Lethargic Japanese panda poised to become British teen

Property: TarePanda
October 1, 2001

Property: TarePanda

Licensor: The Copyrights Group

Description: Created in 1995 by designer Hikaru Suemasa for Japanese stationery company San-X. From lowly beginnings as a sticker design, this graphic property now boasts over 60 licensees in Japan. TarePanda is represented in South East Asia by Hong Kong-based RM Enterprises, which has amassed more than 50 licensees in the region.

Concept: Translated from its native Japanese, the term TarePanda means ‘lazy panda’–and that’s just what this asexual little panda is. TarePanda has the ability to morph into anything (think Barbapapa) and thrives on a diet of suama, an old-fashioned Japanese candy.

Demo: Teens 16 and up

The latest: At press time, the ink was still wet on TarePanda’s first British license–a deal The Copyrights Group penned with U.K. licensee Euromark, which will release a line of mobile phone accessories and computer accessories as early as next summer.

Potential: Already a tween market success story in Japan, TarePanda seems ripe to develop a cult following in international markets as well. However, The Copyrights Group will target a decidedly older demo in phase one of the U.K. licensing program.

‘We think we need to start off a little bit older, and then we can always shift the target demo down later on,’ says Karen Addison, licensing director for The Copyrights Group. ‘If you start young, you can’t come back up to teen, so we want to try it at 16-plus–middle to upper market–as a launch pad.’

Phase one product categories include apparel and accessories, interactive toys, electronic games, stationery and collectibles, with a trade launch expected in spring 2002. Possible extensions for spring 2003 include publishing, confectionery, toiletries and ceramics, as well as additional apparel and collectible categories.

Once TarePanda snares a teen following, The Copyrights Group will attempt to establish the property as an aspirational brand for the 11 to 15 set. And since TCG is already contemplating a baby TarePanda line (2005/2006), Addison is looking for adventurous licensees. ‘We need companies that are not frightened to be ahead of the game, even though it’s difficult in this market to predict what retailers are going to want in the future,’ she says.

Retail strategy for TarePanda will focus on trendy High Street retailers like Miss Selfridge, Top Shop and La Senza, as well as specialty outlets like Electronics Boutique. Mail order outlets will also be a target, with mass multiples like W.H. Smith and Marks & Spencer as a future focus. ‘We want to try and get this established as a desirable, aspirational product that hasn’t quite gotten down to the supermarket level,’ says Addison.

To get the word out, The Copyrights Group will hit teens where they hang out the most–on-line–sending out screensavers as part of a viral marketing campaign. ‘We’re hoping that teens will pass these screensavers along to their friends so we’ll get an underground, cult-like buzz around the property, as opposed to doing it via the same traditional, boring channels.’

With Copyrights divisions in place in North America (Copyrights at United Media) and Australia (Copyrights Australasia), these two territories are the next logical destinations for TarePanda. The Copyrights Group will work through sub-agents in European markets, but no firm plans are in place yet for Latin America.

Market reality check: While Japanese properties generally translate well in Latin American crossover, executives of EXIM Licensing Group say that success in the territory is typically tied to TV series and feature film entrée.

‘Graphic properties are not easy to negotiate because most of our local clients are only interested in licensing what kids watch on TV,’ says EXIM Venezuela director Johnny Descamps. Offering TLC a glimmer of hope, Descamps cites the 20-year reign of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty as one notable exception.

Aldo Mizrahi, director of EXIM Mexico, concurs, and both execs agree that TLC’s launch strategy and demo positioning will have to be altered before considering entry into Latin America. ‘I would definitely not follow the promotional strategy since a very small percentage of the population in Latin America has Internet access,’ says Mizrahi, claiming that a property of this nature could meet with success if it was launched with a strong promotional partner such as Frito-Lay.

Both Mizrahi and Descamps see TarePanda as better suited to a younger target demo, with Descamps narrowing the focus to kids five to 10. Where the pair diverge in opinion is regarding categories they would or would not pursue as hypothetical TarePanda agents. Mizrahi would look to sign licensees in toys, board games/puzzles, apparel, toiletries, accessories, gifts and novelty, housewares, publishing, back to school, stationery, party goods and promotions, claiming that TarePanda would not likely be strong in video, magazines, bedding/linens and food/beverages. Decamps would limit potential licensees to bedding/linens, stationery and paper goods.

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