PRESENTS: STAFF PICKS

An inside look at 
FUNKO with Engagement 
Advisor, Eric S. 

About Funko

Funko is pop culture collectables company based out of Everett, Washington. Funko was founded in 1998 by Mike Becker who created nostalgia-themed bobbleheads based on some of his most beloved characters from childhood. The first product Funko ever produced was a Bob’s Big Boy bobblehead, followed by bobbleheads of other characters from Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, and more.

Funko started out with a small, but dedicated fan base collecting and sharing in the fandom of the characters they produced.

Funko’s popularity exploded in 2010 however when they released their POP! Vinyl line of products. Sold in a wide variety of stores, these 3”, black eyed figures became some of the best selling collectibles in the toy market, with sales of over $600M in 2019 for this property alone.

On the back of their exponential popularity, Funko became a publicly traded company in October 2017 and has since seen year over year sales growth. Funko also released a documentary in 2018 that served both as an overview of the brand’s history as well as a highlight of, and ode to, their fans (Funatics). 

Cult Brand Principle #1: Be Remarkable 

Everyone is a fan of something

From Batman to Barbie, Elvis to Elvira, and RuPaul to Rudolf, Funko is remarkable in the number and diversity of fandoms they tap into through their licencing. They reportedly have over 1,100 different licenses, allowing them to cater to fans of Disney, Superheroes, Anime, Celebrities, TV Shows, Cartoons, Video Games, Movies, Sport Leagues, and more. They also have diversified their distribution, focusing on a mix of big box and specialty retailers giving them a lot of market exposure both online and in bricks-and-mortar. They are beloved because they have managed to tap into people’s nostalgia while serving, celebrating, and giving a voice to their fans.

Despite their Pop! line being their best selling asset, they have expanded into different figure styles and product categories such as mobile games, board games, housewares, cereal, plush, books, and media.  

Cult Brand Principle #3: Rites & Rituals 

Funko celebrates a fan every week via their online blog calling them the “Funatic of the Week”. Funko features a write up about the Funatic, includes photos of the fan and their collection, and sends them a Funatic of the Week merch package including an exclusive figure of their mascot Freddy Funko.

Funko also attends each annual San Diego, New York and Seattle Comic Convention. At each convention they attend they release and sell a selection of new Con-exclusive characters and figures, making these must-attend events for collectors.

In addition to attending these conventions as a vendor, Funko hosts their Fundays event every Friday of San Diego Comic Con. Here they give away rare and limited figures also featuring their mascot dressed as some of their fan’s favorite characters, which have become some of their most sought after pieces. 

Ritualizing fan celebration 

Cult Brand Principle #2: Congregate

Build it and they will come

In August 2017, Funko opened its first fully owned retail store in the base of their offices in Everett Washington. The location, decked out with life-sized versions of their figures, sells store-exclusive items and merch, and has become a mecca for Funatics who travel from around the world to shop there. Funko opened a second HQ location in Hollywood in November 2019.

Funko has also created an annual event, called Fundays, where fans can come meet each other, learn about new and upcoming products, and win exclusive figures. Tickets are highly sought after, selling for thousands of dollars in the aftermarket.

Aside from their physical gatherings, Funko manages their own online forum, Funko Funatic, dedicated to their fans. This platforms allows Funatics  to congregate to chat about their favorite products, fandoms, wish lists, collections, and other Funko-related topics. 

Remarkability, Congregating, and Creating Rites & Rituals aren't the only cult-like traits that Funko portrays. They have purpose and regularly sell figures and host auctions where proceeds go towards various charities and causes.

They co-create, allowing fans to vote for and suggest new licenses and product lines through their Funko Funatics forum. They have also hosted contests for people to design their own figures.

Their CEO and leadership are fans too, and unashamedly so. Their CEO Brian Mariotti frequently geeks out in interviews about the new and different licenses they get, as well as showing off his own collections, both Funko and not. They have really created a personality of childhood fun around their brand and it starts from the top down.

Funko, while not as established as many of the Cult brands we idolize, has leveraged many of the Cult brand principles to nurture and grow their fan base. While 2020 has been a rough year for distribution and event cancellations, Funko’s fan base is still as strong as ever. And although their products might not appeal to everyone, they will continue to have a loyal fan base for years to come because, as they’ve proven, everyone is a fan of something. 

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