Part 2 – The Implications
The Joe Morrison interview provided many specific answers. However, many of his statements impacted or greatly influenced many of the established ideas in the M.U.S.C.L.E. community. In some cases, Joe’s statements actually created new questions.
Below are some of the most prominent implications of the interview.
M.U.S.C.L.E. as a “Flanker” Brand
Through the years several people, including Mattel employees, have referred to Mattel as a “flanker” brand. When this idea was suggested to Joe Morrison he seemed, at a minimum, surprised. He had never seen M.U.S.C.L.E. as a flanker brand. Instead he saw it as a collectible line of figures.
This disconnect is very interesting. It is a perfect example of Senior Management and lower level employees not being on the same page. Joe was responsible for M.U.S.C.L.E. for two reasons: (1) he had the positional power of Executive Vice President of Marketing; and (2) there was not an internal champion that had developed the product.
The employees I spoke with said there was a lack of excitement internally around the M.U.S.C.L.E. brand because there was nothing to do with it. M.U.S.C.L.E. was an established product. Joe stated that the fact that M.U.S.C.L.E. was a “ready to go” product was one of the attractive aspects of the brand. Mattel was always looking for other business that was already pulled together and successful. M.U.S.C.L.E. certainly fit that criteria and Mattel thought that could buy it and then sell it.
Senior Management may have never intended to position M.U.S.C.L.E. as a flanker brand, but it appears that other employees perceived it as a flanker brand. Stepping back objectively, there is a great deal of corroborating data that could have easily positioned it as a flanker brand.
Releasing all of the Kinnikuman Figures
M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors have long wondered if all of the Kinnikuman figures were going to be released. The most often citied reason was the prototype M.U.S.C.L.E. poster from the 28-packs. Joe stated that the entire line would have been produced if M.U.S.C.L.E. had been more successful.
This is an incredibly difficult statement to process. If that had been the original plan, then:
- How successful did the line have to be?
- Why were colors introduced instead of new figures?
- Why did Bandai/Mattel not use the existing Kinnikiuman Parts?
Based on how Mattel handled the production of 4-, 10-, and 28-packs they would have likely been able to orchestrate a release of the remainder of the figures while still avoiding specific figures.Color Figures
Joe stated that the addition of color M.U.S.C.L.E. figures was simply a way to keep the brand “fresh.” The implication from his statement seemed to be that introducing color was the easiest and most cost effective way to keep the “fresh.”
Given that Joe also highlighted the success of the M.U.S.C.L.E. commercials, introducing color figures would have allowed Mattel to keep the theme of the original commercials, while introducing an instantly identifiable new product.
Color figures instead of “new” figures are easily the most efficient method of keeping M.U.S.C.L.E. “fresh.”
The “Super Rares.” These figures have been the pinnacle of M.U.S.C.L.E. debate. Joe offered a simple explanation, which couldn’t have been more difficult to believe.
Exclusives are normally publicized. There is something specific on the packaging, a special insert is created, special advertising is created – either through the manufacturer or retailer, but M.U.S.C.L.E. is not known to have had any of that. There is nothing for the consumer to recognize that special figures are available at certain locations.
Joe stated that Mattel wouldn’t have advertised these figures because it could not have been done through a national advertisement. This further suggests that the Non-Poster figures would have been assigned to retailers in specific geographic locations.These special M.U.S.C.L.E. figures would have simply been figures to any consumer that purchased them. If the retailer orders a larger amount, then they receive “special” figures. However, once the retailer receives the order they have nothing that highlights or announces their “special” figures. Placing a large order essentially does nothing for the retailer.
These figures would have then been discontinued when the poster was created – because it was a nationwide offering.
The inclusion of special figures, for specific orders, also seems to run contrary to the seemingly extensively planned out product process used to create and package M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
Probably the singular fact that erodes at the credibility of this idea is that a similar product release has not been discovered. The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. was unable to fit a single instance, across all types of products, where special and wholly unique products were released without any type of special documentation.Rare Color Figures
There have been some instances of single, almost unexplainable, color M.U.S.C.L.E. figures appearing. Given that Joe stated that special color figures were created for the 3rd M.U.S.C.L.E. commercial, it is possible that 1-of-1 color M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are actually from the 3rd M.U.S.C.L.E. commercial.
Some of these figures may also be the result of the procedure in which Bandai/Mattel produced and packaged the figures.
M.U.S.C.L.E. Figure Selection
For a number of years M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors have been aware of Parts and Trees because of “Soupie” and “URS” (see Part One of Philosophy 100). Their thankless work provided tremendous insight into M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and was probably the single greatest contributor to the UofM Figure Guide.
Since their discovery there has not been very much insight into the creation of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. However, after the Joe Morrison interview both collectors were immediately contacted. They were the two best candidates to use the information regarding case assortments from Joe.Joe had stated that M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were selected as a result of conversations between Marketing and Operations. He implied that Marketing had their initial figure choices, but that Operations saw the selections from a strictly logistical perspective. It was Operations that was responsible for insuring that the packages had the correct figures and that the cases shipped to retailers had the correct assortments and varieties.
This information provided a new paradigm from which to work. And the work is currently taking place. It will be shared when it is in a more presentable format as Part Two of Philosophy 100.
In the meantime, it would be extraordinarily helpful if collectors were able to provide 28-Pack Pictures.
If there are implications that were missed, please post them in the Comments below.