Die-cast Models Toys or Big Business?

Jan. 1, 2008
Die-cast models of construction equipmentthey're toys aren't they? Wrong! They're big business. In fact, they can be HUGE business. Two years ago it was

Die-cast models of construction equipment…they're toys aren't they? Wrong! They're big business.

In fact, they can be HUGE business. Two years ago it was estimated that one major manufacturer of equipment sold close to $100 million in die-cast models. That's larger than the total sales of the majority of companies worldwide!

So what's the appeal of these “mini-machines” that brings sales like that? Are they collected and traded, used for corporate gifts, given out as keepsakes or used to commemorate an event? The answer is “yes” — they are used for all that and more.

Manufacturers create models of their equipment for many reasons and audiences. Most are sold to collectors. Or, equipment distributors and dealers may buy them for gifts or promotional programs, and sometimes they use them for demonstrations. Operators buy them so they can show their friends and family the type of equipment they use on the job. Hobbyists use them as elements for elaborate slot car tracks and model railroads. Some people just think they look great on display. But no matter what the reason, die-cast models can play a big part in an equipment manufacturer's marketing program and can help create awareness of the company's brand name and products far beyond that created during normal business operation.

According to Craig Paylor, president of JLG Industries Inc., “Producing die-cast models that reflect the high quality of our products became part of an overall branding program at JLG. We've built an excellent reputation within the construction, rental and material handling industries, but our goal is to broaden the scope of our business beyond current markets. Creating awareness of our company and our products by selling die-cast models through a global retail market allows us to reach people that might not know about our products and the many advantages they have to offer. It's a great way of introducing new people to the JLG brand.”

In 2005 JLG Industries undertook a very aggressive die-cast model program when it introduced eight new die-cast models of the company's aerial work platforms and telehandlers. They were produced in 1/32nd scale so they could more closely replicate the detail of full-size machines. In 2006 the company added a second series containing four models, and in 2007 a third series of five additional models was announced with deliveries scheduled to coincide with The Rental Show in Las Vegas. With these additions, JLG now offers the widest variety of die-cast aerials and telehandlers ever available from a single access equipment manufacturer. Models include telescoping and articulating boomlifts, rough-terrain and Liftlux scissorlifts, TowPro trailer-mounted boomlifts, Mobile Stockpicker, along with Lull, SkyTrak, Gradall and JLG telehandlers

Noted for their extremely high level of detail, the JLG models are painted in authentic colors. Each has fully operable components, which include movable booms, adjustable steering and highly detailed controls. A unique variable lift and lock feature on all models allows the booms and scissors to be raised to any height without loss of elevation over time. This makes them interesting decorations for display in any home or office.

Rob Joyce, president of Joyce & Associates Nevada, a consultant on JLG's branding program since the onset, recently returned from an international toy show in Europe where the JLG models were on display. According to Joyce the models were a huge success. “We had people from all over the world in our booth — collectors, distributors, retailers — and they all loved the models,” said Joyce. “Many people told me that they were the best quality they have seen. We have a lot of follow-up work to do but, with the interest in the products we experienced, you can rest assured that the JLG name will be featured in model and toy stores everwhere by the time we're through.”

Collectible models are also a very big business on the Internet from custom stores to e-Bay auctions to manufacturer merchandise sites.

Many JLG dealers and rental companies also find customized die-cast models a great way to promote their businesses. Although many companies purchase them “as is” from JLG, for a minimum order of 100 pieces per unit, they can be painted in custom colors or have the rental company logo placed on the model exactly as it would appear on a full-size machine. This can make them even more desirable to the recipient since there are only a limited number of them available. During the past two years, United Rentals has purchased more than 40,000 models with its logo on them. They select one model per year, order a large quantity, and give them out to their customers as holiday gifts and throughout the year at special events and on other occasions. They also have them for sale in their rental locations and on their website.

Acme Lift Company of Mesa, Ariz., is another user of models with custom logos. Acme is the nation's largest provider of large aerial work platforms that are rented exclusively to other rental companies for re-rental to their customers. To keep its name in front of customers, Acme uses models of JLG's 1250AJP Ultra Boom Lift to convey the message. Said Woody Weld, Acme president, “Models of the type of equipment we re-rent are reasonably priced yet give us great exposure with our customers. We use them for all type of promotional purposes including sending them out as a ‘thank you’ to companies that rent from us.”

Rik Maaskant from European rental giant Riwal has also purchased custom JLG models. Said Maaskant, “We selected the JLG models because they are the perfect gift in this industry where most clients are very technically oriented and highly appreciate such a gift. It also gives us a good visibility of both product and brand because recipients tend to put scale models on display in their offices.”

Many equipment distributors have added models to their stores' retail section. They have become distributors for the JLG replicas and have found a new revenue and profit source.

No matter how you use them, die-cast models can be a plus for your business. Your customers like them, and they can help keep your company's name in front of your customers on a regular basis. How can you go wrong with that? It's no wonder that die-cast models are such a big business.

For information on custom-made JLG die-cast models for your dealership or rental company, contact Rob Joyce at 702/294-1712.

William Hindman is president of Industrial Marketing Services, Elk Grove Village, Ill.