Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017 - 38

South

Lionel LLC

lionel president howard
hitchcock says understanding
consumer behavior has helped
the company to thrive.

over the past few years," Hitchcock
explains. "We're 117 years old but in
some ways we are a three- to fouryear-old company."
Indeed, Lionel's transformation
has included everything from the
modernizing of its manufacturing
process to increasing innovation to
integrating Bluetooth functionality.
Like any other manufacturer, Lionel
had to enter the digital age.

Digital Toys
One of the first things Lionel did under Hitchcock's leadership was launch
its own Bluetooth app, the LionChief.
It is a platform that gives model train
enthusiasts the ability to control their
trains via an iOS device.
The creation of the app is a simple response to a culture where kids
love having devices in their hands.
"I always think back to Atari, which I
loved," Hitchcock says. "If you think
of that, it really changed the play pattern of kids. It became really import38

manufacturing-today.com NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

ant for them to have a device in their
hand. This new app is a way to get the
train onto the device."
The app gives users full remote
control, meaning users can not only
adjust the speed of the trains, but also
the loudness of the horns and bells.
Importantly, the app can be used
with both starter sets and more advanced models. "You can, for the first
time, use the app with our $200 trains
all the way up to our $2,500 trains
through this interface," Hitchcock
notes, "which means a user does not
have to discard his starter train as he
moves up the chain."

Creative Licensing
In addition to modernizing Lionel's
appeal for the modern hobbyist,
Hitchcock also realized that Lionel
needed to connect with a wider audience in different ways. He thus began
an expansive licensing campaign, and
the results have been noticeable.
A classic example is The Polar Ex-

press train from the beloved 2004
film. "By attaching our train to a movie with a built-in audience is such
a natural fit," Hitchcock explains.
"Now, no Christmas is complete without a Lionel train under the tree."
Licensing for Lionel trains is actually nothing new. The practice dates
back to Walt Disney's love of trains.
In 1934, when Lionel was struggling
during the great depression, Disney
approached Lionel with an idea: A
Mickey and Minnie wind-up handcar. The handcar was a huge success
and Lionel has since gone on to build
many Disney-themed trains, including many present-day models.
"Licensing has really been a great
tool for us to reach a diverse audience," Hitchcock explains. "And we
really only partner with the strongest licenses, so it's really cool to
have that." Popular names such as DC
Comics and even Coca-Cola can be
found on Lionel trains.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017

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Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017 - Cover2
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017 - 1
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