As a kid in the early 1980s, that meant stopping at the White Hen Pantry near my Grandparents farm outside Crete, Illinois. On the counter was a rotating display filled with MATCHBOX cars as they were originally packaged - each in a tiny box. As a treat, my Mom would often get me a new one, so I'd look forward to those afternoon trips to Grandma and Grandpa's house, and it was there that many of my MATCHBOX cars would be played with for the very first time. Eventually, the display at White Hen disappeared as the cars became packaged in the more "modern" bubble cards, but I'd never forget how it all started.
Fast-forward about thirty years, and here I am - a father - raising two little girls, one that has a well-documented octane obsession, and another that's already showing signs of interest in four-wheeled fun... at just eight months old.
Our collection of die-cast toys is growing, with both MATCHBOX and their cousins from HOT WHEELS (both made by MATTEL) ever-growing in numbers. I love "playing cars" with my little ones, and a funny thing happened this week when I cruised over to the MATCHBOX site: Mattel has launched some new MATCHBOX marketing, and if you ask me - they're doing it right.
That commercial is fantastic. Beautifully-shot and showing a Dad rekindling his childhood memories by sharing the experience of play with his son. While that's a great start to a wonderful 60th Anniversary campaign, the banner ads on the side of the MATCHBOX site really struck me. They say "PARENTS." One simple word that means so much.
None of the exclusive "Moms" vs. "Dads" marketing that you see elsewhere with one parent usually getting sidelined - no, the call-to-action reads "Parents, your kid could win..." There's involvement there, and it's refreshing to see. But it gets even better...
They've launched a fantastic contest called MATCHBOX HEROES WANTED, which will award a $60,000 College Scholarship as a grand prize, in addition to 60 weekly prizes to kids ages 3-10. Playing into the fantasy of portraying "real life heroes" through imaginative play, MATCHBOX takes a welcome step forward by including both boys and girls alike. I've spoken often of the debate regarding gender-neutrality with certain toys, and this hits the mark perfectly. A little girl pictured as a "police officer," with another as a "jungle explorer." Kids love toy vehicles... not just boys. People often cite statistics about boys vs. girls when it comes to vehicles vs. dolls, and the reality is that girls just aren't reached out to. You know what another part of reality is? That MATCHBOX started because of a father and his daughter...
MATCHBOX 60th Anniversary Vehicle Assortment:
"60 years ago the first Matchbox® vehicle was created by a father for his daughter’s show-and-tell at school. Six decades and thousands of vehicles later, parents around the globe continue to give their kids Matchbox® cars as a way of driving imaginative play. Since the first Matchbox car rolled off the line in 1953, the highly detailed Matchbox® vehicles have inspired and created countless adventures all over the world.
The 60th anniversary assortment will include 25 classic die-cast vehicles. Each vehicle will have a 60th anniversary badge and come packaged with the trademark matchbox-sized box just like they did in 1953."
As part of the contest for the scholarship, MATCHBOX is asking parents to submit photos of their children dressed as real heroes, so I submitted Addie - decked out in full firefighter garb. Earlier today, I received an email letting me know that she'd been added to the gallery on the Heroes Wanted website.
Oddly enough, official information on the MATCHBOX line has often been hard to come by in recent years, with the vehicles frequently being overshadowed in dominance and shelf space by the HOT WHEELS brand. Even this Heroes Wanted promotion and contest (which, according to the rules began on February 13 and ends in May) doesn't seem to have received an official PR push. Perhaps I just found it early and a big announcement is coming?
A trip to Walmart earlier this week revealed that not only are the special edition 60th Anniversary cars in-stores (we also saw them at Toys "R" Us), but that there's also a batch of vehicles displayed in sidekick shippers at only 60 cents a piece.
Bonus: There's a collection of "MATCHBOX Stories" on the site, and both men and women find inclusion there as well.
Happy 60th Anniversary, MATCHBOX!
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