Property: The Care Bears
Licensor: The Joester Loria Group
Description: Introduced in 1982 by Those Characters From Cleveland (a division of greeting card conglom American Greetings), The Care Bears quickly outgrew their greeting card status, branching out into toys, two separate TV series and three feature films. With merch sales in excess of US$1.5 billion, the property became the caring engine that could, chugging its way to icon status throughout the 1980s.
Concept: With names that match their personalities–ranging from True Heart to Cheer to Grumpy–the Care Bears hail from the cloud-bound world of Care-a-lot. When the Nelvana-produced series The Care Bear Family debuted in 1986, the Care Bear crew expanded to include the Care Bear Cousins, a collection of big-hearted animals–bearing monikers such as Brave Heart the Lion and Lots-A-Heart Elephant–that dwell in the Forest of Feelings.
Demo: preschool, tweens
The latest: The Joester Loria Group announced its representation of the property on October 3, and was in discussions with licensees at press time for two separate programs. Targeting kids, Joester Loria is looking for licensees in the categories of master toy, interactive and domestics, while the first phase of the tween program will concentrate on gift/specialty, plush, fashion accessories and footwear. The first wave of licensee announcements is expected as early as this month.
Potential: While The Joester Loria Group only recently signed on as agent for Care Bears, the property’s relaunch began a few years ago, when manufacturers recognizing the appeal of ’80s nostalgia among tweens began reaching out to property owners such as American Greetings.
When JLG came on board, the property had three active licensees: Wish Licensing (junior tops), Fun 4 All (gift plush) and Kalan (trend novelty and school product), with specialty retailers including Hot Topic, Spencer Gifts, Claire’s and Aaahs carrying Care Bear product.
Since many nostalgic properties are resonating with today’s tweens, what sets Care Bears apart? According to Debra Joester, JLG’s president and CEO, ‘There’s a variety with Care Bears that some of these nostalgia properties don’t have.’ The Care Bears program will initially focus on key Care Bears from the original lineup, and as the program expands over the next couple of years, additional characters will be added. ‘And there’s no reason not to add new Care Bears,’ muses Joester. ‘One of the great things about Care Bears is that it gives you a fair amount of flexibility.’
The property also provides a fair amount of demo reach. Next year, the program will focus on building out the tween market with girl-targeted product including costume jewelry, room décor, watches, clocks and school supplies. Product geared to a younger–and gender-neutral–age segment will debut in Q4 2002. ‘Our plan is to introduce the program with a TV-promoted line of toys and have a broad range of merchandise that will give us an enormous statement in the retail environment,’ says Joester. American Greetings will promote the line on its website and through its bookstore channels.
While some of the original videos are being repackaged–with Wal-Mart citing Care Bears as a top seller in its new packaging–and plans are in place to develop new DTV titles in the next year and beyond, a revamped TV series isn’t necessarily in the cards. ‘We don’t think that not having television is a particular negative,’ says Joester, pointing to Gullane’s Thomas the Tank Engine property as a notable example. ‘When Thomas came off of PBS and began a direct-to-video program, merchandise sales skyrocketed–it’s doing better now than when it was on TV.’
Asked whether infants will become part of the program’s demo strategy in the future, Joester claims that the property certainly has potential as an evergreen infant/toddler brand, but an infant-specific program was still under evaluation at press time.
For now, JLG’s attention is on the age group that purchased much of the original product–toddlers and children. And since the agency has global rights to the property, JLG will be concentrating its efforts on territories that enjoyed the most success with the original program, including the U.K., Australia, Germany, Spain, France and Italy.
Market reality check: ‘In a risk-averse retail market where caution is the watchword, manufacturers and retailers have turned to the classics and neo-classics of the ’70s and ’80s for their licensed initiatives in 2001 and 2002,’ muses John Knox, head of licensing and merchandising for London-based Loonland Merchandising UK. An established trend in the U.K.–with homegrown properties Bagpuss, Rainbow, Magic Roundabout and Noddy all enjoying licensed revivals–market doors are wide open for a Care Bears entrée in 2002.
Knox points to the property’s near 20-year history of international recognition across all media and built-in parental approbation stemming from their Care Bears experience in the ’80s as factors ensuring the property’s success. ‘Whilst the absence of current television programming will make it more difficult to access a new generation of little girls not previously exposed to the property, the very fact that those same girls’ mothers grew up with the property ensures that Care Bears will work again at retail,’ says Knox.
Indeed, the only thing missing from JLG’s proposed program, says Knox, is product actively targeting women in their late ’20s and early ’30s who knew and loved the Care Bears, since ‘all things cuddly and loveable still have massive appeal to an older audience.’