We take a closer look at the Target-exclusive sub-brand.
Not that long ago, we learned about the forthcoming release of the Nerf Zombie Strike Longshot CS-12, a re-styled version of the much-coveted Longshot CS-6 from 2006. Since then, we have also learned of a Nerf Zombie Strike Magnus 2-Pack, related Nerf Zombie Strike Mega Dart Refill, and even a re-shell of the Dart Tag Stormfire with a scope going under the new name of Zombie Strike Clearshot. According to what we learned during our Google Hangouts session with Nerf, none of these products will be released with improved performance versus their original versions, but they do all have one thing in common: they are part of a new, Target-exclusive sub-brand called “Z.E.D. Squad.” And we think there’s something to this.
But first, we need to clear something up. Unlike what some blogs have reported, the name of the sub-brand is “Z.E.D. Squad,” or just “ZED Squad.” It’s not “Zed Squad,” “Zedsquad,” “ZedSquad,” “ZEDsquad,” or anything else. The name stands for “Zombie Epidemic Squad,” and it is labeled as such on the packages. “Z.E.D.” is clearly an acronym, and is not written as “Zed.” As we were reminded by Ben S. on Facebook, “zeds” are zombies in several works of popular fiction, and we therefore would guess that although the tie-in is almost certainly intentional, Hasbro would probably prefer to avoid a lawsuit, hence the acronym. It’s fairly understandable, therefore, why bloggers might get this wrong, but we still wanted to note the distinction.
Whatever the case, the Z.E.D. Squad nomenclature marks something of a new strategy for Nerf, as it goes further than just providing kids with blasters to do with what they will. Instead, it follows the template first established by the Rebelle product line by attempting to weave storytelling elements into the product line. This falls in line with a recent quote from Simon Waters, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Licensing and Publishing at Hasbro who said: “Hasbro continues to evolve its brand franchises in new ways that bring play and lifestyle experiences to life through storytelling.” The June 19th press release where Waters was quoted went on to say that “Hasbro is revolutionizing branded play and lifestyle experiences through rich storytelling across all entertainment platforms.” It would appear that the new Z.E.D. Squad line-up (which, for now, is a Target exclusive) is an attempt to bring these storytelling element to the “toys for boys” segment of the category in which Nerf resides.
Of course, just giving a toy a different name does not, by itself, create a story. Nor can we dismiss the “Humans vs. Zombies” (HvZ) and zombie pop-culture influences that have clearly made an impact on the brand. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t be surprised if Nerf continues to dip its toes into the deeper waters of storytelling to create improved immersion with the brand and its products. We look forward to seeing what’s to come.