Marketing: The search for life after Mr Blobby: How a good judge of character can cash in

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The Independent Online
MR BLOBBY was voted top of the 'Going Extinct in 1994' poll, according to a survey by the distributors of Jurassic Park toys. But he is still making plenty of money for those who spotted his potential in 1993.

'I think we'll have another good 18 months on this,' says one of them. Neville Crumpton, 32, who runs a small marketing firm in the Black Country, has a vested interest in keeping Blobbymania going as long as possible. He managed to secure eight of the 20 licences to sell merchandising connected with the unlikely co-star of Noel's House Party.

His office, in a terraced house in the town centre of Stourbridge, is cluttered with blow-up Blobbies, Blobby key- rings, Blobby lunch-boxes, Blobby mugs, Blobby fridge magnets and much more.

'We're oversold by 19,000 on the mugs alone,' adds Mr Crumpton who, not surprisingly, looks almost as smug as Noel Edmonds. His company, Alpha Marketing, started as a sideline for his main business supplying builders' merchants.

'This time last year we were doing about pounds 45,000 worth of business. In the past four months we've done between pounds 350,000 and pounds 400,000.'

His five-year-old son, James, may have inadvertently secured a substantial inheritance when he pointed excitedly at the television screen early one Saturday evening. The object of his interest was a large pink latex figure in a bow-tie.

'It was just before Christmas last year,' Mr Crumpton recalls. 'I suppose I was lucky spotting something like this. But it's one thing spotting an idea and another doing something about it.'

What he did, first thing on the Monday morning, was to contact Mike Leggo, executive producer of Noel's House Party. Mr Leggo had no plans to market Mr Blobby. But then, as a salaried employee of the BBC, he was in no position to profit from the character he created. (This does not seem to apply to Mr Edmonds, whose company, the Unique Group, has a 50 per cent stake in Mr Blobby's personal appearances.)

Mr Crumpton was referred to BBC Enterprises. 'They were in no rush, but I persuaded them to give us an opportunity, and we were the first to get stuff on to the market.'

About 2,500 Blobby mugs were sold in a day at the Edmonds-inspired Crinkley Bottom Garden Party at Doncaster race course in July. 'We have them made in Staffordshire,' Mr Crumpton says.

His optimism about continuing Blobbymania is based on more than wishful thinking. 'The album comes out in February and there are five garden parties in 1994. What's more, Noel's House Party doesn't finish its run until after Easter.'

Continued exposure on the BBC does help, concedes Meg Carter, contributing editor of Marketing Week magazine.

'The average shelf life for feature-film characters is about six months. The Ninja Turtles lasted between six and nine months, but the second film didn't do much.'

There are, she says, about a dozen leading licensing companies constantly on the look-out for comic strip, television and film characters that they can sell on to manufacturers for branding.

One of the biggest is Leisure Concepts International, whose chairman, Al Kahn, was the man behind the Cabbage Patch Kids and, more recently, the Crash Dummies. Among the biggest-selling toys of 1993, these were based, rather improbably, on two characters in a road safety advertisment produced by the US Department of Transport.

'We tend to look for something with worldwide potential,' says Jackie Ferguson, director of sales and marketing (Europe). The very British Mr Blobby doesn't quite fit the bill.

'He'll definitely deflate before he reaches the other side of the ocean. I don't think it's a strong concept. What has pushed it is the propaganda machine of Noel Edmonds and the BBC. It'll be dead by June,' she predicts.

In the short term, she believes the big craze for 1994 will be merchandise connected with the Flintstones. The film will be released in the United States in the summer.

Mr Crumpton has already applied to Copywrite Promotions for a licence.

(Photograph omitted)