The power of pop

May 6, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Elmoataz Obada, Co-Founder, Monkey Distribution

From butter beer to brooms. Dobby themed coffee mugs and keychains to Dumbledore wands. Not to forget Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station, UK. Ask any Harry Potter fan and you’ll know the significance of it all. If that’s not all, data from Statista indicates that Hogwarts Legacy, an action role-playing game which released in February 2023, sold 12 million units in its first two weeks of release and a total of 24 million units recording $1 billion in sales as of December 2023. That’s the power of pop culture.

One such player specialising in pop culture and lifestyle products is Monkey Distribution, which holds the exclusive distribution rights for global brands such as Funko and Harry Potter Wizarding World within the MENA region.

Funko at a Glance

Year of Launch: 2016

Co-Founders: Elmoataz Obada, Ayman Alatrash and Motasem Ahmed

Retail Footprint: Operates in 13+ markets and manages a network of 10+ retail stores, including the first Funko franchise store outside the US and the first Harry Potter Wizarding World store in the MENA region.

Funding Status: Self-funded

Milestones Over the Past 12 Months:

  • Expanded Funko’s franchise retail footprint by opening two additional franchise stores located in Dubai Mall and Reem Mall.
  • Opened the first Harry Potter Wizarding World store in the MENA region.
  • Established presence in new markets such as Egypt and Tunisia.

Key Goals for 2024:

  • Accelerate growth in Saudi Arabia by launching innovative brands and forming strategic alliances with key retailers.
  • Leverage diverse brand portfolio and deep insights into pop culture to innovate and introduce new in-store experiences with strategic retailer partners.
  • Enhance digital platforms to improve customer engagement and sales.

In an interview with IMAGES RetailME, Elmoataz Obada, Co-Founder of Monkey Distribution shared the influence of pop culture in retail and the significance of gaining and retaining customer loyalty. 

“After all, everyone is a fan of something and Funko has something for every fan. That’s our reason for being. We cultivate customer loyalty by offering exclusive Funko items, unveiling exciting new arrivals through pre-orders, ensuring swift responses to inquiries and actively engaging with our community, fostering a bond with our valued customers and community leaders,” he said.

Through its broad assortment of products successfully meeting the eclectic tastes of a region home to over 200 nationalities, Funko stands out ensuring there is something for every fan. A big reason why Funko’s appeal continues to grow in the region, mirroring the worldwide surge in pop culture collectibles.

However, having different retail partners in the region, how does Funko manage to offer a seamless customer experience while ensuring a unified brand image?

“We recognise the individuality of each retail partner, acknowledging that they cater to distinct customer bases and offer unique in-store experiences. In 2023, we embarked on a transformative initiative to create sections within our strategic retail partners’ stores specifically for our brands, therein ensuring a more tailored shopping experience. While we infused each retail space with a distinct flavour to resonate with its specific audience, we also carefully preserved our overall brand identity. This balance allowed us to present a unified brand image that is both recognisable and adaptable, catering to the diverse preferences of consumers across different retail environments,” Obada explained.

Even as the MENA region serves as a gateway to reach a diverse section of multicultural consumers, it also has its unique challenges. Asked about roadblocks that Funko has had to navigate in the region, Obada said, “One of the challenges we encountered was understanding the different regulatory environments and obtaining the necessary approvals for products supply in each country. Moreover, the diversity within the region required us to be particularly sensitive to cultural nuances, ensuring that our product offerings and marketing strategies not only align with local norms but are also embraced across various communities. This demanded a tailored approach, where understanding and respecting the cultural intricacies became as crucial as the business strategy itself, ensuring our initiatives were well-received and successful throughout the MENA region.”

In the realm of collectibles and pop culture, another crucial focus area is social commerce which continues to become more and more pivotal driven by emerging trends, anticipation of new releases and an active fan participation. Seamlessly blending pop culture elements into social media strategies can elevate a brand’s appeal and relevance with iconic moments in pop culture sparking extensive content generation and engagement on social platforms. Engaging with these cultural phenomena can deepen audience connections​​​​.

Commenting on the importance of social commerce for Funko, Obada said, “Platforms such as Instagram have become essential for unveiling new brands and products, offering a wealth of benefits including insightful audience data, the power of social proof and the opportunity for direct feedback from customers. These features are invaluable for businesses like us aiming to navigate and thrive within the ever-evolving landscape of pop culture trends​​.”

Looking ahead, Funko’s growth in the MENA region will be centred on three key strategies “prioritising core and evergreen product lines that consistently appeal to fans, launching themed Funko Moments collections for special occasions & interests and expanding the Funko Bitty Pops! line, which has surpassed expectations since its debut last quarter,” Obada summarised.

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