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The Appeal Behind the Top $100+ Million Brands

The top $100 million entertainment/character brands aren’t equal when it comes to consumer engagement, awareness, and appeal.

According to E-Poll Market Research’s E-Score character survey for adults aged 13–49, while most of the top-selling properties on our list have what we could consider “universal appeal” across all age groups, some don’t. Using their data, we’ve compiled a list of brands from the +$100 million list that have considerable room to grow, at least in some product categories, below.

Note that the list below isn’t complete—44 entertainment/character properties made our latest list of brands that generated over $100 million in retail sales of licensed merchandise in the U.S. and Canada. Those brands accounted for a total of $41 billion in sales worldwide in 2015. See the full list here and the full story behind their growth here.

A high awareness and appeal score would suggest that a property has multi-generational appeal, and therefore that it is more likely to succeed on shelves. Potential consumers include not only children, but the adults in their lives. Brands can target this demographic through adult-oriented consumer goods like fashion apparel and collectibles, but also through child- and infant-oriented goods.

The top three brands on the list—also the only properties to clear $1 billion in the U.S./Canada alone—are indicative of the trend. Mickey Mouse, for example, generated a 72% awareness and 62% appeal score. For the purposes of our own analysis, TLL merged the E-Poll’s data for the Mickey Mouse and Mickey & Friends character brands. Interestingly, the characters of Mickey & Friends had lower name awareness (just 25%) but the same appeal as the titular mouse alone.

Brands like Skylanders and Minecraft have relatively low combined name and image awareness for older consumers, at just 4% and 13%, respectively. These properties’ performance is largely reliant on kids’ efforts (presumably, in pressuring parents to buy a toy). For example, E-Score’s appeal score amongst younger children (6–12 years-old) for Minecraft is 83%, compared to 34% for adults. Interestingly, the two brands also have some of the highest scores on the list for negative appeal (respondants indicating “dislike” or “dislike a lot”); 28% of adults reacted negatively to Skylanders and 18% to Minecraft. Why? E-Poll identified that the two brands share one unique attribute—”boring.” (For the 6–12 year-old group, only 5% and 6% react negatively to Skylanders and Minecraft, respectively.)

The most universally well-liked brand? Monsters University, boasting a mere 1% negative versus 75% positive appeal. Compared to the average awareness score accross all brands E-Poll tracks (21%), the brand is relatively well-known at 32%.

E-Poll also asks whether respondants would like to see more of a brand in their lives, based on their current level of engagement. The numbers can be read to imply a consumer is looking forward to a new toy release as well as expressing interest in buying a toy already at market.

The data has some surprises. While we might have expected the top two brands (Avengers at 47% interest and Star Wars at 39%, overall) to show up near the top based on their growth in retail sales, the rest of the top five is rounded out by older properties whose licensing programs have slowed down like Looney Tunes (38% interest), Peanuts (30%), and Monsters University (29%).

The fastest-growing properties in 2015—not counting the three new additions to the list—were Minions (93% growth in licensed retail sales), Avengers (54%), Minecraft (32%), Star Wars (23%), and WWE (22%, not included below due to unavailable data). These properties generally rank higher in interest thanks to recent expansions in content (films and TV shows) as well as merchandise (toy and apparel lines).

But other brands like Looney Toons (1% growth; 38% interest) and Monster University (-51% growth; 29% interest) tell a different story. It could be that as licensors have scaled back their programs, consumers have grown nostalgic for merchandise. Alternatively, the interest might not correlate directly into increased licensed sales—consumers might be more interested in seeing their favorite characters on TV than on a toothbrush. One thing is clear—these brands are not one-hit wonders, but here to stay.

On the other hand, sometimes things are just as they appear. For example, retail sales for licensed Dora & Friends consumer products contracted 2% in 2015, just 7% of E-Poll respondants are interested in seeing more, and a whopping 18% exhibited negative appeal towards the character brand.

Low interest may simply be a gauge of oversaturation. Consumers aren’t interested in more Dora, Skylanders, or Thomas & Friends merchandise and content because they already have it. In predicting the success of a licensed program, this might hint at flat or slightly decreased growth in retail sales. Indeed, the lowest entries on the list have programs which have steadily contracted over the years.

The brands with the most interest in toys or action figures are Doc McStuffins (47%), the Avengers (46%), and Batman (41%). The Avengers leads for interest in a video game at 57%, followed by Batman and Star Wars with 50% each. The order is the same for interest in clothing with the Avengers leading at 45% interest, followed by Batman and Star Wars at 43% each.

Top $100+ Million Brands, by Ages 13–49 Who "Would Like to See More"
Notes: WWE data not available. N/A=Not available.
*Score calculated from a 'Real' representation of the character; e.g. a still image from a live-action rather than an animated film.
**Character score average data compiled from 2,250+ character brands (E-Score). Average rate in growth of licensed retail sales based on 44 properties in the $100+ million brand list (TLL).
[1] Average of character scores for 'Real' and 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'.
[2] Average of character scores for 'Lightning McQueen' and 'Mater'.
[3] Average of character scores for 'Mickey & Friends' and 'Mickey Mouse'.
Data Source: E-Score Character brand poll; conducted monthly among a representative sample of 1,500 respondents ages 13–49. E-Poll Market Research.
RankProperty Would Like to See MoreInterest in TV Show Interest in Toy or Action Figure Interest in Video Game Interest in Clothing Growth in Retail Sales, 2014–2015
2Star Wars 39%50%40%50%43%23%
3Looney Tunes 38%63%37%41%41%1%
4Peanuts 30%57%31%27%38%16%
5Monsters University 29%48%33%37%35%-51%
6Despicable Me/Minions28%46%37%34%36%93%
6Scooby-Doo 28%57%34%39%38%N/A
8Spider-Man* [1]26%53%38%47%39%3%
9Winnie the Pooh 25%49%34%25%37%1%
10Disney Princesses 23%44%35%31%36%2%
11Sesame Street 22%47%31%25%31%-4%
11Transformers 22%47%43%43%30%4%
11Disney Cars [2]22%44%37%36%31%-65%
11Doc McStuffins 22%53%47%31%41%2%
12Mickey & Friends [3]20%46%34%33%41%-2%
12Frozen 20%39%28%27%30%13%
13Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 18%47%34%42%36%-1%
13Minecraft 18%25%30%50%33%32%
14SpongeBob SquarePants 17%45%27%31%28%18%
14Monster High 17%37%30%28%26%-24%
15Power Rangers 15%37%26%29%23%1%
16Hello Kitty 13%26%29%18%31%-2%
16My Little Pony 13%33%28%22%28%8%
17Angry Birds 11%26%24%39%22%-19%
18Thomas & Friends 10%38%35%20%26%2%
18Skylanders 10%35%31%42%23%-6%
19Dora & Friends 7%32%22%22%21%-2%
Overall Average**30%50%31%36%31%3%


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