Frustrated Fans Finding Ways to “Vent”
Whether they’re young or old, men, women or children, the authors of the various comments and “open letters to Hasbro” currently pouring into the newly created 50 Years of GIjOE (50YOG) page on Facebook, reflect a widely diverse group of collectors with one unifying purpose—a desire to show respect and reverence for the original 12-inch version of GIjOE. Much like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, each of the so-called “50-yoggers” is fearlessly contributing his or her own uniquely written testimony to the group’s growing “permanent record,” which is targeted directly at the executives and other “suits” currently controlling Hasbro. Many of the new group’s members openly confess they are confused, even dumbstruck, by the toy company’s recent (in)actions concerning GIjOE. Others prefer to wax nostalgic, throwing yet another emotional plea onto an already growing “pyre of persuasion.” And the rest? Well, they’re just plain annoyed—and angry!
And who can blame them? For over a half a century, profits from the sales of GIjOE have been filling the coffers of Hasbro’s ever-burgeoning bank accounts. For ANY product, that reflects a great deal of hard-won customer loyalty and valuable “brand equity,” built up over a very long time (50 years!). But to the “shock and awe” of millions of dedicated and devoted GIjOE fans, the very same ones who grew up with and (still) fervently LOVE the original 12-inch version, 2014 is turning out to be the year that Hasbro decided to bluntly, almost cavalierly—cast them aside.
A Major Corporate Blunder? Definitely.
To squander such high levels of brand loyalty (and equity) by telling your past customers to essentially “take a hike,” is almost unthinkable to other, less fortunate companies. And yet, that appears to be exactly what Hasbro is doing. Instead of producing something resembling ANYTHING to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of “America’s Movable Fighting Man,” short-sighted, penny-pinching executives at Hasbro appear content to simply skip right over the occasion, hoping that no one (of importance) will notice. In fact, during last week’s “new product announcements” made during New York’s industry-wide Toy Fair, eager fans of Hasbro’s 12-inch GIjOE were met only with stony silence and corporate indifference. Fans of the “little Joes” are (for now) still “safe,” but if you weren’t interested in Transformers, Star Wars, Legos or the diminutive 3.75″ Joes, you were out of luck.
Possible Protest Petition Planned?
As was so clearly demonstrated by fellow fan, Tearle Ashby (see previous article HERE), it only takes ONE dedicated Joehead to stand up and make a difference. It’s easy enough for fans to sit on the sidelines and grumble, but nothing ever happens or changes unless and until someone stands up and says, “Enough is ENOUGH!” In this case, that “one” may be longtime GIjOE fan and collector, Rick Pell. Having received no apologies or words of encouragement from Hasbro, a clearly disappointed Pell decided to create the all-new 50YOG Facebook group so that other frustrated fans would have a place to share (or vent) their stories of frustration. According to Rick:
“I’m a GIjOE collector and I’m trying to get Hasbro’s attention to show that there are MANY collectors out there who are really dedicated—and disappointed—that Hasbro hasn’t done anything for the 50th Anniversary of GIjOE. To this end, I’ve started a new Facebook group (see HERE) that I invite all of you to join if you want to approach Hasbro and see if they will celebrate the 50th birthday of the 12-inch GIjOE we all grew up with. We are serious about GIjOE, and his 50th Anniversary will be remembered with or without their support. I live 2 miles from Hasbro’s corporate offices, so if we get enough members and feedback, I will personally go to Hasbro with our requests!” —Rick Pell
“I say we go out in front of Hasbro’s HQ and hold up 12 inch boxes like picket signs and scream at them until they make 12 inch figures.” —Jared Fabie
“Dear Hasbro – I grew up in the 1970s and even though I was a Barbie-loving girl, I was equally as crazy about GIjOE. Many happy memories playing ‘war’ with both painted-heads (hand me downs and yard sale finds) and fuzzheads. I thought the Sea Wolf was just about the coolest toy ever made! I have supported every Joe line ever made; Super Joe, RAH, Sigma 6, you name it. But NOTHING replaces the original 12-inch Joes and nothing ever will. You can’t throw a Mike Power figure into the KREO line and think that is a fitting tribute to Joe’s 50th. He deserves MUCH better—and so do I!” —Carin Reddig
“Hasbro, your lack of ANYTHING to celebrate GIjOE’s milestone anniversary is pathetic and an insult to every kid who ever owned the world’s first action figure. It’s also a slap in the face to all of your former employees who helped create and nurture the line throughout its various incarnations. Shame on you!” —Joe Martin
“Dear Hasbro, I am 45 years old and can honestly say that 1:6 scale playscale is a hobby that is growing in leaps and bounds in popularity among all ethnicities and economic backgrounds, all over the world. Many fans are sharing this hobby with their children and grandchildren who will in turn, share it with THEIR kids. I feel like so many times, America, ignores its history. I know ‘play’ has changed so much from when I was born in 1968, but there are certain traditions that can still exist—if we believe and let them. For you to ignore GIjOE—especially its original 12″ incarnation—is a travesty. There are multitudes of us who would still buy him. Please think again before totally ignoring his 50th Anniversary. Thank you!” —Laura Ann Ostermeyer
“I just don’t get it. What are you thinking Hasbro? Your company was built on GIjOE, and by that I mean the ORIGINAL, 12-inch military-themed, booger-pickin handed action figure. Along comes Joe’s 50th Anniversary and what do you do? Release some 3.75-inch Joes. Huh? What’s up with that?” —Keith Mayo
“Dear Hasbro, you really should honor the toy that made you the company you are today. Bring back the 12-inch Joes and equipment sets to go with them. It worked back then and I’m sure it would work now. There are PLENTY of those folks around, plus collectors and kids, who would still eat that stuff up.” —Joe Uffner
“GIjOE was a favorite action figure for me as a child, and I’m STILL collecting vintage 1960’s-1970’s Joes. This is its 50th anniversary, so I would like to see Hasbro make a 12-inch GIjOE to help mark this important milestone. I hope you have plans to include 12-inch GIjOEs in some sort of 50th celebration, Hasbro. If not, then SHAME on you!” —Jim Haupt
Bottom Line: Hasbro’s unfortunate actions are undeniably short-sighted and ultimately—bad for business. To turn away vast numbers of adult customers, armed with deep pockets and readily available credit cards, for yet another “reimagining” of GIjOE as some sort of “virtual warrior” in 3D video games (or whatever) will end up costing the company untold future profits and lost goodwill. Instead of strengthening GIjOE’s brand equity, it seems likely to weaken it instead. Hasbro is saying “good-bye” to more than just a lot of money. Sadly, the most revealing quote of all came from one dejected 50-yogger Joe fan who happens to work very close to “the front lines.” We leave you with his not-too-rosy description of a recent personal encounter:
“I had a very special customer this afternoon at the restaurant. I work in downtown Providence, RI, around the corner from Hasbro HQ. Let’s just say his last name began with an H and ended in ‘feld.’ Questions about the anniversary of our favorite action figure were met with hostility and grumbles. I guess whatever we get from the national club will be all we’ll be seeing.” —W. Michael Morgan