Filmmakers and broadcasters in India have realised the potential of making good quality films and programmes for children. Popularising entertainment for kids is being done not just by aggressive advertising, but also by constantly churning out innovative ideas for promoting creativity that will immediately enchant children.
To make the most of the popular shows and films and to connect with the kids at a more personal level, entertainers have embraced the merchandising route. Not only can we see the obvious merchandise, but also very creatively stimulating on-ground connect.
Realising the important role of innovative marketing had Hollywood films like ‘Spiderman’, ‘Shrek’, ‘Star Wars’, and ‘Harry Potter’ being popularised through merchandising products based on the films. India, which is not an aggressive player in this space, is fast catching up with this part of media marketing.
Aware of the potential strength of merchandise to promote programmes, Cartoon Network had introduced merchandise around its properties such as Dexter and Powerpuff Girls, earlier this year.
Now they have taken a step further and announced the Cartoon Network Birthday blast initiative, where kids can call and demand to throw a theme party, which costs around Rs 13,000 for 30 people. The customised theme package includes games, return gifts, songs, an emcee and the cake.
In addition, to capturing the popularity of Beyblade, the channel will also release games and puzzles. Even POGO’s popular show, MAD, has seen itself in the merchandise market with home videos. Cartoon Network has tied up with ITC Foods for mega promotions for Diwali.
Recently, Percept Picture Company (PPC) launched a range of items around the adorable baby Hanuman character prior to the release of India’s first 2-D animation film, ‘Hanuman’. The merchandise items include pencil sharpeners, parachutes, key chains, fun boxes, fun springs, wind chimes, puzzles, facemasks, and maces (gadda).
Elaborating on the merchandise craze, Manas Malhotra, Manager, Marketing, PPC, said, “Merchandising these products ensures that the character lives even after the film is no longer running in the theatres.” Malhotra, however, believed that the merchandise had to be usable.
Mahesh Ramanathan, COO, PPC, is very excited about this activity. “Merchandising of Hanuman items for us is an activity independent from the film and other extensions. We are trying to experiment with the Hollywood studio model, wherein the buzz for and sale of the merchandise in some cases is more than that of the film itself, and starts well before the release of the film,” he said.
“However, we are timing the release of the merchandise with the release of the film and plan to carry out the promotions and sales well beyond the life of the film. We are sure the merchandise items based on the baby Hanuman character will be a tremendous success,” Ramanathan asserted.
The ‘Hanuman’ merchandise is being sold in leading toy stores and theatres across India. Though film-based merchandising is not a very popular concept in India, PPC’s effort to innovatively market ‘Hanuman’ has caught the attention of children during their interaction with these products at preview screenings.
Walt Disney International (India) Pvt Ltd has also launched merchandise around its Disney Princess property. Disney licensee Funskool (I) Ltd launched the Disney Princess dolls and Role Play range in August this year.
The Disney Princess brand has been a rage and has received a great response from the consumers as all the princesses such as Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Pocahontas and Mulan are very popular with children, parents and teachers.
“The Role Play range has achieved the status of being sold out in just 45 days. Further, the launch of the dolls was supported by a 360-degree activity from Disney. A retail event at one of the key retail outlets involving creating a Disney Princess world with six princesses with their castles was a big hit. This activity was also supported by TV promos and created excitement around the franchise. This is a long-term property and will be continuously supported by Disney and Funskool going forward,” expressed Rajat Jain, MD, The Walt Disney Company (India).
As for the other Disney properties being merchandised on such a large scale, Jain added, “Currently, we are focused on enhancing the consumer experience of Disney Princess range of products, which is a $3 billion property worldwide. Going forward, we will continue to explore innovative ways to launch and promote other properties in response to the tastes and preferences of our target group in India.”
Another instance is that of Ultra Movie Channel Ltd, which tied up with Kiddinx Merchandising GmbH, Germany to market Benjamin in India, wherein Ultra will have the merchandising rights for all Benjamin characters for India like stationery, toys, games, consumer durables, ceramics, apparels, furnishings, gifting items, greeting cards, party products, etc.
Mattel Toys (India) Pvt Ltd is also one of the leading companies that merchandise its toys through partnerships with leading entertainment properties like He Man, Batman, Justice League, and Harry Potter. Its innovative range of products includes action figures, playsets, board games, role-play, card games, vehicles and track sets.
Sanjay Luthra, MD, Mattel Toys, said, “Mattel has successfully expanded its presence to categories like apparel, publishing, back to school, party products, electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, interactive, VCD/DVDs, and music with Barbie, thus making Barbie the No. 1 lifestyle fashion brand for girls with a $3.6 billion turnover at retail.”
Mattel’s Hot Wheels has expanded into merchandising with apparel, sports, back to school in several parts of the world. These categories are scheduled for launch in India later this year.
With a dedicated focus on merchandising as a way to popularise and effectively market entertainment, it shouldn’t be long before India is seen as a serious player in the merchandising space.