Interview with DCP chairman Andy Mooney

Posted on January 22nd 2006 in Americas, Asia Pacific, Disney books, Europe, Interviews, Publishers

Andy Mooney

In this great article from CMO Magazine, Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products, talks about his introduction of active licensing at DCP. Unlike before his arrival at the company in 1999, their product managers now work closely with developers and licensees on the design of new Disney-branded products and new categories, such as Disney Princess, W.i.t.c.h., and the recently introduced Disney Fairies.

Here are some hightlights from the interview:

The outlook was not so rosy when Mooney first arrived at the House of Mouse [ed – In 1999]. At the time, the concept of product development was anathema to the division. Instead, the group focused almost exclusively on licensing existing brands to third-party manufacturers and promoting whatever content Disney’s movie studio was creating. In other words, it was operating much as it had been since 1929, when Walt Disney first licensed Mickey’s image to be used on a pad of children’s writing paper.

[…] To test the strategy, Mooney and his team turned to DCP’s greatest demographic strength: girls. […] Mooney rounded up six characters—Ariel (from The Little Mermaid), Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Cinderella, Jasmine (Aladdin), Sleeping Beauty and Snow White—that the company historically had promoted individually, usually around the release or rerelease of a film. The challenge lay in giving the heroines a collective life of their own, separate from the movies.

Thus was born, in late 2000, the Disney Princess brand. The idea of creating a new brand around previously unrelated characters might seem like a no-brainer, but it was heresy to some Disney hard-liners. In his book Disney War, James B. Stewart points out that the Princess brand infuriated longtime executives including Roy Disney, nephew of the company’s founder and head of a group that tried to oust Eisner in 2003. “When [Mooney] wanted to launch a ‘princess’ line of merchandise,” Stewart wrote, “Roy argued that it was inappropriate to portray and market characters like Cinderella and Snow White together when in the fairy tales they inhabited separate worlds and never knew each other.”

[…] The Princess brand’s success provided Mooney with the leverage he needed to begin developing entirely new content. DCP’s publishing group created a comic book called W.I.T.C.H. (the title is an acronym of the names of five main characters, girls who perform magic and “angst” a lot). The comic tested positively in Europe before rolling out in the United States and is now published in 72 countries. It’s also the basis for a panoply of Disney products, including books, toys and clothing.

[…] Next on the docket: A brand that combines an existing character with totally new ones. “When we looked at the success of Princess and the connection that the brand has to girls, we said, Could we develop a companion line-up product?” says Mooney. Hello, Disney Fairies, a new line that debuted this past summer with Tinker Bell leading a cast of new friends boasting a variety of special abilities.

Mooney and his team aren’t just throwing new brands at the wall to see what sticks. They have instituted a new rigor around demographics and segmentation that has enabled DCP to identify gaps in the product lines that present new branding opportunities. The idea for Fairies, for example, began in DCP’s toy group, which had research showing latent demand for Tinker Bell as a character. The Fairies brand is designed to appeal to 6-to-11-year-old girls, as opposed to the 2-7 age group that the Princess brand targeted. That type of reliance on demographics and segmentation was nonexistent before Mooney took over DCP. Now the group has hard data on who is buying a brand and, just as importantly, who isn’t.

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Arthur Disney Comics Worldwide is an unofficial website with information on Disney comics and magazines from around the world. With approximately 50% of the market, Disney is the largest publisher of children's magazines and comics (excluding manga) in the world!

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