Wham-O

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Wham-O Toys Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryToys
Founded1948
Founder(s)Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Websitehttp://www.wham-o.com/
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Wham-O Toys Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryToys
Founded1948
Founder(s)Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Websitehttp://www.wham-o.com/
Wham-O former headquarters in Emeryville

Wham-O Inc. is a toy company in California, USA. They are known for marketing many popular toys in the past 50 years, including the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, Slip 'N Slide, Super Ball, Trac-Ball, Silly String, Hacky Sack and the Boogie Board.[1]

Corporate history[edit]

Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, two University of Southern California college graduates unhappy with their employment, began the company in 1948 as "WHAM-O Mfg. Co." in the Knerr family garage in South Pasadena. Their first product was the Wham-O slingshot, made of ash wood, which Knerr and Melin would promote by showing off their own skills at demonstrations. The powerful slingshot was used by clubs for competitive target shooting, as well as for small game hunting.[2] The name "Wham-O" was based on the sound of the slingshot's shot hitting the target.[3] When they outgrew the garage they rented a building on S. Marengo Ave in Alhambra, California. The company eventually moved its manufacturing plant to neighboring San Gabriel, California.

Timeline[edit]

Frisbee political campaign advertisement designed by San Francisco based advertising executive Bob Gardner of Gardner Communications as part of U.S. President Gerald Ford's 1976 advertising team and given to Ford at the 1976 Republican National Convention.[4] At the time, Gardner's company also held the Frisbee advertising account.[4]

Products and marketing[edit]

A Frisbee made by Wham-O

In 1957, Wham-O, still a fledgling company, took the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops" and manufactured them with Marlex. The new Hula Hoop was born (the name "hula hoop" has been used since the 18th century). Knerr and Melin had created the biggest fad to date.[8][9] Twenty-five million were sold in less than four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million units. By the end of 1959, after US$45 million in profits (US$346M adjusted for inflation to 2012), the fad slowly was dying out.

Shortly after, they got lucky again with the Frisbee. In 1955 Fred Morrison began marketing a plastic flying disc which he called the "Pluto Platter". He sold the design to Wham-O in 1957 and the design was modified, the product renamed Frisbee and sales took off in 1959.

In the early 1960s, Wham-O created the Super Ball. It was made of a relatively hard elastomer Polybutadiene alloy dubbed Zectron, exhibiting a remarkable 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. The company sold some 20 million of these during the 1960s, and the NFL named the Super Bowl games after it.[10]

The Frisbee and Hula Hoop created fads. Other products tried to take advantage of existing national trends. In the 1960s, Wham-O came out with a US$119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter cover. In 1962, they sold a limbo dance kit to take advantage of that fad, and in 1975 when the movie Jaws was released, they sold plastic shark teeth.

Many products, of course, were not successful. One such product came as a result of Melin's safari to Africa in the early 1960s. While camping, he discovered a species of fish that laid eggs in the mud during Africa's dry season. When the rains came, the eggs hatched and fish emerged overnight. Melin turned this into the Instant Fish product, an aquarium kit that consisted of some of the fish eggs and some mud in which to hatch them. Its debut at a New York toy fair made it wildly popular, but the fish could not produce eggs fast enough, so the idea was dropped.

Other products[edit]

Vintage Blue and white Wham-O Magic Window toy from the 1970s

Strategy[edit]

Wham-O's initial success can be seen as a result of the insight of its founders. Knerr and Melin aimed their products directly at kids, going out to playgrounds to reach them. They also did extensive research to find new product ideas, including traveling all over the world.[14]

For many years, the company's product strategy was to have a stable of eight to twelve simple and inexpensive products, such as Frisbees, Super Balls, and Hula Hoops. New products would be developed and added to the line for a tryout period, and old ones retired (either for a few years or permanently) as their popularity waned. Since the toys were not expensive or complicated, they were sold by a wide variety of retailers, from large department stores to corner Five and dime shops.

After the sale of the company, the various new owners experimented with changes to this formula; the toy industry was changing, with more complicated products and fewer sales outlets.

As of 2006, the portfolio of product lines includes several groups of related items which use licensed brand names. For example, Sea-Doo is a brand name by the manufacturer Bombardier of personal water craft; Wham-O makes a "Sea-Doo" product line of small inflatable rafts designed to be towed behind the watercraft.

Product lines are also more complex, and are grouped into related categories; the Sea-Doo line has around a dozen products, there are several Slip 'N Slide variations, a group of "lawn games" and so on.

On January 31, 2011, Wham-O announced its arrangement with ICM, the company that represents Atari video games, to represent the Wham-O company in various media. The expected result will be movies, television, music, and online content based around the toy products of the Wham-O company.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.toydirectory.com/monthly/industrynews.asp
  2. ^ Robert Hertzberg (April 1951). "Return of the Giant Killer". Mechanix Illustrated. 
  3. ^ Wham-O. "History". Retrieved 22 Apr 2011. 
  4. ^ a b John Jacobs (November 19, 1992). News. "Ad Executive Tells How Bush "Blew' Election Cites Failure To Come Up With A Coherent Message". San Francisco Examiner. p. A18. 
  5. ^ Wham-O co-founder Knerr dies at 82
  6. ^ Wham-O CEO sues over post-purchase ouster
  7. ^ Said, Carolyn (2010-03-08). "Nostalgia (and Frisbees) in the air at Wham-O". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-0-08. 
  8. ^ Brymer, Chuck (2008). The nature of marketing: marketing to the swarm as well as the herd. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 22. 
  9. ^ Olson, James Stuart (2000). Historical dictionary of the 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 136. 
  10. ^ http://www.history.com/news/super-bowl-owes-its-name-to-a-bouncy-ball
  11. ^ "The History of Wham-O". Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  12. ^ "MTU Physics - Alumni - Department History - Exhibits - BS Degrees". Phy.mtu.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  13. ^ "Get Yourself a Magic Window, just like the popular 70's toy for all ages!". Magicwindows.org. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  14. ^ "Branding In History:Fad and Brand â€" Wham-O" Marketing Doctor Blog. April 14, 2008.
  15. ^ Kit, Borys. "EXCLUSIVE: ICM Signs Wham-O Toy Company". The Hollywood Reporter. 

External links[edit]