Not heard of MTW Toys? You will after this week. Darran Garnham tells us about the company’s ambitions.
“I’ve always been attracted to companies that serve up a heady mix of quality product, innovation and passion,” muses Darran Garnham, “and Thinkway is absolutely the company all licensors turn to for those things.”
Although it is something of a well-kept secret in the industry, Thinkway Toys has built up a solid reputation among a number of toy retailers over the past few years. Now, with MTW Toys on board as its distributor – and Darran heading up the UK operation as ceo – this is only set to grow even further.
Darran confirmed he had moved on from his role as vp of consumer products EMEA at NBC Universal to help build MTW Toys in the UK in August 2016. He said at the time that the opportunity was “too good not to go for” and that trio of qualities – top product, innovation and passion – certainly played a part in his decision.
“When I was at Mind Candy, it was a similar case,” he continues. “People said it was a risk compared to other opportunities, but I could only see those three key ingredients and we subsequently built what was to become the most powerful UK brand for several years running.”
Darran has already been busy building the team – Geoff Sheffield, formerly of The Toy Store, is on board as country head for UK and Eire, and there will be further support with sales and marketing roles. In addition, Playtime PR has been appointed to raise awareness of MTW Toys in the lead up to its UK Toy Fair debut at the end of January, where it will be showcasing new product, innovation and communication to the industry.
“Thinkway has always developed a range the industry wants to see and this year will be no different,” Darran continues. “For 2017, our priority is key lines for Despicable Me 3 – our range will comprise of collectables, plush, electronics and deluxe action product. We’re really excited about the innovation behind much of this range and looking forward to sharing it with the trade.
“I’m also excited about expanding our reach with Toy Story – this evergreen brand will see line innovation and expanded distribution.”
A comprehensive marketing campaign will also be key for growing awareness of MTW Toys in the UK, and Darran’s background in digital and social platforms will see the company undertake some new initiatives to reach consumers, although specifics were very much under wraps at time of press.
“While it will be key for us to use traditional tools in press, TV and print, we are very forward-facing with our marketing approach and have ambitious plans to utilise major online platforms such as YouTube, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more.
“I’m absolutely passionate about us reaching the right people in the right way and we won’t be adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach by any means. We have product that appeals to all ages, from young kids to adults who were extremely into our Star Wars range. It’s important we create bespoke approaches for each audience and property to really bring the products to life in an engaging, creative and meaningful way.”
Darran is confident that MTW Toys carries some of the best product, and now the focus is on making sure that planning and execution matches that same high standard.
“I’m confident we have the ethos and team ready to make this happen,” he says. “I would like others to be inspired by our digital strategies, a willingness to try something new and exciting in our constantly moving space. When you see distribution companies such as Anki, Sphero and Propel making waves in an established market, you need to look and learn how they are working in the areas that more established companies potentially have not considered.”
It’s certainly not an easy task to build a toy distributor almost from the ground up, but Darran certainly seems to be taking it in his stride.
He concludes: “I’ve been lucky enough to work with all the majors, as well as developing toy companies in my career and so will be taking any positive learnings and building upon them, but adding an MTW twist. I’m confident we are in a good place to take the toy industry by storm.”
MTW Toys: Need to know
MTW Toys is one of EMEA’s fastest growing distributors and a key partner for Thinkway Toys. Established in 2013, it has offices in five European countries, warehouses in three, logistics in Asia and growing operations in the UK and other markets.
The company works with some of the hottest movie IP in the business, including NBCUniversal’s Despicable Me franchise and Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 4.
“This guarantees us blockbuster movies in 2017 and 2019, as well as working on an ongoing basis with two major studios with long-term brand planning,” explains Darran. “For us, it’s not about carrying as many brands as possible, but about ensuring we carry the very best.”