After necessities, what do we spend money on? Tools? Services rendered? Charity? How about completely pointless collectables that will not rise in value or give anything other than a brief sense of ownership and then spend the majority of their time on shelves collecting dust?
As the amount of Scootaloo representation in my locker rises, I question what would drive a brony to buy a trading card, or a plushie, or a custom figurine. Most merchandise bought by bronies has very little actual use, typically being consigned to a shelf where the collection in total can then be marveled at briefly by others with similar interests before returning to the background of their mind. What exactly is the drive for pony merch?
To start things off, bear in mind that most creators of pony merch get paid for it. They have to buy the materials, create the product using those materials, then ship the finished product to the person who wants it. In addition to consuming free time, materials will sometimes get pretty pricey. So, when considering other things that bronies may collect (music, art, stories), which are typically donation-funded, the price for collectables is somewhat justifiable.
However, unlike other types of media, pony merch is a little more of a risk to get ahold of. Stories of people paying $300 for a plushie that never came have caused some bronies to reconsider spending money outside of conventions on items that they’re not certain are as advertised. Feedback systems tend to give scam artists maybe two or three shots before legal action starts to occur, but the affected who wanted something so badly they paid money for it only to be disappointed are still something to think about.
That being said, pony merch is typically very well-made and worth every penny. It would be good at this time to clarify that there are two types of merchandise: Official and unofficial. As we’ve already discussed some of the points of unofficial merchandise, let’s go a bit more in-depth to this aspect.
The biggest outlet for unofficial merchandise is through the Internet, and the second-biggest sales location is at conventions. A good number of those who make unofficial merch will make their first debut at a convention, gain some positive reputation, then get that feedback posted on the Internet by those bronies, which gains them the necessary exposure to begin real sales.
Bronies who can’t make it to conventions find considerably more struggle to have a marketing presence. Yes, eventually they will find a brony willing to risk buying something with no feedback, but these are few and far between, and the best they can do is hope that the purchasing bronies all give positive feedback to encourage the others to go out on a limb.
So, for reasons necessary to exposure, add “convention expenses” to the list of things that most unofficial merch manufacturers have to pay for. Having the talent isn’t all someone needs to start selling pony merch; the exposure and good reputation are just as important, and these usually end up being quite costly in the end.
So, as far as unofficial merch creation goes—materials, shipping, conventions, and labor expenses—creating the stuff doesn’t end up nearly as rewarding as some would think. The pony merch creators out there definitely have to work hard to have satisfied bronies.
Official merch, on the other hand, works on a completely different basis. To clarify, official merch is any merchandise which is being created by a third party with express consent from Hasbro. Walk into a Wal-Mart, or a Toys ‘R Us, or a Target, and all of the pony merch you’re seeing there is from one signed deal or another.
Unlike unofficial merch, you can find the official stuff sitting on store shelves. Also unlike unofficial merch, you can be pretty darned certain of what you’re getting. Also unlike unofficial merch, only things that Hasbro approves of can be created.
Unofficial merch has creative freedom, whereas official merch has more market opportunity. Official merch also has a lot more workers to create mass quantities of a product to sell, in comparison to unofficial merch, which is most commonly a single person creating everything.
Official merch is also assured quality. Hasbro wouldn’t sanction it unless it was of a certain degree of quality, so you’re guaranteed a product of decent caliber.
There are quite a number of pros and cons when considering where your merch will come from, and both are a credible means to get ahold of whatever it is that you want, provided it’s been created. Bottom line, you’re going to be supporting either a brony or a corporation, both of whom need money as incentive to continue making their products, so you can’t really go wrong there. Whether it’s the versatility of unofficial or the QA of official, the product you choose will be going to a good home and helping Hasbro spread awareness of their most awesome IP ever. Continue buying great merch, and the world will stay filled with ponies. That’s the world we want, right?