Ugly Doll’s penetration into a crowded market is phenomenal, considering there is no film, TV, or digital content to bounce off from.
Suddenly the brand is everywhere. Creators David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim attend Comic-Con, Free Comic Book Day events, and were most recently at the Licensing Expo in Vegas. Products range from party ware, apparel, stationery, ceramics, and more.
Says Horvath, “Uglydoll got its start in shops like Giant Robot, Barney’s New York, the MoMa museum shop, and hip pop culture shops in Tokyo, Paris and Seoul but has had just as much success at your local mom and pop local toy store and appeals to all ages, both boys and girls, women and men alike.”
Currently a film is in development, and the company has forayed into cross-pollination with other properties such as DC Comic superheroes.
“While we have grown over the last 12 years, beyond our own efforts, fans of all ages around the world have truly resonated with the Uglydoll characters and what the brand means to them. Uglydoll emerged from a crowded toy-brand space filled with unrealistically proportioned heroes and fashion dolls and came out with the strong message that not only should you never cover up that which makes you different and unique, you should shout that which makes you YOU from the rooftops…that’s what pushes us all forward. That and also candy.”
Instead of predicting the market, the creators investigated the industry from the ground level.
“I know back alley toy shops in Tokyo which would make you pass out. I’m not talking Nakano Broadway, I’m talking subterranean spots most local toy nerds living around the corner have no idea exist. But I was also extremely determined to pick the brains of the people behind the toys filling these tiny alcoves. I would beg my toy biz and brand world friends in Japan to introduce me to toy executives at major toy and brand companies who would scratch their head over why I came to see them…One of these execs turned to my (embarrassed) friend and in Japanese asked, ‘How does this kid know about the Fruit Festival Garden Toy campaign we did in 1992 and why is he asking me about it?’ You have to be that into it, as a creator, a marketer, and as a salesman. It doesn’t always guarantee sales, but it guarantees what you are doing will come from an honest place, and if you want a brand to reach evergreen status, you better come from an honest place because your audience will know better if you don’t.”
“I grew up on robot and character toys from Japan, but also grew up loving…and I mean loving as in borderline insane levels, the genius way these lines and brands were created, marketed, and sold, from the kid magazines they appeared in to the strict release dates and intense attention to quality which flew in the face of meeting mass retailer’s demands. When you truly care, they know.”
Horvath will be at the Uglydoll booth throughout Comic-Con.