In the 1960’s Hasbro, quite simply, wasn’t what it is today. Beginning in 1923, the Hassenfeld brothers formed a company selling textile remnants, then migrated to school supplies, and finally, in the 1940’s spun off into producing toys. In 1952 with the arrival of Mr. Potato Head, they finally had a big toy brand to call their own.
Meanwhile, Mattel was rolling hard and strong with Barbie, and while Hasbro was doing okay, it wasn’t in the same league as its west coast competition.
Then came 1963. Then came the revelation that they could do what Mattel is doing and make a Barbie…but make it a Barbie for boys.
G.I. Joe was born.
Pitched in 1963, the brand depended on a successful reception at Toy Fair in New York City to spring forward into production. Deals were made in New York, not in the backrooms in the months leading up to what is now essentially a press event. Brands literally lived and died by their presentation.
It all came down to this.
With the above film reel from 1963, Hasbro officially convinced American retailers to buy into this brand. In 1964 and 1965 G.I. Joe made up 75% of Hasbro’s sales, and while it dipped in the late 70’s, it rebounded in the 80s to become the first multi-media toyline release with a cartoon, comic book, and landmark series of highly articulated action figures all hitting at once. It was an incredible feat of marketing the likes of which had never been seen before, and have rarely been replicated to such perfection even 30+ years later.
It all came down to that nine minute video. The concept of Action Figures was born there, and lives on today.
Today, three decades later, G.I. Joe remains one of the most recognized American icons and toy brands around the world.
Yo Joe indeed!