Usually Disney’s merchandise is so colourful it brightens the shelves that line its offices. But for its latest launch, Walt Disney and Co. (India) Pvt. Ltd has gone with a midnight blue and white line.
Harking back: From designer Manish Arora’s Disney-inspired couture collection
After all, it now targets adults and will stock products more expensive than the annual pocket money of its usual target audience of younger than 14.
The products include diamond solitaires around the ears of Mickey Mouse, its biggest brand. This is one of a range of products Disney and other companies associated with children are now bringing out for adults.
The jewellery range and a soon-to-be launched range of designer clothing is meant for women because “Disney signifies a part of her, a part she has grown up with,” says Roshini Bakshi, regional director, Disney Consumer Products India.
And Disney is not the only one seeking to grow with its consumers and tap the big-bucks nostalgia market. Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd, which owns comics brands such as Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha, now sells handmade figurines of its most popular characters including Suppandi and Shikari Shambhu costing Rs1,000 each.
Nickoleodeon, the children’s television channel of Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd, is also looking to launch adult apparel and accessories next year.
While ads make for around 80% Nickoleodeon’s revenues, and revenues from merchandise are negligible here, children’s brands are going after adults because internationally, merchandise provides as much revenue as ads.
Also, with organized retail booming over the last few years, these brands now see potential for growth.
“We are very optimistic about the market,” says Sandeep Dahiya, associate vice president, consumer products, Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. “The exploding organized retail environment makes it a viable business option today.
Five years ago, you would only find branded merchandise in the grey market or cheap knock-offs on the street.”
And companies are not just finding the market ready for mass market products such as paper cups and school bags, but are also exploring the possibility of finding a market for premium products aimed at adults. Internationally, Nickoleodeon’s popular animated character SpongeBob SquarePants, who lives in a pineapple under the sea, made headlines when luxury products company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey created a bag with SpongeBob’s images on a screen on it.
Another hit was the Dolce and Gabbana-designed $1,400 sequined Minnie Mouse T-shirt.
In India, too, these companies believe that adult merchandise can sell because as many 50% young readers parents read Tinkle comic books with them. Nickoleodeon, too, says 22% parents watch the channel along with their children in Hindi-speaking markets, and are familiar with the characters.
So, when Amar Chitra Katha launched merchandise sale early this year, it chose figurines that are aimed as collectibles for adults. “It is a statement of individualism and Indianess,” says Samir Patil, chief executive of the 40-year-old company. It will also launch personalized merchandise in a few weeks, which will include adult size T-shirts.
In August, designer Manish Arora will launch a limited edition range of clothing sporting glittery Disney characters, which will cost $200 and above.
One of the reasons the companies are bringing out limited-edition ranges is to test whether the market is ready for a broader range of cartoon character-inspired adult merchandise. Disney is looking to launch a range of ready-to-wear range of Manish Arora’s collection after the couture collection.
A team of Nickoleodeon’s executives wore SpongeBob T-shirts at the Mumbai marathon and fielded several queries on when these would be available in the market, but the team is moving cautiously. “With children, affinity and fondness for the character is enough to drive sales,” says Viacom’s Dahiya. “For adults, it is largely attitudinal and we are getting there.”
But Santosh Desai, chief executive of Future Brands, says that Indian adults may be too grown-up for cartoon merchandise. “Unlike more mature markets such as US and Japan, there is a huge block against any representational form that is childlike. There is a block to such an extent that most Indian adults have historically felt guilty about indulging in tasty, happy foods such as chocolates and ice-cream because of its strong association with children.”