Timing is everything. And that certainly may be the case for the planned consumer products program for new preschool property Dot. Based on the picture book of the same name, penned by digital lifestyle expert Randi Zuckerberg, and the subject of a new animated TV series that will air on Sprout (US) and Kids’ CBC (Canada) this fall, the IP is built around the curious and tech-savvy Dot. as she continually navigates between tech time and real-world play time.
It’s a situation that a lot of four- to seven-year-olds find themselves in these days, and the brand’s plan for creating products and retail experiences that will help girls, in particular, become more at ease and knowledgeable with the burgeoning STEM-based world are right on trend.
The new 52 x 11-minute series Dot., produced by Toronto’s Industrial Brothers in association with The Jim Henson Company and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was born from Zuckerberg’s desire to motivate and inspire young girls to develop an early love of and appreciation for technology, math and sciences.
The show’s executive producer and CEO/founder of Zuckerberg Media says she’s most excited about seeing a world where more girls become entrepreneurs and get involved in tech companies, “and they need to see those possibilities reflected in pop culture early on.” As such, the show features the intrepid Dot. as she embarks on all sorts of adventures, developing her imagination and curiosity. In these pursuits, viewers will see her interacting with robots and 3D printers, and continually referring to her Dotipedia—the character’s own Google-like reference browser—while learning to achieve a tech-life balance.
Encouraging girls to embrace STEM and coding is certainly in the zeitgeist right now as things like coding camps are cropping up across the US, and girl-targeted construction toys such as Roominate and Goldieblox have made strides in stores.
As for her own retail vision for Dot., Zuckerberg wants to develop big in-store experiences. “Imagine what the next iteration of American Girl stores could look like,” she offers. “It’s a place where girls could come in and learn to code and interact with tech and STEM-based products—a place where it’s not just pink, ponies and princesses.”
In terms of achieving her vision, Zuckerberg is well-aware the Dot. program will have to start a bit smaller. To that end, Henson VP of global consumer products Federico SanMartin (who is handling Dot. licensing globally) says he’s looking to anchor the program with toys, apparel and publishing partners. And given the tech nature of the property, he’s also scouting key interactive categories. Ideally, the first wave of products would be ready for a retail rollout in fall 2017.
In order to drive awareness of the brand beyond the TV series, SanMartin says he’s also investigating Dot. retail pop-up shops, perhaps in tech stores that are looking to attract kids and parents. Hosting temporary Dot. coding camps are also a possibility. And because Dot. marries kids’ love of tech with their need to get outside and experience nature, outdoor toy and activity categories are a priority for Henson.
“There’s a lot of cool tech that we created specifically for Dot.,” Zuckerberg adds. “Along with the DIY and creative aspects of the show, that opens up a lot of possibilities for consumer products.”