Open Sesame: One way street for big produce impact

10/31/2013 05:45:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstJust how transformational will be Sesame Street’s role in the produce department be in the next two (plus) years?

On Oct. 30, First Lady Michelle Obama today said that Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association joined the Partnership for a Healthier America in a two-year agreement to help promote fresh fruit and vegetable consumption to kids. The amazing part of the piece is that the agreement allows the industry to use the strength and influence of the Sesame Street brand without a licensing fee for that two year period.

Characters like Big Bird, Elmo and Abby Cadabby will help deliver messages about fresh fruits and vegetables, with Sesame Street characters on display in retail produce departments as early as mid-2014.

I requested from QScores.com the Q Scores (a number that measures the appeal of a brand, characters, licensed properties, celebrities, et cet.) of Sesame Street characters relative to other Disney characters, but I received no quick response to that query.

Still, suffice it to say Ernie, Bert, the Cookie Monster and Big Bird carry some swag among both the very young and the not-so-young.

The show has been on since 1969, with Big Bird, Kermit, Bert and Ernie, Oscar, Grover, and Cookie Monster all “original” characters. I was ten at the time, and I recall my toddler/preschooler cousin Sarah was a big fan of the show. Other Sesame Street characters added over time were Snuffleupagus (1971), The Count (1972), Elmo (1980), Zoe (1993) and Abby Cadabby (2006).

By the time the show turned ten in 1979, press accounts said that nine million American children under the age of six were watching Sesame Street daily.

A six-year-old in 1979 would be 40 years old today, so the images and the characters of Sesame Street will ply their influence over both young and the nearly middle aged.

Much remains to be seen on how the produce industry will use the marketing ooomph of Sesame Street at the retail produce level.

Is the Sesame Street image one that all produce marketers will want to “buy in” with to the consumer? Definitely not.

Some folks dig a NASCAR promotion, while others might be attracted to cause marketing like Fair Trade or a pink label for breast cancer awareness.

Other produce brands may not need further embellishment by Sesame characters.

And how much is too much Elmo? What happens to all the other licensed characters in the produce department? Finding Nemo may really be hard. And what happens after two years of high intensity exposure?


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