Don't Ask Too Much of a Licensing Initiative

July 6, 2005

Success in brand licensing is about consistency of message. If the licensed product or service is not a natural leap for customers, it will be a tough sell. You`re looking for the îof courseîóas in îof course Mr. Clean makes mops and spongesî or îof course Whirlpool makes air conditioners.î The closer you can get to the îof course,î the greater your chance at relevance, acceptance and success.

Well, "of course" is not the first thing that comes to mind with McKids.†McDonald's is looking to licensing and entertainment to cure its ills related to fast-foodÌs role in the childhood obesity epidemic. McKids is an "active lifestyle brand" that will feature fitness-style videos, sporting equipment and apparel. Kind of a Just Do It for kids, it seems. Talk about lipstick on the gorilla.

McDonald's has great weight and muscle to affect change in America's eating habits. As a global brand built on billions of burgers sold, the menu itself can only afford modest changes - leaving it to merchandising stunts like this to attempt to portray a more conscientious McDonald's. But while the brand is a household name and the arches the consummate icon, sheer heft alone cannot make this initiative work.

While retail partners and potential manufacturing licensees may get sold on a major media campaign intended to spark demand for these products, consumers will be hard-pressed to see this PR ploy as a legitimate lifestyle brand. If McDonald's can't make a straightforward connection between Happy Meals and active lifestyles, their partners in this effort are going to be stuck with a warehouse full of McKids scooters and fitness DVDs.

-Jonathan Paisner

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