When is it time to retire a children’s brand?

It has been brought to my attention that a certain large yellow creature of the avian variety, a vampire with a penchant for counting to ten, and a myriad other equally fantastical residents of a cozy New York suburb have been educating kids on televisions around the world for a staggering 40 years.

Similarly, Paris has become the center of much celebration for the 50th birthday of one of France’s greatest cultural heroes; a plucky big-nosed Gaul who likes nothing more than bashing a few Romans with his rotund superhuman friend.

But while the masses are clamoring for more Sesame Street, fans of Asterix around the world are generally agreed – enough, sadly, is enough.

While Sesame Street continues to evolve and entertain, Asterix seems to have run out of magic potion, however both brands continue to release new content. The difference lies in the fact that to countless Asterix fans, every new adventure book is a disappointment, gradually chipping away at the value the brand has built over the years.

So when, if ever, is it time to draw the curtains and put a brand to bed?

Some brands are in a constant state of expansion, keeping their core concept, but adapting to the times; Mickey Mouse might be digitally animated, but he’s still the same character. Similarly, Star Wars continues to explore a galaxy far, far away with a constant stream of video games, cartoons, toys and even an upcoming television series. Other properties may drift in and out of public conscience, but there are a rare few that are always at the fore, and seemingly untouchable when it comes to sustained popularity.

Then there’s the most unique of all brands; the one with a defined ending. The kind of book or show that finished with the audience wanting more, instead of eventually jumping the shark. Further products may still be released, but the core remains the same.

J.K. Rowling adamantly proclaims there will never be more Harry Potter books written, or movies made. Many people, myself included may find her integrity in telling a specific story admirable, but I’m left wondering if authors like A.A. Milne or J.M. Barrie thought the same thing about their creations decades ago. Both Peter Pan and now Winnie-the-Pooh have been given the sequel treatment, years after their original creators have passed away. Should their creations be left alone, with or without their estate’s approval?

Nowadays there is another element to consider – the fan created piece. Gone are the days when content was developed purely between dedicated creatives and the studios who funded them. The Web is absolutely heaving with videos and fan fiction, creating a dearth of new content. While it’s almost never recognized as an official component of the brand, the amount of content falling into this category is growing, and some brands even encourage it.

Of course the elephant in the room is the question, where are all the new brands being created? There are only so many re-makes that can be made, surely?

There are still many new ideas being explored, even more so as the technology involved in creating and delivering media continues to develop and become more accessible, however studios will continue taking the safest financial course by investing in a brand that already has a proven track record, be it securing younger new audiences with an already successful format, or luring back older audience with an existing emotional connection to the brand.

At the end of the day, profitability is going to define whether a brand continues to generate new material, but if we continue to creatively pursue new ideas, and tell new stories, it’s okay to accept a time when a character or series has finally ran it’s inevitable course. Or bashed it’s last Roman.

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Copyright © 2016 Shane Lindley