Not many children’s toys have staying power like G.I. Joe. Known as the “Real American Hero,” G.I. Joe was created in the midst of the 1940s and became the original “action figure” in the 1960s. G.I. Joe was designed to appeal to boys as it offered a more masculine alternative to Barbie’s male counterpart, Ken. Although G.I. Joe was popular from the 1960s to the early 1980s, a brand transformation occurred when Hasbro and Marvel teamed up in 1982.
After this partnership, G.I. Joe achieved approximately $600 million in sales in the early 1980s – more than fifty times its earnings in the 1960s. How did this happen? The answer is content marketing. Let’s take a look at the history of America’s favorite hero.
The Beginning – Government Issue Joe
G.I. Joe was a term derived from the slang phrase “Government Issue Joe,” which was used to describe military infantrymen. In the midst of World War II, a comic strip named “Private Breger” was released followed by a movie entitled “The Story of G.I. Joe.” Later, this war-torn icon would be the subject of a comic book published in the early 1950s. In 1964, Hasbro released the first G.I. Joe action figure which was 11 ½ inches tall and included movable parts as well as numerous available accessories. It was then that G.I. Joe first became a public hit.
GI Joe Loses Ground in the 1970s
In the 1970s, G.I. Joe went through a series of transformations as a brand. With the goal of staying away from current hot topics like the Vietnam War in the 1970s, Hasbro reintroduced the G.I. Joe line as the “Adventures of G.I. Joe” and later, the Adventure Team. For about a decade, Hasbro modified the G.I. Joe line to include a less expensive action figure set, more detailed characteristics, and a sleeker, smaller design. Despite its efforts, Hasbro experienced a slump in its profits until a strategic partnership would change the future of G.I. Joe.
GI Joe is Reinvented with Content Marketing
When Hasbro teamed up with Marvel in 1982, no one could have predicted what would come next. After a complete brand transformation, G.I. Joe is re-released with the new look, purpose, and brand-new enemy to defeat. The Hasbro-Marvel alliance not only transformed America’s favorite action figure, but complemented the reveal with a comic book line and television advertising spots. The introduction of G.I. Joe-themed content and its promotion on television was the recipe needed to spur G.I. Joe to the top of the list of best-selling toys in the past century.
With content marketing and a little creativity, G.I. Joe remains America’s favorite hero.
What do you think was the greatest era for G.I. Joe? What other children’s toys have lasted?