I am eating humble pie.
Whe I first wrote Sylvanians for the Masses, I must admit that I didn’t get Epoch’s marketing strategy on their new EU releases. It felt like a backward step for a company that has been producing finely crafted toys for 25 years. And so, while I appreciated the additions to my collections (you know collectors, they’ll collect just about anything even remotely related to their area of interest), I wasn’t in a hurry to acquire them all and when I did, I wasn’t at all that thrilled to open them. So they simply lay in wait in their sturdy card cases till I could summon enough interest to play with them.
Imagine my surprise one day, when reading a business magazine published by Globe Telecom and finding an article entitled “Launching a Mass-Market Line” ( Masigasig, volume 4, issue 7, August 2010), it suddenly dawned on me that even under different scenarios, local experts in marketing and management concur with the introduction of a low-cost line, or what they refer to as “second-tier” product line. Targetting differents segments of the market, they say, can actually boost company sales as these products serve different needs. Dr. Eric Soriano, a professor from the Ateneo de Manila Graduate School of Business, says it best:
“When you offer different products that serve different market segments, your consumers need not go to your competitor, because you already offer them an alternative.”
Moreover, he “sees no cannibalization” and considers this decision to broaden market segments as protective of the primary line. In this case, while he talks of a different matter altogether (he bases his opinions and recommendations on a case of appliance makers who introduced second-tier brands to counter cheaper brands in the market), I can clearly make the connection to this particular case of Epoch and their mass-market Sylvanians.
But how do I get over the “lack of prestige” of the new line? It seemed unlikely, at first, to find anything good to say about them. The only thing they had going, I thought, was the low-cost factor. The answer was simple: open the box and play with them.
And I did. Humble pie has never tasted as good as this.
They’re not photogenic, mind you; either that or my photography skills are not enough to showcase them at their best. Their clothes seem too simple and lacking in charm. They have single colors and none of the distinctive markings of more refined Sylvanians. But when you do take them out of their packaging, you will fall in love with them! Their flocking is amazingly plush and thick, making their coat seem luxuriant compared to their Flair and Epoch JP kin. The joints are well manufactured and none of them are too tight, or worse, too loose. Their clothes, which seem simple and unstructured, are soft to touch and made of good quality material. Instead of ribbons to tie clothing, these use garterized straps that are easy to loop over bodies and heads. Best of all, these critters have got the cutest tails ever!
I am four sets short of the entire line and only because I have yet to see the sister with accessory boxes shown below.
The furniture sets are made of good quality plastic that is not brittle and easily broken. They have no sharp corners or edges. They adhere to original furniture designs and while they did away with the tiny accessories, they did not scrimp on detail. The piano, for example, has a moving keyboard. The closet doors of the sink/counter open, as also the little drawers of the desk and chair set. The dining table and chairs feature designs in relief on the tabletop and chairs’ backrests. Perhaps the only things that are missing are paddings for the sofa, bed and baby crib, but even those can be easily remedied by a crafty person.
The beginner’s set is actually a version of the newly released JP Sycamore Cottage. This set features a gray rabbit sister with a bed and a square dining set (table with two chairs). At just PhP1500, it is cheaper than the starter set featuring the Chocolate Rabbit sister (then again, the latter has more furniture and accessories).
Ban Kee Trading, the company that distributes Sylvanian Families in the Philippines, released this with the purpose of introducing Sylvanians to young kids. Because this line is both parent- and child- friendly, they see this as a way of opening the market to new collectors who might want to continue collecting even as they get older. Moreover, the single furniture sets allow parents the flexibility to plan their purchases according to their budgets without ever sacrificing quality.
All in all, this new line complements the existing JP and UK lines very well. I’ve grown to love these new Sylvanians as much as my standard ones. They may be different, but different isn’t necessarily bad.
(See new pictures of these Sylvanians over at New Sylvanians.)
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