June 17, 2011

To Infinity, and Beyond… Your Average Branding

It’s been almost a year since virtually every college kid wept openly at the conclusion of Toy Story 3 (myself included – I have no shame here). However, Disney doesn’t plan on letting you forget Toy Story 3 anytime soon, because the loveable gang of toys is making a comeback — on the big screen.

Disney is trying a new method of brand strategy for the Toy Story franchise. Just when people — especially children — might be forgetting about Toy Story 3 a year after its release, Disney is bringing it to the public’s attention again, in the hopes that Toy Story merchandise will enjoy an increase in sales.

Cars 2 hits theaters on June 24, and careful viewers might recognize something different about Pixar’s animated short that debuts before the feature film. Instead of being the usual random, hilarious cartoon that has no connection to the actual film’s story, movie-goers will be treated with Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation, a short featuring several characters from Toy Story 3.

“Showing those shorts is a super-smart strategy for Disney,” former president of Nickelodeon Film & Television Entertainment and founder of Worldwide Biggies Albie Hecht said in an interview with Businessweek. “It’s a way to extend the characters and the brand without its fans waiting two or three years for a new movie.”

The Toy Story franchise has much to be profited from. In 2010, the merchandise franchise ranked fourth-largest of all of Disney’s merchandise lines, just behind Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and the Princess doll collection. Given the comparative novelty of Toy Story alongside the decades-old frontrunners, it’s an impressive feat.

Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys will no doubt sell for a long time, but for a quick jolt of energy to the merchandise sales, the brand consultants at Disney are making the right move. They’ve identified a problem — how can we enhance the Toy Story brand to maintain merchandise sales? — and they’ve implemented a solution in a unique way that won’t be seen as an off-putting, generic commercial, but as Pixar fulfilling its animation duties. Without even realizing it, audiences of Cars 2 will endorse the Toy Story brand simply by choosing to see a film produced by the same animation studio.

But what Disney and Pixar will always have going for them is their own namesake brand. The Toy Story franchise is a compelling and heartwarming adventure, but would not have had the same lasting power if produced by a different company. Few can rival the powerful duo’s filmmaking abilities, and that’s where the true power of their branding lies.

Contributed by Allison Meeks

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