By Gloria Nicola
They battle petty criminals, evil overlords and alien invaders, all while remaining isolated from society-at-large. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a fictional team of four anthropomorphic turtles, who make their homes in the storm sewers of New York City and are trained by their anthropomorphic rat sensei in the art of ninjutsu (unconventional warfare).
The characters first appeared in comic books before being licensed for cartoons, video games, films, toys and other general merchandise. In 1987, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ first cartoon series began, starting as a five-part miniseries and becoming a regular Saturday morning program, which lasted until 1996. In 2009, cable network Nickelodeon (a subsidiary of Viacom) purchased all rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. In May 2013, Nouveau Eyewear added the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Eyewear collection to its extremely popular and ever-expanding Nickelodeon children’s eyewear line.
Here John DeLuna, Nouveau director of marketing, talks with 20/20 about the importance of keeping a brand fresh and relevant.
What is the demographic target market for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
The sweet spot for Ninja Turtles Eyewear is 6 to 10 years old. However, we’re seeing demand for both smaller and larger sizes. People of all ages absolutely love Nickelodeon’s reinvention of the brand. Parents who grew up with the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are now watching the new show with their kids. And when the family goes in for their exams, the parents recognize the eyewear and respond to it just like their children. It’s truly a family brand.
What do you think this eyewear collection brings to the marketplace?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings a combination of fun and style that you rarely see. Over the years, we’ve seen kids’ eyewear turn from character-based products to something that more closely resembles adult eyewear. The taste level has become more sophisticated, and both parents and kids want more grown-up styling. But with that change of style, the magic of a beloved character or brand can get lost. This collection was designed to capture both the personality of the Turtles and the level of style that the market demands. We took sophisticated, sporty, retro and classic styles and used each Turtle as a design inspiration—not a literal translation. Then we put character artwork on the inside of each frame—something kids can appreciate, but the outside world just sees a kid with serious style.
What is your take on the ups and downs of kids in regard to various brands and how do you deal with this in your product mix?
Beyond the brands themselves, what we see is a consistent demand for fresh ideas and new styles. The brands that win with kids are the brands that continually offer excitement and newness. One of the greatest things about Nickelodeon is its constant reinvention. SpongeBob SquarePants has been around for 14 years. Next year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turns 30. The key to enduring the ups and downs is the ability to stay on top of trends, stay relevant to your audience and continually offer something new. That’s how a brand endures and that’s how a product mix sells year after year. So each year, you will see completely new styles and design ideas within every Nickelodeon collection.
Do you feel that branding (cartoon figures) lowers the demographic age range of a particular eyewear brand and if so, how do you deal with this?
We are definitely using characters in a more subtle and sophisticated way that appeals to today’s younger audience. However, the power of Nickelodeon characters is stronger and broader than ever. One-third of SpongeBob viewers are over 18. We look at each character as something to respect and use wisely. Our goal is to make eyewear that kids love and grown-ups envy.
What advice would you give to dispensers selling the Nickelodeon brands?
Nickelodeon is a one-stop solution for kids’ eyewear. Dispensers can find brands under the Nickelodeon family that fit every customer’s need from preschool to tweens, boys and girls. ECPs can confidently say Nickelodeon is still number one with kids. “SpongeBob SquarePants” is the number-one animated show on TV with kids and the number-one animated character in consumer appeal with kids 6 to 11. “Turtles” is the number-one new series on TV with boys 2 to 11, and the number-two action figure brand across all retail for the first quarter of 2013. “Dora the Explorer” is the most watched preschool show on TV. We can’t underestimate the power of the brands and the appeal these characters have with kids. ■
MEET THE NINJA TURTLESThe oldest of the four brothers, Leonardo (Leo) is the courageous leader and devoted student of martial arts. Named for the Italian scientist, engineer, inventor, anatomist and painter Leonardo da Vinci, he wears a blue mask and wields two Katana swords.
Easygoing and free-spirited, Michelangelo (Mike or Mikey), the youngest of the brothers, wears an orange mask and carries nunchaku, or chain sticks. He loves to relax and eat pizza, but also has an adventurous and creative side, and takes on a “surfer boy” persona, usually speaking with a Southern California accent. His namesake is the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer Michelangelo.
Armed with a bo, a long wood staff, Donatello (Don or Donnie) is a scientist, inventor, engineer and technological genius. The most peaceful Turtle, he prefers to use his knowledge to solve conflicts. Named after the early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor Donatello, he wears a purple mask.
The team’s bad boy, Raphael wears a red mask and brandishes a pair of sai, pointed, prong-shaped metal batons. Often depicted with a Brooklyn accent, he has an aggressive nature and seldom hesitates to throw the first punch. His personality can be alternately fierce and sarcastic, but he is intensely loyal to his brothers and his sensei. He is named for the Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, Raphael.