October 07, 2015

Would you like a Minion Tic Tac? The Strategy of Brand and Consumer Product Tie-ins

This morning, my 2-year-old son asked for his milk in a “Toy Story” cup, after requesting last night that I serve him “Minions” applesauce as he ate dinner on his “Cars” plate.

Now, this is either a testament to how demanding toddlers can be, or (and for the purpose of this branding-focused blog, this is the path we’re going to take) a testament to the success brands have when creating ties with everyday products.

We’ve all seen the examples – everything from book bags and lunch boxes to toothbrushes and food items can be (and have been) branded in some way. For brands, it is an established way to get their brand strategy elements directly connected with their consumer audience. Even more desirable is when the consumers begin to associate that particular item with that brand, as seen by my son’s descriptions of his requested items.

One of the most successful examples in recent memory is the aforementioned “Minions” brand tie-in with products across the consumer spectrum. Inminions-tic-tacs-600 advance of the releases of both “Despicable Me 2” and their own “Minions” feature film, Universal Pictures took the chance to establish relationships with consumer brands that would spread the Minions to all corners of the consumer universe.

Partnering with brands such as Bounty, McDonald’s, Mott’s (the applesauce to which my son now only wants if there are Minions on the packaging), Chiquita – where it stuck Minion-themed stickers on over 500 million bananas – and many others, Universal has spent nearly $600 million in publicity, which is almost as impressive as the $593 million in ads and promotions delivered by these branding partners.

The yellow, goggled, gibberish-speaking characters have become an immensely powerful and popular brand extension for both Universal and their movie franchise – in fact, they’ve become a recognizable brand all their own. Not to mention, their namesake movie is on track to break the $1 billion mark in global sales, a number that undoubtedly owes some of its success to the overall branding efforts.

If there is one aspect of brand/product connection that can signal long-term brand success, it’s when the impact goes beyond the intended event.

For instance, the movie “Cars” was released almost 10 years ago (I couldn’t believe it’s been that long either), but its products still pepper the shelves 2724056583477of toy stores and supermarkets today. Even kids who were years away from being born when the world was first introduced to Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater can recognize their characters immediately – all thanks to the existence of a successful brand/product relationship.

Not all relationships have these types of results, and the main reason for this is that they were disadvantaged by a weak initial brand. It’s not enough to create a brand strategy and associated brand elements and immediately put them on millions of cereal boxes and t-shirts – there must be a brand building period prior to the initial connection to give the products something to make them stand out.

Not to mention, the brand must be able to stand on its own, providing a positive connotation by association to the products. Much of the success of “Toy Story”-related products comes from the fact that the movies found widespread critical and audience acclaim, and gave us a set of timeless characters to which the products could focus upon. If the initial movie had bombed at the box office, it’s doubtful that Buzz Lightyear Halloween costumes would be seen trick-or-treating around the country.

So next time your child runs up to you in the store grasping a Mickey Mouse shampoo bottle or goes to sleep on their “Frozen” bed sheets, take the time to appreciate the branding efforts that went into making these connections and products possible.

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Addison Whitney is a global branding firm with a passion for building strong brands.
To learn more about Addison Whitney, visit our website at AddisonWhitney.com, or contact us here.

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