Gaumont Multimedia seems to have been caught under the brand-building spell in developing the licensing program for its latest animated kids property, The Magician.
The Paris, France-based animation house that brought Space Goofs to life is using a subbranding strategy to market merchandise based on the new series about a superhero who uses the black arts in the name of good to foil nogoodnik magician Black Jack. The program appeals to the action-adventure play patterns of boys age six to 12.
Each of the four subbrands-Magic Palace, Magic Air, Magic Sports and Magic College-will transport a recurring theme from the show into product form, says Olivier Guillet, VP of marketing and licensing at Gaumont. Magic Palace will include activity sets and games that allow kids to put on magic shows; Magic Air will cover outdoor games, which use magic to teach kids how they can positively affect their environment; Magic College will include categories such as books and educational toys; and Magic Sports will contain sports accessory and apparel lines featuring Magician logos and iconography.
The reason for using the subbranding strategy is to create a strong brand that will borrow elements from the show, but not depend on it for its long-term success, says Guillet.
This kind of aggressive approach to licensing marks a departure for Gaumont, forcing its licensing and production departments to work more closely at an earlier stage in a property’s development. Unlike with past projects, Guillet began looking at scripts and story synopses for The Magician as it was going into production last December, and discussed what he needed to take out of the series, ‘so that I could build a brand.’
‘I needed to understand the values the show was based on,’ says Guillet. ‘The main value I found was the positive use of magic.’
Guillet and Gaumont will find out soon enough if kids feel the magic; The Magician begins airing in the fall in France on France3, and in Germany on ProSieben. The two channels, along with France 2, are co-producing the project. Gaumont has yet to land a U.S. distributor.
So far, Gaumont Multimedia has signed up Giochi Preziosi as the master toy licensee for the territories outside of the U.S. The toy line for The Magician should be hitting stores in France and Germany in January 1999, with the rest of the product arriving at retail there sometime in the spring.
With only one licensee on board as of this July, Gaumont doesn’t have a lot of time to assemble its ambitious licensing program. But Guillet disagrees, adding that the nature of the kids entertainment business requires licensors to make a major statement in the marketplace right off the bat.
‘In the past, in France, licensors would present the series, and they were happy when a manufacturer would use the logo of its show on a product. That would be the extent of their involvement, though. They would not work closely with licensees to create new products. . .I believe this way of doing business is over. There are too many properties out there. The only ones that work have real identities, and they are the ones that are managed like brands.’