Toys R Us marketing campaign goes global with world tour for Geoffrey
The rebirth of Toys R Us is sending its best ambassador on the road in a campaign to remind the world that the toy retailer is a thriving global brand.
Its mascot, Geoffrey, will make appearances over the coming month at Toys R Us stores in Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, China, Japan and elsewhere, with events designed to reinforce the message according to which the brand has global appeal.
The 2017 bankruptcy filing of Toys R Us’ US parent company and the 2018 liquidation of all US stores and UK stores made the toy chain appear to have disappeared completely, when in fact hundreds of stores in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world have never closed.
These stores operated under licensing agreements with Toys R Us prior to the bankruptcy. After the bankruptcy, what was left of Toys R Us continued to own the rights to the Toys R Us name and intellectual properties, and continued to benefit from these licensing agreements.
“I think people are surprised at how big and global Toys R Us is right now, with 900 stores around the world today,” said Yehuda Shmidman, president and CEO of WHP Global, which owns a majority stake in the parent company behind the Toys R Us brand.
“But even more surprising to people and more exciting,” Shmidman said, “we’re growing our business footprint by more than 50% this year.”
Toys R Us stores at Macy’s
Much of that growth will come in the form of some 400 stores opening this year at Macy’s department stores in the United States. But Toys R Us’ international partners are also opening stores, Shmidman said, including a flagship in Dubai that opened recently, and planned store openings in China.
Toys R Us has a licensed flagship store in the United States, at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey, as well as 900 international stores. These stores generate more than $2 billion in retail sales annually, according to WHP Global.
WHP Global, a New York-based brand acquisition, investment and management firm that acquired its majority stake in early 2021, is now taking the first steps to re-establish the kind of ties between global licensing partners that existed before the bankruptcy.
Toys R Us Global Partner Summit
WHP brought together leaders of its licensing partners from around the world this week for a global summit that coincided with the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. He used the occasion to announce Geoffrey’s world tour as the kickoff to a series of global branding initiatives.
“We’ve come together here as one group to really strategize on our big growth going forward. This is our time,” Shmidman said in a phone call from the summit.
Toys R Us store operators in other countries have told the brand that raising awareness of Toys R Us’ global presence is a priority.
Kim Miller, director of global marketing for Toys R Us, went on a “listening tour”, meeting with the brand’s global partners when she took on the marketing role. These partners told him they wanted the brand to “bring global awareness back to make sure the world knows from a business perspective and from a consumer perspective and from a children’s perspective that we are a global authority on toys and games,” Miller said.
Geoffrey’s global tour will create opportunities for social media content and in-store events to bring consumers back to stores.
Geoffrey will star in a YouTube series
As part of Geoffrey’s visits to stores around the world, he will meet a local Toys R Us Child Ambassador for each city he visits. The child ambassadors will serve as Geoffrey’s guide around the city and will be featured in a YouTube series about Geoffrey’s travels. Families who are part of Toys R Us loyalty programs in the various cities will be invited to apply for the chance to have their children selected as ambassadors. Stores will also hold contests and give away prizes like a Toys R Us shopping spree.
Geoffrey. the yellow and orange giraffe that has been Toys R Us’ mascot since the 1960s has an appeal that translates around the world, Toys R Us executives said.
“The kids have a huge emotional connection to Geoffrey. They get so excited when they see it,” said Jo Hall, Commercial Director of Toys R Us Asia.
Hall said Geoffrey’s world tour campaign fits well with Toys R Us Asia’s focus on fueling children’s imaginations and curiosity. The campaign will use child ambassadors “to explain something about their country – the language they speak, the currency they use, the cultural differences”, she said. “It’s part of a very rich story about a child developing and expanding their knowledge of the world, using a guiding mascot friend, a buddy they love to see so much,” Hall said.
“Really,” Hall said, “only Toys R Us can do that because we still have stores around the world. And what better way to explain the dynamics of the globe than to have Geoffrey travel and engage with kids from different countries.