Hailed by the Association of British Toy Retailers as one of the most successful girls' toys ever, My Little Pony dolls first went on sale in 1983. In 1990, the brand's popularity peaked and, in the following year, competition from rival toys entering the market led to the decision by toymaker Hasbro to stop manufacturing the ponies. But to celebrate My Little Pony's 20th anniversary last year, Hasbro decided to relaunch the toys and hired PR agency Mason Williams to raise awareness about its new product range among nostalgic mothers, young children and collectors.
To drive sales. To position My Little Pony as the latest fashion craze within the target audience.
Strategy and Plan
The team wanted to use the retro angle of the story to move away from potential one-liners such as 'My Little Pony is back' and instead communicate the history of the brand.
Journalists from The Independent on Sunday were invited to the US to interview the designers of both the original and the new My Little Pony ranges. To interest the fashion press, the team asked London Fashion Week designers, such as Tracey Boyd and Michiko Koshino, to create a 1980s-inspired outfit for a My Little Pony.
The ponies were then snapped by professional lifestyle photographers to achieve high-quality, glossy and eye-catching pictures.
A press pack containing unusual facts about My Little Pony, a brief history of the brand, information about the new range and product samples were sent out to national, lifestyle, parenting, children's, collectors' and toy-retail trade press. National lifestyle and fashion press were offered exclusives in an effort to ensure that female readers who had grown up with My Little Pony, and might now have children themselves, were aware of the relaunch.
To generate coverage in celebrity magazines, Mason Williams researched famous figures, such as Beyonce Knowles, who had played with My Little Pony as children, and sent them product samples.
Furthermore, the PR team publicised the relaunch of other retro toys to sell in stories about the trend for other 1980s toys. This positioned the dolls as part of a fashion movement to encourage articles to appear analytical, rather than product-led.
To maintain publicity after the launch, Mason Williams used a variety of topical news hooks. For example, building on the pony theme of the dolls, the team publicised a collector's creation of a My Little Pony Hat for Ascot.
Measurement and Evaluation
Exclusives appeared in The Independent on Sunday and Face. Every national newspaper covered the launch, along with nine TV news shows, 46 national magazines, 90 regional newspapers and 39 radio programmes.
One year from the relaunch, more than one million ponies have been sold, and Hasbro reports strong orders, according to market research firm NPD Group.
'This was one of the best PR campaigns I have come across,' says Independent on Sunday reporter Jonathan Thompson. 'They didn't just bash out press releases, they thought outside the box about the broader angles of the story. It didn't feel product-led at all.'