Written by: Matt Smelcer
As a child of the 1980’s, I was inundated with an explosion of toy properties from all sides (thank you President Reagan). But it was Hasbro’s re-launch of the G.I. Joe brand in 1982 that grabbed me.
That relaunch followed suit with Kenner’s Star Wars line by introducing 3-3/4” action figures as opposed to the 12” Joes of the previous era. The relaunch featured a tie in comic book written by Larry Hama that was marketed by animated commercials (to sidestep around FCC regulations). The popularity of these commercials led to an animated miniseries in 1983 and a syndicated cartoon by 1985.
Hasbro’s marketing efforts did not end with pre-purchased marketing. They leveraged their content to provide excellent post-consumer materials. The packaging was fantastic and more suited for display rather than the trash. This trend began in the 1970’s with the spectacular artwork done by Don Stivers for the G.I. Joe Adventure Team line.
Another post-consumer element were the file cards written by Hama. These 200 word or less dossiers were included on the rear of the packaging and gave a sneak peek into the character of each soldier. These were created by Hama to keep the characters straight as he wrote the comic. Rumor has it that one was left on a copy machine and a Marvel Comics employee found it and insisted that Hasbro add them to the packaging.
One of the lines’ highlights was the vast array of vehicles, an area where Hasbro’s design team shined. Each unassembled vehicle was packed with a sticker sheet and blueprint style schematic and assembly instructions, which further added to the post-consumer adventure.
Hasbro could have taken its G.I. Joe brand and stamped it on any generic 3-3/4” soldier and called it a day. But their overarching marketing and promotions continued well past the purchase to make G.I. Joe more than just another toy line. They made it an experience.
Matt Smelcer, IG’s Director of 3D Data Design, and his twin brother received their first G.I. Joes in 1984, and for the past 17 years have collected and customized action figures. Matt has been known to put those skills to work in the IG office with the occasional photoshop “face swap” prank – all in good fun, of course.
Images courtesy of vintage3djoes.com and yojoe.com