Merchandise Survey, Responses and Analysis

Here is where you will find an overview of the data we collected regarding fan purchases of official VLD merchandise and fan-made VLD merchandise. Below is the overview of this project, a link to the form, and then an overview of our data as it comes in. Until we have a large pool of responses, I will refrain from publicly sharing any analyses I make, but please enjoy the charts that break down the responses we receive in the meantime.

As a note: all answers are anonymous and the numerical values should be treated as estimates, since we at no point ask for receipts or proof of purchases for your own security and privacy.

What is the goal of this survey?

In short, the goal of this survey is precisely what it says on the tin: we want to know what’s more popular with the VLD fandom. Official merch? Fan-made? Which characters get the most revenue? What types of merch do you love? Ships? Spaceships? The survey, while we do ask for how much you’ve spent, doesn’t have to be down to the exact dollar, though specificity is our friend!

We will be using this data for a greater understanding of what the fandom wants insofar as merchandise goes, but also to make it clearer to WEP, LLC (the IP-holder of the Voltron franchise) that they have been missing out on a major market and will continue to not see our business as customers until they make some serious changes both in their conduct and the product they release, including releasing the unedited season 8.

Who do we want to answer?

Everyone who has ever bought merch, and those who haven’t! If you’ve bought stuff, we want to know what makes you hit the buy button, and if you haven’t, why not. All answers are good answers!

Why now?

While the idea has occurred to us in the past, we weren’t quite sure how to go about collecting this kind of information, and initially we didn’t see much use. That said, it’s still important to make clear not just to the owner of Voltron where the real market is, but to show all of you the power of the purchase. As consumers, everyone is entitled to a product they expect to receive, meaning that if you watch a Y7 show, something fit for children 7 and older, you should expect roughly something that can appear in a Disney or DreamWorks film, something that at the end of the day has some sort of uplifting message for the audience. If you buy a shirt and it runs small, you should be able to exchange it for a larger size free of charge. That kind of thing. We are eight months out since season 8 of VLD dropped on Netflix, and six since the debut of Team Purple Lion, and while we as a fandom have voiced our displeasure quite clearly, it helps to have hard numbers. That includes things like how many 1 star reviews there are, or signing a petition, or gathering data of not just how much people have spent, but where and why, too.

Why only VLD?

We’re limiting our scope to VLD since that is a) the most popular of any Voltron iteration, and b) the most current, so the size of the fandom will help give us a greater understanding of what the majority of fans prefer to spend their money on. While I’m also curious about the other iterations (DOTU, DDP, VForce, V3D, etc.), I didn’t want to lose the focus of this survey. That said, I may do another for the previous iterations, but as of now this is only for VLD.

Here is the link to the survey itself.

Please share this survey with your friends and in your VLD Discord servers, ask them to fill it out. Regardless of your stance on who is responsible for season 8, we would greatly appreciate all responses.

Vrepit Sa!

Survey Results and Preliminary Analysis

Below are the results of the survey as interactive charts. These will be updated to reflect the most recent submissions to the survey. As of August 23, 2019, these results are from 60 respondents. The previous sentence will be updated accordingly as new data is entered.

General Spending Overview and Observations

This section of charts is just to show where fans are spending their money, as well as their preferences on what they purchase.

As a disclaimer, here are some factors that may potentially skew my data:

  • Availability of official merchandise
  • Current respondent pool
  • Fandom participation

While I will do my best to make an effort to demonstrate where these factors are present and form conclusions with them in mind, it’s worth mentioning that availability of official merchandise is precisely one of the things I hope to examine with this survey, and demonstrate to WEP LLC, the main party in handling merchandising, where the market is and has been for the past three years.

Fans largely prefer fan-made merchandise, with two-thirds of respondents selecting that as their preferred type. Many fans also like both official and fan-made, and when asked about why they preferred the type of merchandise selected, the responses consisted of wanting to support independent artists, higher quality of merchandise in fan-made products as opposed to official, fan-artists provide a wider variety of options in characters, and that Season 8 of VLD altered their preference away from official merchandise, with one respondent returning approximately $500USD worth of official merchandise after Season 8 aired on Netflix.

When we look at the estimated totals spent by respondents, we can see that fan-made merchandise has brought in over 400% of the income that official merchandise has. In other words, WEP LLC would need to sell over $12000USD more merchandise to approach the amount sold in fan-made merchandise.

