Funko Destroys Mondo

The Rise And Fall Of Mondo – The Funko Death Pop

I am sitting amidst just some of my collection of limited edition art prints based on iconic movies which were illustrated by various artists and distributed by a company called Mondo.

Mondo which was a subsidiary of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theatre franchise came into their own when a film festival they were programming at the time failed to sell tickets. To help promote the showings a special poster was commissioned for ticket holders and interest exploded. Very special, very limited movie prints became their main focus.

Funko Destroys Mondo

When each of these exquisite pieces of art dropped I had to sit at my computer feverishly hitting the refresh button to try and get my own copy of a small amount of hand-numbered prints to land into my cart and then successfully get through the checkout process before they went out of stock.

In most cases, I was forced to pay scalper prices on the secondary market to ensure my walls would not be without a stunning piece of art dedicated to one of my favorite films.
I didn’t care…. Well I didn’t care that much. Upon seeing that out-of-stock notice before I could properly check out would send me into a keyboard rage. I’d joke with my friends on slack that Mondo was literally printing money at this point in their rise to popularity.

Commoditized was not a word I would ever use to describe Mondo or its products. They successfully differentiated themselves in a crowded space and maintained several unique features that made their brand unique and unlike anything else on the market.

Sadly, this weekend, news came to light that Mondo in most likelihood will be no more.

So if this brand was so highly differentiated and so decommoditized how did it fail?

Well, the rotten stench of commoditization of a completely different company was so vile it was able to tank this once-loved and truly authentic brand.

Enter the company Funko.

Funko began with similar roots to Mondo in 1998 in the home of Mike Becker who began making unique toys on a small scale for less popular, but easier-to-acquire licenses such as Cap’n Crunch and Betty Boop, but ultimately sold the company in 2005.

In 2010 Funko’s new owners unveiled a product line called Funko POPs at San Diego Comicon and the product caught on. In a quest for cash to support rapid expansion, the company was again sold in 2013 and then sold a final time in 2015 to its current owners.

Funko began acquiring licenses left and right applying them to their big-eyed, disproportionate Funko POP base figure. They sought out any excuse they could to create more product. To me, it seemed like they were on track to not only create a figure of every cast member of every movie or TV show in existence no matter how minor the role. I halfway expected to walk into my favorite collectibles store and somehow see a Funko POP version of me packaged on the shelf in some type of weird Black Mirror-esque reality.

Then similar to the baseball cards craze in the 1990’s the tipping point occurred. Like Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss, and similar collectible card companies, Funko realized they could simply print their own cash by manufacturing more product, deeming which ones were rare, which were limited, and dictate the market which was once left up consumer demand. The market was mindlessly flooded to cater to those hoping to capitalize on the next big thing.

Herd mentality followed. Not learning from previous crazes like Beanie Babies, comic book stores were now dedicating close to or over 50% of their square footage to these things.

During their massive growth spurt and spending spree Funko decided that acquiring Mondo along with it’s passionate fanbase would be a simple-bolt on addition to their existing portfolio of brands and licenses.

Mondo, who had basically created an entire industry now faced competition and copycats eating into their market share. To further differentiate themselves and set themselves apart from the casual poster artists popping up on sites like Etsy, Mondo decided to take their business model and apply it to other verticals such as vinyl soundtracks and very limited toys and statues.

Now, this is not a tale of the cool kids abandoning ship once the adults come on board in the form of big corporate capital. Well… Not yet anyway.

Within 1 year of purchasing Mondo, Funko amidst a spending spree had announced poor earnings. It not only announced it would be destroying over $30 million in surplus stock of unmovable FUNKO POPS but also announced it was going to be laying off a number of employees including co-founders Mitch Putnam and Rob Jones as well as Mondo senior creative director Eric Garza.

Elijah Woods summed it up perfectly when he tweeted:

While Funko sticks to the fuzzy claim that Mondo is not truly going away the nail has been hammered into the coffin. You can be sure that all of the esteemed artists that Mondo had diligently created a trust and alliance with such as Shepard Fairey, Olly Moss, James Whelan and many more will want no part of this new vision for whatever Funko has in store for Mondo.

Most of us expected the big corporate stink to drag down the cool company however the stink of commoditization on Funko was so strong it didn’t even get the chance to sully Mondo’s cult status and authenticity.

So what do you think?

Was this an example of Mondo taking the cash and selling out or grabbing onto a valid lifeline in a partner who at the time appeared to be able to assist them in further decommoditizing their products?

Did Funko just want Mondo’s licenses and always plan on gutting the company?

And could Mondo be saved?

In my next entry Ill explain how I can (and should) be able to save Mondo for all of us.

Until then… MONDO FOREVER!

Jesse James Wroblewski

Differentiation Consultant

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