I sat here for about ten minutes trying to think of a hook for a lead-in, one that attempts to evenly set the table for my thoughts about this latest HasLab crowd funding project, but honestly, I got nothing. The way this campaign has been presented has been painfully lackluster, and it is astounding that it has been this way.
I try to keep the discussion of my hobby on the (mostly) positive side. However, we are in a spot right now where we are being inundated with new action figure product offerings (well, pre-orders anyway) to the point that I cannot keep everything straight. Heck, even the Hasbro Pulse HasLab campaigns have been overwhelming in terms of sheer numbers, with FIVE high-dollar project offerings in the last four months. It has certainly caused a strain for a lot of collectors, and I think a LOT of people are having to get very choosy when it comes to where their money is going to go, because there isn’t room for all of it. So, marketing teams really need to be on their game to get that financial support right now.
Which leads us to our current state with the on-going Star Wars Black Series Rancor campaign. To be perfectly honest, every choice, from the original rollout to the reveal of the first two campaign stretch goals, has been positively BAFFLING. And absolutely NOT in a good way.
I simply cannot wrap my head around the presentation and marketing of this item because it has been completely, well, boring. For me, this has absolutely NOT been handled in a way that would strike up excitement amongst a potential customer base. I mean… this is STAR WARS. This is the RANCOR – Black Series Collectors have been opining for this item for a very long time. I do not doubt for one minute that the right amount of buying public is there to support this. However, therein lies the problem because I think the Star Wars marketing team is treating this like, “C’mon! It’s Star Wars! It’s the Rancor! This should be a gimme.” But… that is absolutely no way to run a campaign when your goal is to raise as much money as humanly possible for your product, especially in the shadow if the recent successes of other campaigns.
I don’t want to do a direct comparison at all levels with other campaigns like Galactus and the Proton Pack, because in a lot of ways, these are very different animals. However, there are some associative things that simply cannot be avoided because of the proximity to the other campaigns, and the fact that they are all Hasbro products. I am positive that there are unique factors that come into play with each different team and property, so I get that things will not be a direct mirror of others, but I cannot even count the number of times I have said, “yikes” since this thing launched, and I cannot believe that is the case.
Let’s look at this from the start, because some how, each subsequent announcement has been more disappointing than the last. It’s weird.
Initial Announcement: This was presented in a way that is fairly typical of most HasLab announcements when it comes to how the details of the campaign were shared. What was disappointing was that only a gray-scale digital render was shown during this launch. Yes, it does look really great from a design standpoint, but I cannot help but wonder what the reaction to something like this if it was done for a traditional Kickstarter campaigns and not, you know, HASBRO. I think it would have fallen even more flat.
During that session, it was boasted that the Rancor would have over 900 paint applications. I mean, can we see that? Even in digital? I suppose I can understand saving that update for the mid-campaign doldrums, but getting a solid idea of what the final product would actually look like is kind of important for the start, you know? So, not the most exciting of kick-offs, but it was okay, and lead to a pretty good first day backer count. Then again “okay” really shouldn’t be good enough.
Fan First Friday Update: The SW marketing team must have heard some of the comments about just having a gray-scale render for the announcement because this stream brought us an update with a physical gray-scale prototype. I suppose this is progress, though not much, but it was the first time to see an actual physical thing. That said, for me personally, this update did next to nothing in terms of hype or excitement, but that was all about the presentation.
I mean, they have the thing, but they did not even have it on the table when they were talking to see it in real space. That is kind of a big deal. You can see digital comparisons to other renders all day with measurements to communicate size, but seeing it in real space is a completely different, and for me, a much more impacting look at the thing. Maybe it is something with my brain, but it just felt like more pictures and nothing of real substance. They sure did talk a lot about how figures can fit in its mouth though, I guess. Again, this was a dud.
They also decided to reveal the first stretch goal. The Gammorean Guard figure wasn’t totally unexpected as a goal, even if it isn’t all that inspiring. Sure, I have like four of that figure already, but the card and coin keep some consistency with the Sail Barge campaign, so I guess I get it. From a personal appeal standpoint this felt like it should have been a later goal to reveal once the thing funded. This is a “nice to have” instead of something essential, so the needle did not move much.
Second Stretch Goal Update: Oh boy. I am sorry, but what is this? A cardboard back drop and some bones? Is that mud? Rancor feces? I simply cannot understand the logic of these items as a stand alone stretch goal. Sure, it could all be fun, but we are talking about a milestone to get people excited to throw down $350, and these do not elicit that at ALL. A cardboard diorama could be simply integrated into the packaging design. Bones? Okay, but this falls even below the expected Jedi Luke figure with bone that everyone assumed would be a goal. I have seen the comparisons of this to the Sentinel tentacles, the differences is that the the Sentinel was funded at that point, and those were total icing.
This is not good at all. At ALL. In fact, I have seen more reactions to this as a detriment to the campaign instead of plus, and holy moly THAT CANNOT HAPPEN. As of this writing, this has LOST backers since the announcement of this stretch goal. Holy crap, you guys.
