When Kimberly Scardino reads scripts, she d’esn’t see plot, she sees merchandising opportunities. ‘You see toy elements. You see products. You see the way characters interact,’ says Scardino, senior vice president, worldwide licensing and merchandising for Sony Signatures.
Scardino, who helped guide Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to merchandise nirvana during her stint at Saban Entertainment, suggests ways to maximize merchandising potential from the infancy of a project.
‘Even during a presentation given to you for a property in development,’ says Scardino, ‘you look at it and say, ‘Oh my God, we can see there are elements within this.’ In the development process, we might say, ‘By the way, it could be good if you add this.” Not that every suggestion is followed. ‘We certainly don’t want to clutter the look,’ she says. Certain elements, however, such as her’es and heroines in great costumes with gadgets, are an easy merchandise fit.
Scardino learned just how potent merchandising can be during her work on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for Saban. ‘Everything about that property was developed around merchandising,’ she says. ‘Generally, what happened was new product was released and there would be a spike in sales. Kids were looking for new merchandise.’ Unlike Saban, Sony Signatures d’esn’t have much of a reputation for merchandising. ‘Nobody knows what we do,’ she says.
Scardino plans to change that with Godzilla. The theatrical release is two years away, but monster merchandising plans are already in the works. Plans are already set for Matilda, an August 6 release that will be supported by two dolls.
On the classic TV front, Scardino plans to relaunch The Partridge Family and I Dream of Jeannie among other properties. The I Dream of Jeannie campaign is timed to coincide with the theatrical version due in the fall of 1997.
A classic property like Jeannie is being branded for the long term, while the core licensing group concentrates on launching events. ‘Core licensees have a deadline,’ she says. ‘Jeannie is definitely not a rush to get to retail there’s already a strong awareness for it.’ That g’es for overseas, too, she notes. At press time, Scardino was in the process of hiring her field agents to coordinate merchandising efforts abroad.
The biggest issue Scardino faces today with any of her projects is the fight for retail space. ‘I think everybody has become more sophisticated from the licensing side and definitely the retail side,’ she says. ‘There’s only so much space and they’ve been burned before. A lot of them have scaled back their SKUs and are looking at property, whether it’s a girl property or boy property, and how long term a program it has. They want to know it’s not something that’s going to come and go in a month. It’s going to stick around. It’s our responsibility as licensor to get behind a property and support it,’ she says.
Licensing for children is tricky because ‘they get finicky very fast,’ she says. ‘If I buy licensed merchandise, it’s something I’ve liked a long time and I don’t get sick of it. I get a Jeannie T-shirt because I liked the show. With kids, they watch it, they like it, they move onto the next hot thing, which is why you have to focus on the next generation coming up,’ she says. ‘And hopefully, you’ll have something with unisex appeal, like The Lion King.’
The same rules of thumb that have applied to children’s merchandising for years continue to hold no matter how repugnant feminists find them. ‘Boys love action, they love her’es, gadgets and vehicles. Boys are boys,’ she says. ‘Girls like soft. That’s why Pocahontas girl dolls sold so well it was soft.’
That’s as far as Scardino will go in predicting the next hot children’s trend. ‘You know what? I don’t think any of us knows,’ she says. ‘Of all the things that are thrown out there, I don’t know what will hit with kids. Nobody knew the Power Rangers would hit like that.’