Monday, September 1, 2014

Marketing Topps

I often wonder where the hobby will be, say, twenty years from now.

If the vast majority of collectors are already in their forties or fifties, then the average hobbyist will probably look a lot like Hugh Duffy there by 2034.

While there's nothing wrong with a rise in the age demographics, it does raise the question of where cards will be if future generations don't have much interest in them.

Yes, there are far more younger collectors now then the national media would have you believe. Trouble is, not many of them seem to be in it for the long haul. I can speak from experience in saying that I rarely see any college-age collectors at card shows,

I guess what I'm saying is that Topps needs a kick in the behind as far as their marketing department goes. They need to find a way to increase their network of collectors while also keeping the existing ones interested in the hobby.

I'm no expert (although I was a marketing major for a very short period of time a few years ago), but I have a few suggestions.

Because there's no better way to celebrate Labor Day than by telling someone how to do their job better, right?

I can't tell whether Topps is out of touch with the current collector or just chooses not to listen.

If the former is true, then I think doing some market research or issuing some surveys could be beneficial. Maybe I'm missing something, but I never hear about Topps interacting with their customers in any way.

I'd love to tell them that no, I don't want more unnecessary 100-card insert sets in A&G. But, yes, I would like a product other than Flagship with a large base checklist. Keep the insert sets small, and the base sets big.

A few surveys here and there could go a long way.

Topps seems to have lost touch with the fact that trading is one of the foundations of collecting.

I think they recognized that back in 2010 when they launched their "Million Card Giveaway" promotion, which proved to be a million-dollar idea.

I loved redeeming the codes and buying packs in hopes of finding a code and unlocking the cards and looking for other cards I wanted and even fielding all the 1989 Topps Carney Lansford-for-1965 Topps Robin Roberts trade offers I got every other day. I loved it all.

Topps lost sight of how important that promotion was sometime since then. We're subject to stupid "Power Players" codes that are impossible to understand and probably won't result in any real rewards.

Whether it be in-person or online, I think collectors need to interact with one another to stay interested in the hobby. Topps provided an outlet to do so with the "Million Card Giveaway" in 2010.

It seems like a lot longer than four years ago.

It occurred to me today that there aren't any sales when it comes to baseball cards.

Sure, you'll find discounted packs or maybe a discounted blaster or two every now and then, but that's because your local big box store wants them gone. That has nothing to do with Topps.

I vaguely remember Topps putting coupons in blasters last year (or was it the year before?), but they didn't save much money and I don't think I ever used one.

I have a hard time forking over three bucks for a six-card pack of A&G, and that's a product I actually like. No way am I spending three dollars on a meh set like Archives.

If Topps were to launch some sort of buy-two-get-one-free promotion, however, that might just get me to buy a few more packs on a whim. Or perhaps just slash prices in general. Cut out a few of the relics and autographs that jack up the numbers.

No one cares about those anyways when they're buying retail.

I bet Topps likes to think that they cater to kids in today's age.

I mean, those little sticker packs are only ninety-nine cents a pop. And Opening Day can fit into any kid's allowance.

The problem is that Topps seems to equate cheap with being kid-friendly, which is a fallacy. Let's be honest here. Kids aren't buying Opening Day or those sticker thingies. Adults are. And not many of them, at that.

If Topps really wants to break into the kid market, they should look back to their little-remembered Topps Kids release from the early '90s. These cards feature all kinds of wild and kooky designs that were clearly made with little tykes in mind.

Sure, adults might buy some. But I honestly believe kids would, too. I can imagine a little guy begging his mom for the pack of cards with that crazy hypnotic wrapper on the shelf.

You never know which pack of cards will spur a lifelong collector.

The big piece of marketing advice I have for Topps can be summed up in three words.

Advertising. Advertising. Advertising.

The lack of Topps ads is, for lack of a better word, pathetic. I see a commercial for Bowman pop up on MLB Network once every blue moon, and that's pretty much it. When I tell people I collect baseball cards, I get the I didn't know they still made cards response more often than not.

It's no wonder considering the lack of advertising.

I know Topps and other companies do a lot of networking at card shows, which is kind of counterintuitive if you think about it. They're advertising cards to card collectors. We don't need to be sold on cards. You already hooked us years ago.

Get the word out to people who don't collect, Topps. Pony up the money for an ad during prime time TV. Maybe even during the World Series or something. I know it'll be expensive, but I think you'll see a good return on it.

We need to inspire a future generation of collectors, Topps.

What you're doing now isn't cutting it.


Mike said...

I wish they had card commercials now,as well!!

Check these out...not all baseball but what the hell...

Jeremya1um said...

Good ideas. If only Topps would take some of the advice.

Tony L. said...

I will say one thing regarding the demographics of collectors -- middle-aged men are always over-represented in the demographics because they have the perfect mix of disposable income and a desire to go back to the days of their youth.

Now, I don't disagree with your points generally, though -- kids these days have many more options for leisure than I had back in the early and mid-1980s. The packs then were cheaper and easier to find too.

Then again, you're talking to someone who sold a 1986 Canseco Donruss Rookie at a yard sale and bought a Nintendo.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I have a couple of thoughts...

Even when the hobby was healthy, I'm not sure that there were a lot of college-age collectors... They've generally got other demands on their time and money. I collected through my college years, but I know I was the exception. I've heard a lot of similar stories along the lines of "I drifted away but came back later".

Did Topps Kids really appeal to kids? Maybe really small ones, but I always thought that a lot of the cards they did were kinda patronizing. Maybe I'm wrong, but who's to say what's right? (And why am I suddenly quoting Fleetwood Mac?)

The Junior Junkie said...

I saw topps commercial come on a few weeks ago. I shushed everyone in the room. It was okay.

John Miller said...


cynicalbuddha said...

Oh man where to begin. First great post Nick. I think we all have these musings at one time or another. I remember a few years ago there was a big flap when CBS News did a story on the death of the card show and sports card industry. And I had to laugh because they were interviewing these dealers that wanted the market to go back to the way it was in the 90's before the internet and ebay, but card collecting and the industry is still very much with us. As far as marketing to kids that was a big concern, but Topps doesn't do itself any favors when over 2/3 of it's products are mid to high priced offerings and a pack of retail cards cost $3. I've ranted on this subject many times.

But occasionally Topps does put out a survey or asks for feedback on products. I know because I've given it too them and to my surprise some of my (and to be hoenst other peoples) suggestions were used.

On an interesting note I saw an article on Sports Collector's Daily about how Eisner and his investment group that owns Topps may be looking to sell the company. That might be good news seeing as since they took over they've followed the same basic formula for the Topps flagship. But looking at the 2015 preview there might be a few changes coming. Whew ok I'm done