I have tried to think this through multiple times over the past few days, and I just cannot defend it in any way. When a stretch goal causes you to lose backers, it is inexcusable. It cannot happen. It cannot be defended. I keep saying this, but I am baffled. Also, a little sick to my stomach. How do these choices happen? And to, of all things, STAR WARS? The world is seriously on its side with this. Ugh.
So now what? This marketing team has no excuses left here. There is still a chance that this campaign as it exists now can meet that funding goal, but geez, even that looks like an exhausting experience. Showing off paint applications is not gonna cut it at this point, even if it would before. I have never been the type to be super specific with stretch goals in a campaign because there are so many options, but seriously…
WHERE IS MALAKILI? Not having the Rancor Keeper as an important part of this is stunning. Sure, he could still be one of last goals, but at this point, it feels like a moonshot to get to that funding level to get him. This is a figure that is likely a tough sell as a single carded figure, so where they heck else is he gonna go? He is 100% attached and dependent on this monster, so how is this even a game? Again, baffling.
WHERE IS OOLA? Okay, here is another character who really is 100% associated with the Rancor. Sure, I have heard the counter argument that this figure is tough for the same reasons “Hutt Slayer” Leia is off limits, but I am not so sure. Yes, the outfit is skimpy, but this would be something that would NEVER hit store shelves. Also, Oola is not Leia. She is NOT. I understand wanting one of the most important SW characters being portrayed a certain way now, and I certainly support that. But again, this is not Oola, and the design team could handle the costume in a way that would be perfectly fine. It has been done before. Like Malakili, if not now, when?
So, where does that leave us? As of now, we only have two stretch goals left to reveal, so will those be amazing? But what difference does it make if we don’t even knock on the door of that level of funding? This project is in a time and place where if even if it funds at the minimum level, it will be hard to categorize it as a success. The Proton Pack is rolling, and Galactus hit, like 30K backers. Those shadows are real here.
The crazy thing is that I still do want a Rancor figure, and I think a lot of other people do too. Again, I do not doubt the numbers are most certainly there to make this happen, but people have a real reaction to how campaigns like this are run and presented, and right now, the reaction isn’t good. Was this just assumed to be a shoe-in by the marketing team? Sure, it’s a cool looking figure (from what we can see), but making an assumption about the cost, especially right now, would most certainly be hubris.
That said, I don’t put the blame on the design team for this AT ALL. SWB is a wonderfully designed line, and the work the design team has done on the Rancor thus far most certainly tracks with that. In fact, the figure design is the ONLY thing keeping me interested at this point. Not the presentation. Not the stretch goals. So the item itself certainly isn’t the problem. If it is happens, I have ZERO doubt about it being a cool figure. It will be.
So, that puts the dubious spotlight on the marketing team, and I think that is completely appropriate. Again, I have to be direct here and say it has been handled very poorly. In fact, it feels like during these updates that the design group looks like they are being held hostage to the marketing lead, and that is really unfortunate. Sure, there might be some things going on behind the scenes, but in the case of this, perception is reality, so you cannot yield to those. Maybe this got rushed? Do not forget that that Patrick accidentally spilled the beans about this early (do not come at me with the “this was planned” thing. IT WAS NOT.), so maybe the 8-ball was already in place. But again, that is not a good excuse for how this has been treated. If you are having challenges, you have to do better. I am sorry, but gray-scale and bones are not better.
This makes me sad. Maybe these thoughts are all for nothing and this thing will fund and we will hit all the goals. Maybe it really is those mid-campaign doldrums. It is hard to judge something mid-campaign, but… something just doesn’t FEEL right here. My gut has me worried about this, and I have not felt that way about any of the recent campaigns. And even if it does fund, I think a lot of reflection on how the start of this was handled will be needed. I hate that I keep cringing instead of celebrating. This type of thing just cannot happen, especially for a large and famous action figure manufacturer. There is a new livestream scheduled for 11/19/2021 where they will reveal the deco and final stretch goals, so we will see how it goes, even if it is 100% reactionary damage control. I really hope that dancers and keepers are in our future.
Please know that I have ZERO insight to the gory details of this. I am not attempting to make assumptions that I believe are correct about what is going on behind the scenes. I am only commenting on how I am perceiving things as they are presented to me, and right now, that perception is one of disappointment. The Rancor is a fine choice, even an essential one for me, so how marketing can make me feel disappointed is very disheartening, but here we are. I am such a mark of Star Wars that this kind of thing should NEVER happen for a fan/collector like me, so it is a weird feeling.
I want this. I want this to be wildly successful and hit all the goals, but at this point it feels like that if it does, it will be in spite of the marketing efforts and organization of this project. Oof. That is a terrible thing to say, but that is where I am at. You can, of course, still back this, but I cannot get on my hype train and tell you that you should. I guess I want you to so that I can get a Rancor figure, but I have no real argument for it at this point with what has been presented aside from the, “C’mon! It’s Star Wars! It’s the RANCOR!” and that approach has already shown to not be working.
So, where are you at with this?