With the success that Topps has had with Topps Now, it was only a matter of time before the copycat police decided to get into the game. To accompany their recent rash of taking a successful Topps and repackaging it under a similar name, Panini “Instant” will be their version of “Now.” We havent gotten many details, but Im guessing it will be their version of Topps’ program with Basketball and Football rolled in. They recently announced on Instagram that their coverage of the Copa America soccer event will also have an on demand component.
On demand trading cards from Topps have sold well, some even going above the 10 dollar purchase price after the fact:
The reason Panini is even thinking of doing something like this, stems from the national news coverage that Topps has had with their baseball version. Their Bartolo Colon was trending on Twitter for half a day, when they printed a card of his Home Run that made him the oldest player to do so. Panini seems to think they can replicate that success, even though their brand has maybe 1/100th the recognition that Topps does with trading cards.
As we see with anything that any trading card company tries to do, it takes much more than just an idea to make it work. That being said, if you are going to directly rip off a competitor, you better bring the heat. As we can see with their foray into digital, I dont think we are even in the same zip code of effort that is needed to show potential for any real competition with Topps.
Instant might turn out to be a great counterpart for Panini, as their Football and Basketball licenses will allow them to avoid direct competition with Topps’ already established and successful idea. They might be able to improve upon it as well, which is the advantage of being late to the party.
If they think that this is going to be a cake walk, and they can just do exactly what NOW is already doing, I will be standing there waiting to laugh in their face. On demand trading cards has been great for Topps only because national news has picked up their efforts. Collectors have been relatively mid range in excitement for everything else. I think that is exactly what is going to happen with the NBA and NFL as well, and they have to hope the money they overpaid for the licenses will grant them access to coverage from their partners. Remember, for most of America, Panini are grilled sandwiches, not trading cards.
Overall, its clear that the industry is shifting towards a way to get people connected to cards as quickly as possible, something that I have been desiring for a long time. Im interested to see how this plays out, because there could be a lot of ways to make this more than what Topps has already done.
If I am Panini, Im finding ways to incorporate loyalty and set building into the allure of buying regularly. That means offering checkpoint “awards” similar to what is done on the digital side for people that complete the run. Similarly, I would offer special parallels of the on demand cards for buying in bulk.
Autograph content would also be great, and though the cards may not be on demand, I would offer the option for special cards to be autographed. Either apply a sticker, or wait redemption timeframes for hard signed availability. If the card is purchased, the buyer will have the option at Panini’s discretion for autographed versions. Obviously not every player is available, but as we saw with eTopps years ago, its a way to get people interested.
I would also see if there is a way that the instant cards can be transferred to COMC ports for reselling purposes. With a COMC fulfillment option, there is a much more attractive secondary market for the cards that can be controlled by Panini and their partners.
These are off the top of my head, and Im sure if anyone actually put some thought into this, they could think of a million other things worth talking about.
Either way, Panini needs to innovate, because right now using Topps as their source for creativity just makes them look weak and unoriginal. Not great traits for your brand image. Sure, many ideas are ripped off in many different ways – but they are usually minor elements of a larger idea, not the entire umbrella concept itself. Taking Topps’ Inception set and copying the look and name is not being shy about it. Taking Topps NOW and rebranding it “Instant” is way too blatant. Even before the details are laid out, we know they are just renaming the existing stuff from Topps.
I cant wait to see how Panini Khrome and Panini Phinest turn out if this trend continues!