Finding a character that rings cool with teens does not always mean tying in to a teen movie or series, says Doug Gleason, senior VP of worldwide sales and marketing for MGM Consumer Products. The studio’s hottest youth-oriented licensing campaign this year is centered around The Pink Panther, with junior clothing lines, accessories and school supplies launching in September. The product lineup is not hinged on a new animated entertainment hook-the only feature release on the horizon is a live-action Pink Panther movie tentatively slated for release sometime in 2000, and the gear is not directly linked to the Pink Panther cartoon series that airs intermittently on Cartoon Network. The campaign attracts teens solely with the cool quotient of the panther himself, who is pegged as the ultimate hipster, with a retro `60s flair that taps into the rebirth of the martini lounge, flower power and the success of films like Austin Powers.
Entitled ‘The Color of Cool,’ the September campaign has signed up youth retailers like Wet Seal, Hot Topic, Rampage and Gadzooks for the Juniors fashion program. As well, mass outlets Wal-Mart, Target and JC Penney will tout certain lines of apparel, accessories and gifts, and high-enders Barney’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Macy’s will shelve the Nicole Miller line of young women’s silk scarves and other accessories.
As is the case with many marketing pushes aimed at teens, care is taken to avoid over-commercializing the character for fear of turning the hype-wary youth audience off. ‘We look at creative that appeals to this audience and what kinds of products teens buy, versus licensing everything,’ says Gleason. Product lines reflect this close scrutiny of teen buying habits. For instance, Norcom’s school supplies include faux pink fur and are all designed to be fun and funky. Top licensees Nicole Miller, Winterland, Vandor, Fossil and Exquisite followed suit with up-to-the-second products designed to tap into pop culture trends. For instance, Exquisite’s line of boxers targets not only males, but teen girls who wear them around the house.
How does MGM plan to reach the elusive teen demo with no TV series or flick to heighten exposure for the campaign? ‘Teens are very heavily into the Internet,’ says Gleason, noting that the Pink Panther Web site relaunched on August 1. In keeping with teen aversion to over-selling, the site will emphasize image rather than e-tailing. Major print ads that will appear in youth and music mags like Teen People, Jump, Vibe, Spin and Details in October and November will refer readers to the Web site, and highlight the character rather than photos of the product. ‘You have to almost trick teens,’ Gleason notes. ‘They don’t like being marketed to.’
A free Hotstamp postcard line is also being used as a guerilla marketing vehicle ‘to get him out there’ says Gleason, and the cards are the company’s hottest-moving postcard this year.
Trendsetting tie-ins are also in the pink. MGM is running a promotion with Chupa Chups through September featuring Pink Panther and Color of Cool designs on the lollipops. The promo also includes 24 different collectible stickers, plus a sweepstakes in which teens can win a ‘crib’ consisting of an iMac computer, TV, VCR, stereo, beanbag chair, lava lamp, spending cash and more.