Since fans prefer the larger variety, higher quality, and flat out availability of certain characters (such as Lotor, members of the Blade of Marmora, etc), and given how some respondents specifically cited Season 8 as being why they prefer fan-made merchandise, it’s not a surprise that fan-made merchandise purchases vastly outpace official purchases.

This chart compares the totals spent per category to the overall estimated total between official and fan-made merchandise purchases. The total spent estimates for official merchandise is $3498.90USD and fan-made is $17300.58USD. However, there is something interesting about those estimates. When purchases are broken down, people give pretty specific amounts and specify what they spent it on, so when we add the subtotals of each category for official merchandise, we get the total of $4888.40USD, which is a nearly $1400USD discrepancy. When we do the same for the fan-made purchases, we get a total of $18161.91USD, a discrepancy of $861.33USD. With that in mind, we see that out of the respondents, people underestimate how much they’ve spent overall, which I find extremely interesting.

In terms of solo-character sales, Lance is most popular for official merchandise, bringing in approximately $325USD overall, with Shiro coming in second at $275USD. However, Lotor is most popular for fan-made merchandise, bringing in nearly $3000USD by himself with Allura coming in second at approximately $1218USD. This appears to be partially shaped by merchandise availability, as Lotor has no official merchandise. However, the demand for merchandise of him remains stronger than Lance. As a contrast, if we take the most popular official merch character, Lance, we can see he does not even come close to breaking the $1000USD line on that chart for fan-made merchandise.

In terms of relationship sales, Lotor and Allura are the most popular for official merchandise, bringing in nearly $300USD even with Shiro and Keith coming in second at nearly $232USD. Shiro and Keith are the most popular for fan-made merchandise, bringing in over $4500USD in sales, while Lotor and Allura trail behind them at a little over $3000USD. While only Lotor was the most popular solo character in either category of merchandise type, ships with Lance, the other most popular solo character, do not break $1000USD in sales for any one ship, with Keith and Lance coming in just shy of that for fan-made merchandise, and only $163USD for official merchandise.

In terms of ensemble sales, not many respondents specified what they purchased, however canon material such as DVDs and comic books brought in nearly $750USD alone, vastly outperforming any character-related merchandise. However, considering there were no ensembles available beyond the two configurations of the Paladins, it’s no surprise that even Team Voltron ensemble merchandise performed better when fan-made as opposed to official. With no Galra Empire merchandise, Team Sincline, the Blade of Marmora, or any other factions, fans simply did not seem to have the option to make those purchases at all unless they found fan artists who would.

In purchases of symbols of Voltron and/or the robots, fans also did not disclose the majority of official merchandise purchases, however again fan-made merchandise purchases continue to outpace official when specified, at least for symbols such as the Voltron V and Voltron itself. Given how there are options to purchase official merchandise of the lions and other robots or symbols, it’s not a surprise that these are preferred, since most fan-made merchandise seems to focus on characters, ships, and symbols heavily associated with characters (i.e. Keith’s knife, or Garrison uniforms) rather than general affiliations (i.e. the Galra Empire, the Voltron Coalition).

Current conclusions based on this data: fans underestimate their purchases by a significant margin, and official merchandise would fit the typical Star Wars style niche in which you align yourself with different factions had they chosen to sell anything beyond Voltron-related merchandise, and would benefit from selling higher quality solo character merchandise, especially if they expanded to include other major characters such as Emperor Zarkon, Haggar, and Lotor, as well as minor characters such as Kolivan, Thace, etc. The market exists. However, only fan artists are serving it in a significant and observable way.

Consumer Faith Responses

This section focuses on if fans would purchase official merchandise as Season 8 currently stands as opposed to if the original is released, as well as their reasoning for their answer.

Notable preliminary responses

  1. In the first question, 73.3% of responses are resounding nos. 11.7% would purchase merchandise with VLD as it stands currently, 5% say it depends or probably not, and the remainder would but only if certain conditions are met (i.e.: quality of merchandise goes up).
  2. In the second question, only 10% would not purchase merchandise even if the original season is released. While 40% said yes, the remainder either need to see the season and/or merchandise first, or they would purchase merchandise if certain conditions are met (i.e.: seasons 7 and 8 are official, not director’s cuts).

Current conclusion: consumer faith in VLD as a show and in its merchandise are low, and in order to regain customers, seasons 7 and 8 must be reverted to their original forms.