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April 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 4
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Bling Bling Scores!

Hip Hop Game Heads Mainstream


“I literally talked all the buyers into our booth, and once they saw the product, it pretty much sold itself.” Joseph Cassarino, Bling Bling
Real estate investor and photo/video producer Joseph Cassarino was introduced to Jeff McGill, the inventor of Bling Bling (ToyShow), in 2002. Cassarino was so impressed with McGill’s preliminary outline that he decided to fund his company. Cassarino told TDmonthly Magazine how he and McGill, now CEO, and Steve Jackson, Corporate VP, turned a good idea into a hot product chased by some of the industry’s biggest players.

Others' Success Inspires Game

Jeff was a casino technician. He would watch the rich executives coming out of the casinos and ask, “What do they know that I don’t know?”

So he invented a casino and scratch-off game based on the urban dice game C-LO. He came from the hood and didn’t go to college, but he has personality and charisma and a hunger in his belly. I noticed it, recognized it. I thought he had a great concept and helped with legal work and helped market it.

By now, I’ve got $150,000 or more invested in the company; no one’s put a nickel in but me. I believe in Jeff and I believe in the product.

He’s the street kid with the cool, edgy ideas and I’m the businessman well read in marketing and business law. Steve is a Marine — highly educated. The three of us make the perfect company.

Fear Forces Change

In 2002, we brought the casino game to Palms Casino in Vegas and the Borgata in Atlantic City. The execs flipped! They were thinking about it, but they were afraid because it’s not Wheel of Fortune ― they didn’t know the numbers yet. From a real-estate point of view — if you take out a craps table and put in a Bling Bling machine, will it sell?

After 3 ½ years of pursuing the casinos, Jeff realized he couldn’t control the executives’ fear, so he figured he’d start his own company and turn the casino game into a board game. All the "kids" we showed it to ― everyone from 18 to 38 ― loved it.

What the Kids Want

Bling Bling’s a hip hop game. Kids don’t want Monopoly; they want hip hop. But Bling Bling is clean: no sex, no cussing, no nudity.

We put out a press release before Toy Fair. Jeff knows a lot of musicians, so our press releases have quotes from Universal Studios artists, Def Jam artists, hip hop stars … When you’ve got rap stars promoting the game, you can’t lose!

Fifty to 100 TV and radio stations picked up the press release, including Yahoo! Finance and AOL Finance.

Toy Fair Frenzy

Receptivity at Toy Fair was overwhelming. We had TV cameras, lines … I literally talked all the buyers into our booth, and once they saw the product, it pretty much sold itself.

More than 30 companies said, “I want to sell this in my store.” Low Rider Magazine asked us to come up with a Bling Bling low-rider automobiles version. We have five radio stations in New York City waiting to give the game away as a promo.

Passion Needs Action

Jeff patented the product, but I got the trademark for Bling Bling secured five years ago, and that’s what made the company. Without the Bling Bling trademark, you’ve got nothing.

You have to be passionate about your product. Most people in the toy and game industry start like a mom and pop — they have an idea, sit in their garage, draw it on a napkin, bring it to a friend, and find investors.

You become a success by following up those ideas with action.

See Jeff in action at Toy Fair with Bling Bling: (Watch the BLING BLING The Takeover Part I Video Watch Video)




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Elizabeth GreenspanWriter's Bio: Elizabeth Greenspan edits and writes for trade and technical publications. She has interviewed and collaborated with some of the top practitioners in their fields. She lives in Philadelphia and travels extensively for her work. Read more articles by this author

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