The new Power Rangers Ninja Storm ice cream lolly epitomises a tactic that that is becoming commonplace in kids marketing – character branding. While the tactic has benefits, not least in creating much sought after ‘playground currency’, there are some negative implications to consider.

Marketed with the aspirational strapline “Ice cream for heroes”, the Ninja Storm lolly consists of whole chocolate pieces coated in a sugar shell, which are then set in vanilla ice cream with crispy pieces on the outside. With a launch date set for April, the Power Rangers brand is clearly seeking to develop consumer interest before the key summer months when ice lolly sales peak.

Advertising and promotion will be done in partnership with Fox Kids. Supporting advertising slots will seek to create a more interactive approach by encouraging children to visit the station’s website to take part in an online competition centred on the product. There will also be a dedicated microsite introduced towards autumn as well as press activity in Fox Kids’ magazines and in-store marketing.

Successful character-based marketing can deliver a faithful following of younger buyers because of their attachment to such brand icons. As soon as a child sees a character they are often clued into the fact that this product has something to do with them, and that they should have a say in its purchase.

However, the explosion of kids TV channels and other dedicated media has also broadened the character marketplace for kids over the last decade. Coupled with this there has been a proliferation of licensed merchandising and character-based promotions. The end result is a vast array of characters competing against each other in shops.

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The move also comes at a time when the marketing of food products to children has come under increased scrutiny from both governments and consumer groups across Europe and North America. Concurrently, there is evidence suggesting parents find character branding to be ‘gimmicky’; something that helps camouflage poor nutritional content of products.

Finally, it is important to remember that kids increasingly seek products that reflect their maturity aspirations. The danger with using characters is that it will further alienate older kids who are seeking brand choices with a more sophisticated and mature positioning.

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