Global Diversity Rings in the Cash Registers for Sesame Workshop
By Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute (www.srinstitute.com)
International Licensing has contributed substantially to the increase in revenue of Sesame Street Workshop, the non-profit organization based in New York.
The global travels of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, Elmo and Griotte, the girl in the wheelchair, not only helps to foster tolerance, unity and an appreciation of other cultures but also demonstrates successful ways to expand your brand to a multitude of cultures effectively through strong local partnerships.
Doreen Carvajal wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “Last year more than 68% of Sesame Street’s revenues came from income from licensing of products.”
What is to be learned from Big Bird and his flock’s international adventures?
According to Sesame Street Workshop CEO, Gary Knell “global merchandizing is most important because it is subsidizing the show in the U.S. and the research we do at the workshop”.
In France, Rue Sesame, was created two months ago through the partnership of France 5, a national public television station, and Sesame Street Workshop. In this version, the use of an Arabic-looking woman Baya who runs the bakery and the creation of Nac, a new mascot gives the original a new flair and twist that dovetails French cultural ingredients.
“It took us a year and a half to launch this show,” said Alexandre Michelin, programming director for France 5. “We had to adapt it to keep ‘Sesame Street’ values and ours, finding a way to make it work with French issues.”
In India, a seven-foot lion Boombah will seen on a streetscape with a Cybercafe instead of a bakery, reflecting the reality of today’s India. It is co-produced with the makers of Indian idol, Miditech. India’s audience of children for this show is estimated around 157 million. Originally broadcast in Hindi, it will eventually be produced in the 15 official languages spoken in India.
An Egyptian co-production developed five years ago is now taking “Alam Simsim” to other Arabic-speaking countries with a Pan-Arabic version.
In Cambodia, Sabai Sabai Sesame (Happy Happy Sesame) has been financed in part by the U.S. government and is basically an American version dubbed in Khmer.
Beyond licensing dollars, these expansions can also serve as vital agents of social change with the creation and development of the H.I.V. positive pet, Kami, on “Takalani Sesame”
in South Africa.
Moderator’s Comment: What can U.S. multicultural marketers learn from global multinational brands or cross-border marketers who reinvent or build upon
a successful U.S. introduction to reach other markets and other cultures? –
George Anderson – Moderator