This question recently led to a lively discussion in the Characters Engage Linkedin group.
To begin with, an American consumer product executive said that characters have to be aspirational. He explained that children need to want to be like the character, possess the things the character possesses, be the character's friend, or be able to act like the character. When characters manage to inspire such aspirations, then products based on them tend to succeed.
The producers of animated feature films often struggle when it comes to licensing, simply because their characters do not manage to evoke such aspirations, he added. Disney, on the other hand, tends to get it right. Even with great successes on their hands, they will scale back their licensing efforts to avoid wasting time, money and energy, if they think that their characters aren't aspirational enough.
A European IP developer then asked,... "would you say that this holds true for characters from the other character industries such as comics, children's books, kid's TV and games too?".
In order to answer that question, you have to add demographics and awareness, replied the consumer product executive. You can make it to the top of the NY Times Best Seller List, without having to sell great numbers of books, for example. But if you then asked the general population of the USA wether they are aware of the characters in the book, many would not be. If you tried to sell a product line on the back of such limited public awareness, chances are that your sales would not be great. Eyeball numbers matter, the executive explained.
In order to evaluate the awareness children have of characters, a subscription to "Cartoon Q", part of the "Q Score" metrics system, developed by Marketing Evaluations, Inc., (http://www.qscores.com/Web/Index.aspx) might help. "Cartoon Q" quantifies the likability, popularity, and appeal of characters.
When asked which age group was most important, when it comes to toy licenses, the executive went on to say that things are in flux where that issue is concerned. At a time when babies play with, and figure out how to operate iPads, it is becoming obvious that the world is changing. Generally speaking though, he thought that the three to six year olds were still the most important demographic, despite these changes.
The IP developer then wondered whether there can be factors outside of the "Q Score" system that can make a character toyetic, such as a highly innovative way of engaging children, for example. He also wanted to know what the reasons for the dominance of the pre-school age range were, when it comes to character based toys? Did Pester Power have a part to play in this, or do kids of other age ranges generally use less toys?
The consumer product executive said that nowadays everything is marketed according to overarching plans, rather than toys simply being cute or innovative, for example. Movies, TV shows, books, and personal appearances are all aspects of the marketing mixes that support today's character based toys. Pester Power, he thought, certainly had a part to play, given that children are almost preconditioned to want the popular characters, as a result of these marketing strategies.
If you wanted to launch your character in the marketplace, you would do some research to see what your competition might be, the executive explained. If you then find that are up against five other characters and three of those are featured in movies, one is part of a TV show and your character is not supported by any movies, books, or TV shows, which characters will retailers prefer? Even if an unsupported character is cuter or more innovative than others, it stands far less of a chance of making it.
What do you think makes characters toyetic? Join the discussion here: