BAYKO in 'MECCANO Magazine'

My 'MECCANO Magazine' collection isn't quite complete, but it's surprising what I've already gleaned from this excellent publication - so here goes. We all know BAYKO was launched in time for Christmas 1934. However, Plimpton didn't advertise in MM until the following September, educating the British public in time for Christmas 1935.
The first BAYKO advert in MECCANO MAGAZINE
As was common in those days, not just for new products, a third party handled BAYKO's early marketing - Berwick's Toys of Liverpool. They did BAYKO proud with 3 different, full-page ad's [actually a shared double page] in the last 3 1935 editions [remember, MM was in its original large format]. The ad's were very much of their time, mirroring those of other toys of the day. This is hardly surprising, as the messages to be got across were the same : -
► 1.
The product's name.
► 2.
What fun you could have with it.
► 3.
Where you could buy it.
► 4.
How much it costs.
The 1936 advertising budget was slashed. In November and December BAYKO shared a page with the Wembley Soccer table game, still under Berwick's direction. 1937 saw a similar level of spend, the last before the war, indeed the last for almost 12 years. Even allowing for the war, imagine a modern product not advertising in a key medium for that long! Perhaps I'm being unfair to a man who can't answer back, particularly when other indicators show him to have been a great innovator, I don't know. However, it's a fact that BAYKO ad's in MM only just reached double figures during C.B. Plimpton's days - less than 1 a year! Perhaps they just didn't deliver.
First post-war advert in MECCANO MAGAZINE
Post-war, MM was in the familiar small format, with BAYKO finally reappearing in May 1949. Sadly Plimpton didn't advertise during the immediate pre-war and post-war years, depriving us of information on 2 dynamic periods. The '50's saw BAYKO at the peak of its power and this was reflected in MM ad's. BAYKO ad's appeared monthly, initially with a quarter page, then a half page from 1951 before taking a full page in 1953. The 1959 decline is clear, with half-page ad's reappearing that year.
Those of us who struggled to keep our financial heads above the choppy waters of inflation in the late '60's, '70's and '80's may be interested in BAYKO's prices as advertised in MM over the years. The first thing you find is their relative stability over long periods of time, often measured in years, until the hiatus in 1959. The second thing is that, over the years, price changes were almost as likely to be downwards as upwards. I will track BAYKO's impact on the nation's pockets in another article.
Even before MECCANO's take-over, 1959 stands out as a turbulent year, a clue to the state of the business perhaps. MM started with prices in January unchanged for 5 years. February then showed a price hike of some 9%, but March reverted to January prices! In April and May BAYKO ad's appeared but without prices! "Sanity" returned in July when price rises of around 4.5% appeared.
You could anticipate uncertainty following the take-over and MM to reflect that, but nobody could have guessed how MECCANO would turn that uncertainty into pure neglect! BAYKO was advertised in March and April '60, using earlier Plimpton ad's. Neither referred to Plimpton or the new owners! BAYKO re-emerged in September 1960 with new ad's recognising the MECCANO ownership, however, over the final years, they only advertised BAYKO in around half the MM additions. All this was despite the fact that direct competitors, such as BRICKPLAYER, advertised regularly over this period - and remember, this was MECCANO's own publication!
First full-colour advert from MECCANO MAGAZINE, February, 1961
BAYKO finally turned to colour in February 1961. The ad has a noteworthy product illustration. It shows Plimpton era "cruciform" windows in MECCANO yellow and the Bay Window Covers in Plimpton Red. Nonetheless it was used regularly until July 1963, the last that year. MECCANO obviously weren't worried by the "wrong parts" illustration because a contemporary flier issued via retailers used the same image.
BAYKO Set prices, after MECCANO's retooling, were 27% lower than Plimpton's. These too stayed stable until BAYKO's death in '64, though they did drift up a little.
From '49, MM was used as a channel for announcing changes to BAYKO. Ad's in January '52 [maybe also November and December '51] and February '52 prove that Conversion Set #3X arrived before Set #4. May '58 refers to "attractive new parts now available", intriguingly not specifying what they were! Does this perhaps suggest thwarted plans to introduce more than just the Ramp and Garage Doors?
MECCANO continued this policy, announcing their new sets from September 1960 and of the conversion sets in February '61. The new Set #15 and the #14C Conversion Set debuted in August 1962, which tallies with MECCANO's order forms.
BAYKO died in January 1964, though MM carried its last advert in February of that year. Strangely though, this was not the end of the MM's links with BAYKO.
Image taken from the 'Toyman' artcicle, MECCANO MAGAZINE September, 1963
MM Articles in the early '60's often featured photos of model buildings in conjunction with DINKY toys, enhancing the play value of both. Although not alone, BAYKO models were often shown in these photos. However, it's not too difficult to argue that this approach was a tad subtle, even subliminal, for the average 11 year-old!
The 'Architect' articles were a stronger link. From July '63, they carried the flag for BAYKO until May '64, 3 months after MECCANO had stopped advertising BAYKO! They were excellent, encouraging children to experiment, to shake off the shackles of the manuals and try something new. Each month 'Architect' offered a fresh model, some small, only needing Set #11 and some large, stretching the resources of a Set #15. One even discussed a "Split-Level House" from New Zealand - sent in by an antipodean enthusiast! This is of interest for several reasons as it shows : -
That there were regular readers of the articles.
That BAYKO was actually used in New Zealand!
An enigmatic willingness to innovate - even as BAYKO's life support system was being switched off!
Sadly neither of these approaches was enough to save BAYKO.
It's fair to say that, during the 5 MECCANO years, MM reflects the problems experienced by BAYKO and its new owners. It exposes the complete lack of a coherent strategy for BAYKO - contradictions, inconsistencies, innovation without marketing - no wonder MECCANO couldn't save the world's finest architectural toy.
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