T he licensing industry’s hard-hitters are finally glomming onto a girl market truth upon which graphic design studios have built their booming brand businesses over the past few years: unlike boys, girls do not require entertainment as a property driver.
Sure, TV and feature film exposure boost a property’s profile, but give a girl visually appealing brands and trend-right product (refreshed for each season), and she’ll open her Hello Kitty coin purse, TV or no TV. The simple fact is, licensing to girls is less about the property and more about the product. Take a hot TV series that’s hitting its girl numbers, for instance. Get it wrong on the product side, and suddenly your property becomes a tough sell with retail buyers.
The entry password to the girl market goldmine has always been ‘know thy target demo,’ but Licensing Show 2002 saw Mattel digging a bit deeper for girl brand Barbie. Recognizing a pronounced demo split and licensing along the new brand lines that schism has created, Barbie Consumer Products has effectively created two sub-brands under the Barbie umbrella.
For the three to five set (which plays openly with the doll), Barbie is all about the power of pink. Product from licensees like Ero (ballerina slumber bag), Pyramid (rolling backpack) and KIDdesigns (pretend cell phone) taps into preschool demand for fantasy and role-play and features the Barbie doll image prominently. Meanwhile, girls ages five to eight have moved beyond playing with Barbie to wanting to live in her world, so the older girl program (featuring logos, silhouettes and Barbie as a hip graphic character) emphasizes beauty, fashion color palettes and girl power.
Of course, Barbie is fast becoming a direct-to-video entertainment brand as well, but Mattel is using this new brand dimension to reinforce core messages of empowerment and pursuing individual interests. To wit: in the second DTV release Barbie as Rapunzel, Barbie does not rely on a prince to rescue her from her tower, but frees herself using the power of her art.
Even Disney Consumer Products–which has traditionally eschewed Licensing Show booth presence–gave its nod to lifestyle brand development by exhibiting new girl-skewing line Disney’s Princesses at last month’s show. Corralling empowered Disney heroines such as Ariel, Jasmine and Belle under one umbrella, Disney is licensing the brand to lifestyle categories, with a focus on room décor.
And while entertainment applications have been a property prerequisite for many licensees in the past, strategies are currently shifting in deference to girl market realities. Bandai America–previously focused on entertainment-driven properties like recent pick-up Strawberry Shortcake–is now actively looking for lifestyle brands to round out its girl portfolio, as the toyco’s director of marketing Colleen Sherfey told KidScreen at the show.
If that glimmer of girl market reconnaissance left you wanting more, watch for KidScreen’s Licensing to Girls, our second annual international licensing supplement slated for November/December 2002.