Originally conceived as a means to breathe new life into Scholastic’s 40-year-old Big Red Dog property, it appears Clifford’s Puppy Days has a much more valuable pedigree. With the 25 x 22-minute animated series pulling in the second-highest number of preschool viewers on PBS since its September 2003 debut, Scholastic Entertainment is convinced that the little guy merits his own licensing program.
The company offered the Puppy Days license to its 85 existing Clifford licensees, encouraging them turn out new product that reflects the spin-off’s unique attributes, including the puppy’s small stature, city habitat and new cast of friends. Children’s Apparel Network (clothing), S. Goldberg (footwear) and Wormser (pajamas) have taken the torch and will roll out Puppy Days lines in April. Master toy partner Toy Island is working on a puppy care kit as its first offering, and playsets are in the pipeline. The little dog has also attracted a couple of exclusive licensees in the form of Thermos LLC (lunch kits) and North West Company (blankets), neither of which is a Clifford licensee.
But Scholastic’s senior VP of marketing and consumer products Leslye Schaefer is anxious to partner with a toyco on Puppy Days early learning toys. ‘To me, that is the most important category, and our most obvious hole,’ she says.
Retail efforts will kick off in April through Scholastic’s book fair, book clubs and website. An on-pack promotion with Lipton’s Soup Secrets is lined up for June, and Schaefer is looking for additional promo partners in the fast-food, grocery, health & beauty, travel and hotel sectors.
According to Schaefer, the Scholastic team wrestled with the possibility that the overlapping Clifford and little Clifford lines might cannibalize each other, but she believes they will live side by side. She sees the new line as a brand extension, in the way that many Disney characters have more than one line running simultaneously, and says new merch will be determined on a product-by-product basis to prevent repetition.