the NFT business in general. It’s a new, sort of wild frontier. It took us a little longer than expected to get into it, with all the contractual hurdles that we had to get over. But now that we’re into it, each drop has built on itself. So we have had eight drops this year, all of which have sold out in record time. We’re super excited about that. We had our largest drop ever with DC Comics, which was huge. And so we think that we’re definitely gonna keep going with it and we think there’s tremendous potential to build it and build it in new and interesting ways. So our business in the NFT world continues to go up, and we couldn’t be more excited about that.
PI: I really like how you’ve married the digital with a physical product, because I think that really kind of ties it in.
AP: Yeah, we had to put our spin on it. Everybody was taking either an animated image or a static image and selling it, which is great. But like, if we can’t innovate in a category, we’re not really that interested in being in the category. Like Popsies, that’s innovation in the card aisle. Innovation in the NFT world was phygital, linking physical with the digital.
PI: I know that Funko is continuing to expand its in-person retail footprint, like with the new FAO Schwarz location, Funko Hollywood, and so on. Is that something that you’re planning to continue to expand?
AP: We continue to evaluate all the opportunities. We do know that there are opportunities in the future, as part of our strategic direct-to-consumer initiative. I don’t know if you know, but we were recently named one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites in the collectibles world by Newsweek. So as we continue to focus and grow that particular part of our growth pillar, we’re evaluating all the time: What makes sense? Where could it make sense? But we haven’t announced anything yet.
PI: I know obviously, as with everyone, Funko had to pivot a lot during COVID-19, when you lost fan conventions. What things did the company learn or change from that time that you’re going to carry forward as we’ve started returning to “normal?”
AP: That’s a really good question. And I would say the best answer to that is we have created a digital environment for events. So when we couldn’t meet in person, which is, obviously, our number one preference, we had to do this virtual. So we created virtual events. We think that there’s gonna be an opportunity to carry forward virtual events at specific times, in order to bring more people into our ecosystem who may not be able to attend a physical event. So we think that that’s one of the things that worked out really well for us and we’re excited about carrying forward.
PI: I know you’re still relatively new to this position. What has been the most surprising or interesting thing for you so far in the CEO role?
AP: So you know, Brian [Mariotti] and I have been working side by side since 2013. And I would say that a lot of what I am doing is similar to when I was the president of the company. So I wouldn’t say there were really any surprises. You do have to get used to having that many more reports coming into you, for sure, and making a lot of decisions that may not have been made at the level that I was at before. But it’s been a blast. It’s definitely exciting. Obviously, giant shoes to fill. Sometimes I question whether I could fill those shoes. But yeah, Brian’s been great. He’s super supportive. I’m just super excited about the opportunity to grow and expand this brand and the portfolio of brands that we’re acquiring.
PI: Is there anything else you wanted to add about Funko that I didn’t touch on?
AP: I would just say there’s a lot of great news coming out of Funko. The momentum has never been greater.
PI: What are you most excited about Funko fans getting to see at this show?
Dave Beré: So we’ve been on a three-year journey, with how we engaged our fans here in 2019, how the world changed. We had to move virtual. How we engage with our fans and what we learned by doing more hybrid events, really everything has led to this moment. So that’s why we wanted to go big. We’re really excited that we’re able to. This is all for the fans, and we were able to go big for them and have an experience unlike anything they’ve had before.
PI: I mean, [the booth] is truly massive. And also, Hall H isn’t usually a place where collectibles companies are. That’s the, like, the blockbuster movies. How does it feel to reach a level of fandom where Funko as a brand, without a movie or anything, belongs in Hall H?
DB: It’s so good. We haven’t done anything like this before. Hall H is legendary, and to be able to do that as a pop culture lifestyle brand is huge for us. We don’t take the opportunity lightly.
PI: What do you think it is about Funko and its subsidiaries that have so latched on with fans to create a brand that clearly resonates?
DB: At the heart of our brand, it’s about connecting people to joy and connecting people to comfort, and Funko can really be that tastemaker by the different items we release. And then it really doesn’t become about the individual product, and it’s why we can have vinyl records out here. Or collectible figures or soft lines. And I think that’s what fans really connect to, which is why Funkoville coming together like this is so good.
PI: I know SDCC has always been a huge staple for Funko, but seeing more and more events, like FunKon and the upcoming Loungefly summer event — Is that a pattern that you’re hoping to continue moving forward, having more Funko fan events?
DB: Events are a huge part of how we engage our fans and we only want to accelerate that in ways that drive experience. San Diego and the cons we go to, they’ll always be great partners. Will there be a place for us to find ways to create that experience and release product through something like a FunKon? Sure. And we’ll always look for that on the calendar, but we love being around fans and we think that this way to engage is top of our list.
PI: What are the biggest lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that you think the company has learned that you’ll continue to carry forward?
DB: I think the biggest one that comes to me, as the marketer, is when everything went virtual, everyone had to engage with us the same way. What that did was it made this huge, inclusive community. We learned that don’t wanna lose that as we go back in person. We want to make sure if you can’t come to San Diego, you still can be a part of the experience, whether you’re engaging with us on our social channels or whether you’re out buying a shared exclusive at a retailer. That’s a key, that’s a huge part of this. We know not everyone can come to San Diego. And I think we did that before, but we really embraced it when we went virtual in 2020 and part of 2021.
PI: I know Funko continues to launch additional collectibles lines, most recently Popsies and Soda. What have been some of the biggest surprises or developments in what’s really caught on?
DB: The unique thing about Soda is that not only are the packaging and the characters great, it’s the chase element and not knowing what you’re gonna get. So we’ll continue to accelerate that line and invest in that line. And then Popsies, we’re really excited about what we’re seeing for the first six months. It is only at Walmart, but there, there is a strong interest in the marketplace as we go wide next year. So we’re excited that collectibles can come into the greeting card aisle and perform well with our Funko innovation tied to it.
PI: So, to close, is there anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like to emphasize in terms of plans or goals or directions for Funko right now?
DB: Well, I think this set a new bar for us.
PI: Yeah, what are you gonna do next year now?
DB: Exactly. So that’s what actually keeps me up. [Laughs] But I think, think that’s just it — If this is our new bar, we want to come back in our future events and we want fans to know what type of experience they’re gonna get with Funko. And we look forward to that with some of the shows we have coming up later this year.