We chat to American Greeting’s Janice Ross about the success of the 35 year old brand.
It takes a truly special brand to remain relevant and engaging 35 years on.
Care Bears is one which appears to have hit on the magic formula – celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2017, American Greetings Entertainment (and its UK agency CPLG) has tapped into the emotional connection the brand enjoys with all age groups, and has tailored its content and product accordingly.
Indeed, as Janice Ross, head of global licensing at AGE, explains, the brand is “truly multi-generational”.
“Care Bears are truly multigenerational – from babies, toddlers, teens and young adults all the way to parents and grandparents – and we have content and product that speaks to all ages,” says Janice.
“From the Netflix Original Series Care Bears and Cousins for the younger generation to classic Care Bears content for nostalgic fans, there are Care Bears for all ages.”
The Netflix series has been key to helping the brand connect with a younger audience, offering a new look, feel and storylines. Meanwhile, the toys have also been given a similar makeover – Janice says that the plush is “softer and more huggable than ever” – while the brand’s digital footprint spans from content on YouTube to apps for babies, toddlers and adults.
The licensing programme for Care Bears is, as you might expect, looking very healthy.
Currently there are over 175 licensees worldwide, with product in categories ranging from toys and apparel to accessories, sleepwear, bedding and beyond.
Just this week, CPLG confirmed that Gemma International is now on board for greeting cards, balloons and partyware. Other recent licensees highlighted by Janice include Paul Dennicci for babywear (which has proved a hit in Mothercare) and Character World, which is creating bedding for the UK and Germany.
“Care Bears has enjoyed a robust roster of best-in-class partners over the years and our current programme is no exception,” Janice continues.
“While many of our foundational categories are licensed, we plan to focus on expanding into health and beauty and will look to sign new partners in this category.
“We are also pursuing promotional partnerships and a brand alignment with consumer loyalty programmes.”
While the programme already spans from the US to Europe and Latin America, there are also plans to relaunch the consumer products drive in Japan, with a range of collectable figures due to launch for the holiday season.
Notably, it was the introduction of Care Bears blind bag collectables which really helped to propel the brand forward from 2015 onwards.
Janice comments: “Care Bears has been always been a successful plush brand, but in 2015 we saw massive success in the US and more recently in the UK with the blind bag craze and small, plastic figurines.
“The collectability of blind bags and the variety of Care Bears is a match made in heaven.”
Collaborations have also been key in making the Care Bears relevant for today’s audience, although they have still been done with a particular retro twist.
In the US, Sprinkles Cupcakes, SpiritHoods, California Donuts, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Land of Nod have all created retro programmes to mark the 35th anniversary.
Meanwhile, internationally, a collaboration with fashion brand Boy Meets Girl is sold exclusively at colette in Paris. Janice also hints at further programmes to come.
While plans for initiatives to mark the 35th anniversary are well underway – including the Care Bears popping up across the US to give out hugs to fans – what does the future hold for the brand?
Janice concludes: “Care Bears has a long seeded history not only in the US, but worldwide. We’re planning more great storytelling with animated shorts, plus additional episodic content is on the horizon, as well as expansion into the key territories in Europe, Latin America and rebooting our programme in Japan.”