Actually, I lied. There's one big difference that separated 2012 from the years that preceded it- last year, Topps had competition.
Like in 2010, the competition was small, and unlicensed, and forgettable in the grand scheme of things. But unlike in 2010, the competitors put out two really good products that appealed to two specific audiences, and immediately won them over.
Panini, a card brand known for its Football and Basketball cards, put out two baseball sets last year, Triple Play and Cooperstown, and I've heard a lot of good things about both sets. Triple Play especially, because it was a kids' set that appealed to a lot of adults. And also, because it reminds me of National Chicle.
But, if a lot of people told me these two sets are good, this boils down to one huge factor: people are buying Panini cards.
If people are saying that the competition is good, people will buy their packs. Even in a year, like 2012, where Topps put out a lot of bad products (maybe not bad, just not as good, like this years A&G). If Panini's products continue to learn from last year and make better, albeit unlicensed, sets, and more of them, then more people will buy Panini cards than Topps, which is a grave prospect indeed.
So, with this in mind, it's becoming very crucial that Topps have a good year in 2013. Their releases need to be better than some of last year's, improvements need to be made, and they need to get the interest back.
It's not like they haven't done it before. Within a decade, Topps managed to run all its competitors out of business, and that was just the 2000's. Topps can deal with competition well, because they're the long standing tradition, and they know how to make great baseball card sets.
So, here are five simple, easy, and incredibly important ways Topps can improve their success this coming year. They're thought out, intelligent, and still within bounds.
- Improve the flagship set- New Ideas Welcome. Topps, if anything, is known for its main release, the solid 660 card set of players, dressed in a nice looking design, served with curious inserts. A lot of those aspects have been faulty in the last few years. The 2012 design, while simple, was forgettable and not one of the best. Also, the inserts were unoriginal, and ultimately boring. And, like I said, it seemed to echo the two sets that came before it. 2013 has those two elements ironed out for this year- they have a great looking design, and they have incredibly cool looking inserts. My advice- keep the new ideas coming. They obviously worked enough for the sell sheet, so think of new, creative inserts, and new creative ideas for the base sets. I know the product's already done, but this is more for Series 2 and Update. For example, if there's some inserts that really work this year- STICK WITH THEM! Then, they'll truly grow on collectors. Or, if it's a good idea that just wasn't executed well, like Blockbusters, then fix it for the next year. A lot of last year's inserts were just rehashes of the stale Peak Performances, Legendary Lineage and anything else. This year's seem more inspired, more creative, and if they work, Topps needs to keep them going. Also, don't rely on gimmicks to speed the product forward. This will only drive more old school collectors away. I can already think of two old school collectors, on the blog, who already said they won't be collecting 2013 Topps. And that's just off the top of my head. So at least make the flagship set interesting. And if that fails...
- Improve your other well-known sets- Listen to the Collectors. I'm talking more about four sets that were simply okay in 2012, and need to be fixed, or thrown out all together. They are Allen and Ginter, Bowman, Archives and Gypsy Queen. With the exception of A&G, they've all been confirmed for another go next year, and I'm pretty sure Topps will continue A&G anyway. What Topps needs to do to revitalize these sets is give collectors what they want. The fans complained about Archives' cardstock- give them Heritage-like cardstock. The collectors wanted a well designed Allen and Ginter set. Make a set design that seems original, but still simple enough to not impede on the photo like it did this year. The fans wanted a better Bowman set. Well...go back to some of the ideas that made the set great, in the 1990's. And I don't mean literally get those designs for inserts, because they'll do that. Think of an original design that isn't the same old thing, that doesn't get boring after a while. The fans wanted a Gypsy Queen set that was as good as the 2011 one. Well, give them one! Get a better design (which they have), have cooler inserts, make it a fun set to collect, not unlike National Chicle! The collectors have been trying to help Topps here, and they should listen. Also, they should be listening to another demographic-
- Release a rebuttal to Triple Play- a kids set that isn't mailed in. Yes, I just called Opening Day mailed in. Why? Because it's the exact same base set as the flagship, only less foil. That's the definition of mailed in. Topps needs to learn from Panini, and make a set that kids, and adults, can have fun collecting. National Chicle was the perfect example of this, because all it was was art on cards, with players. No substance, no stats. Triple Play did this and it worked. Topps needs to do something like this. I'm not saying bring back Fun Pack, but something along those lines. And THAT could be the 99 cent packs, not Opening Day. Hell, if you wanted it to be less mailed in, grab Topps Total! I don't think that was mailed in! Speaking of mailed in...
- If you're going to do an online giveaway, at least...give things away. 2012's Golden Giveaway was a failure because it was incredibly hard to actually unlock a card. I never unlocked a single card in my entire time on that site. I tried. Many. Freaking. Times. But I never did. Give me the Diamond Giveaway, give me the Million Card Giveaway, something that can be a bit contrived, but STILL GIVES AWAY CARDS! The Chase one they're doing this year. I really, really hope it involved giving away cards. Because, if not, Topps will just be ripping us off. Oh hey, a coin I can only use online, and can't earn me anything except an autographed baseball I won't win. None of that. This year, make an online giveaway that's fun, interesting, and gives cards away. Oh, and one that doesn't expire for 100 years, so that people ripping packs of it in 10 years can still redeem cards.
- Don't be afraid to take a risk. A lot of the stuff Topps is coming out with lately seems very safe, in that it's stuff that either has worked before, or looks like it might work. They haven't taken too many risks since they were granted an exclusive license. I need more of that. Put out a risky card set, one that's a really good idea that people may not buy. Because if it's a good idea, sooner or later people will buy. And by a risk, I mean a card set outside of your comfort zone. Do something you wouldn't have done last year. Do a 200 card set with thicker cardstock, a slicker design, and a few parallels. Make a cool, futuristic set like people did in the 1990's. Make a set of cards like Topps 2020 from a few years ago. Something like any of those. Think outside the box. People will like those kinds of ideas, people will buy it and see what it's all about. People aren't curious about ideas they know are going to succeed. Because they buy a product they know, because they knew it was good last year. There's no curiosity there. That's in a new set, one people don't know, but looks really cool. Topps needs some of those.