As society’s obsession with owning the latest cutting-edge consumer electronics gear trickles down the age scale to infect younger and younger kids, Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products is moving some of its blockbuster brands into this product sphere through a multi-year licensing deal that’s just about ready to bear fruit. And judging from the first line out of the gate, Oakdale, Minnesota’s Imation seems to be striking exactly the right balance between character-intrinsic design and killer apps.
‘Kids consider their iPods and cell phones to be just as toyetic as dolls and plush,’ says Sherice Torres, NVCP’s SVP of hard goods. ‘They don’t want dumbed-down versions of MP3 players; they want the real thing that their parents or big brothers and sisters have.’
That kid demand for gadgets that exude both playability and functionality is at the epicenter of Imation’s Npower line of user-friendly licensed digital imaging (digital cameras, digital picture frames), audio technology (MP3 and multimedia players) and traditional consumer electronics (TVs, DVD players). The product range is due to hit specialty and mass next month, the plan being to sell them into the electronics section of big-boxers, rather than risk getting lost on crowded, colorful toy shelves.
SKUs based around SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Diego and The Naked Brothers Band take on key characteristics of the properties. So the SpongeBob alarm clock, for example, has a soft yellow-and-brown exterior casing to mimic the porous icon’s body and pants, and when the foghorn goes off, he pops right out of the clock. To catch another nine minutes of shut-eye, you simply smack him back down. Another example of this be-the-character R&D approach can be found in the canteen-shaped Dora and Diego portable CD players, with twist-cap tops that are the controllers and a camouflage-print shoulder-strap to complete the look.
Prices for the line’s products range between US$21.99 and US$249.99, which may seem steep to some budget-conscious parents. But it’s important to remember that the Npower products aren’t toys, says Melanie Summers, senior director of toy and electronics at NVCP; they’re real consumer electronics with much higher-end materials and finishes.
Torres says that this lead line is just the tip of the iceberg for NVCP in the consumer electronics category, and the company plans to work with Imation to expand the range to include more products and property licenses, but always with a heavy focus on unique product design. The manufacturer seems well-positioned to handle the extra business, having recently bought Memcorp Electronics.