Vinnie D’Alleva – Collector, Curator, Captain America
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
My undergraduate thesis in graphic design led me to project work in the toy industry centered around transforming robots. What a great introduction, right? From that experience, I determined my first job would be in toys. And it was. I joined Monogram/Revell Model Kits toy division outside of Chicago.
How did your career evolve?
I started my career in marketing and product development and, over time, moved into other aspects of the business. Today, I serve as the Chief Brand & Commercial Officer at TOMY, heading up sales, marketing and communications. I look to learn and grow every day because there’s so much more I want to do in the industry. I wake up ready to go!
(TOMICA diecast line now in North America)
Where have you left your mark in the industry?
It’s really satisfying to see the things you worked on make their way into the hands of children. There are three things I’ve been a part of that I look upon with real joy:
Bringing dads back into the G.I Joe franchise by reintroducing the 12” scale action figures they played with as a kid. Previously, their kids only knew G.I. Joe as 3 ¾” sized, so it provided a great way for dad and child to connect in play.
Having had the chance to work on Transformers through a few different generations.
Bringing TOMY’s TOMICA line to the North American market this year. I’m a lifelong fan of diecast cars and consider TOMICA the best quality and most collectible diecast vehicle line in the marketplace. We’re launching a new, brand-forward Instagram page for TOMICA this month where aficionados can gather to test their TOMICA knowledge and see what’s new.
What are you working on now?
Being more strategic in growing our core brands like Mocchi Mocchi and John Deere Monster Treads. We’re also looking at launching new global projects with our teams in Japan and Europe. It’s top secret right now, but past examples would include the instant film printer KiiPix, Rizmo, and our line of (blind bag) impulse toys with licenses like Nintendo, Kirby and Animal Crossing.
Overall, we are looking to dial up our brand purpose to bring more smiles to more families, especially at a time when we’re all nesting and nurturing like never before. TOMY is actively building deeper connections with our consumers on social and accelerating that plan going into 2021, upping our opportunity to dialogue.
The toy and game industry clearly has …
A blank page in front of it! How do you best launch new brands and products in 2021? How do you discover the unmet needs of parents, and how children will respond to new types of play, without the usual access to testing?
It’s going to be a tricky year or so and we’ll have to be very creative. Conventional thinking has either disappeared or is being challenged. The future doesn’t have a road map to follow – you’ve got to be brave enough to quickly test and move on. With less traffic in store and limited space on shelves, we’re going to be aggressive in launching new products through social media and direct to consumer via e-commerce.
How have you been holding up through the pandemic?
Pretty well, really. My loved ones are healthy. My colleagues transitioned well to WFH and are showing up with the same work ethic and passion every day. I’m also practicing positive thinking daily, because there will be an end to hunkering down and a re-birth of human interaction.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I like to walk for miles every day – this gives me the chance to expend pent-up energy and stress, and unravel things on my mind. However, under the heading of ‘can things get worse,’ I was recently chased by wild turkeys while walking with a friend. Unfortunately for me, there’s a video of the encounter where, perhaps, my heroics were not on full display.
I also like to spend time with my kids, watch movies, drive my Jeep Sahara on road trips, collect toys, and read comic books. I’ve been drawn to design and entertainment since my youth.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My G.I. Joe Adventure Team Mobile Support Vehicle and Helicopter! I went on missions all over my house and backyard every day.
Since you like comic books so much—I have to ask who is your superhero avatar?
100% Captain America. And, the link to him, throughout my life, has been interesting. When I was a kid, I would sit in my uncle’s barber shop and pore over comic books. Captain America quickly became my favorite superhero because he was red, white, and blue and celebrated everything great about America. Fast forward to an executive coaching session a few years ago, when the coach presented Captain America as an avatar for me, noting the core character values aligned better than an actual human she would normally choose. I was shocked – and thrilled, of course.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My iPhone 10 is my bridge to doing a lot of stuff. I like tech gadgets. My news app is the Associated Press, and my gaming app – Scrabble. My friends and I have been holding regular game night dinners over Zoom to break up the isolation.
What is the last time you did something for the first time?
May of 2020. I bought a house in Chicago via video. I did visit the property in person before closing, but I would have never thought that I’d buy a home like I buy any other product. New behaviors for living are being adopted quickly, and I’m not going to make the mistake of compartmentalizing how I am living now from how I need to manage and grow business in the future. I get it!
What’s your workspace set-up like at home?
Since home became my office, it was important for me to have a space I liked to be in, but felt separate from the rest of my home.
I converted a bedroom into an office and surrounded myself with things that I like or that I’ve worked on. I built a desk and counter space out of Ikea cubbies and plexiglass cases. This houses my 1:64 scale diecast vehicle collection. Underneath, I keep my 1:24 scale vehicle collection in the cubbies.
Up above it all are 17 Marvel characters all made from Perler Beads. I’ve spent about 7-8 years building them with my youngest daughter, Sophia. Of course, I’ve also surrounded myself with toy art hanging from the walls – everything from Captain America’s shield, to a 5’ Transformers poster, to several prints from Doug Bloodworth.
What’s next for Vinnie?
Focusing on getting even healthier, keeping my team balanced now that home-work life is dashed not slashed, and learning to play the ukulele; My daughter upcycles them.