Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Exploring Dora the uproar

What's the big deal about Dora growing up? She's still "sweet, wholesome and adventurous, a perfect role model..." according to Mattel and Nickelodeon execs. She's just now, well, older. And therein lies the problem.

This new "tween" Dora, which is really just an interactive doll with a USB port and some new online adventures, has really hit a negative nerve among its core target audience, according to a recent AP article. And in my opinion, justifiably so. Remember "new" Coke? Tropicana? Allowing Dora to grow up is not just a brand extension, it's a major change in brand strategy.

I'm amazed that with all of the marketing and strategy muscle behind Mattel and Nickelodeon, they failed to recognize this basic premise.

Just because parents indicated that they wanted "a way to keep Dora in their children's lives and have their daughters move on to a toy that was age appropriate" does not mean that the core property (especially one that has been so successful to date) needs a makeover. It just signals an opportunity for a brand extension. Why couldn't they just create a new character, say, with a similar strategy as Diego? Hey, now there's a novel idea.

The older Dora doesn't even look like the Dora we know and love... and that's probably the saddest part. Once they launch this toy in the fall, there's no going back. I wish they'd just give her a new name. She could be a long-lost cousin, older friend, new stepsister. Anything.

Jean-Pierre Dube, professor of marketing at the University of Chicago's graduate school of business nails it on the head: "A lot of people think of Dora as something for their small kids. And part of the reason people like Dora is because it teaches their kids to be inquisitive and curious in an educational way, because no one wants their kids to grow up fast...people really cherish and value what Dora represents, and if you start trying to license that out or extend that brand, this is a really risky thing to do," he says.

1 comment:

simon said...

It's very interesting that they would decide to risk the fantastic brand integrity they already had by chasing the potential revenue to be gained by extending it.

Would love to know more about that discussion and how they arrived at the decision to extend.