Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Fulfilment

Such A Princess

A significant number of high-spending consumers (though it’s not actually their money) are a lot younger than us. Mere children, in fact.  A generation ago, no-one really imagined a culture that could produce pouting Bratz dolls and catwalk-ready six-year-olds. 

Then along came Andy Mooney, with his intuitive understanding of what makes girl-children squeal with delight and tug their mothers’ sleeves.

Mr. Mooney was the former Nike manager who was brought in to rescue Disney Consumer Products, where sales were slipping sharply.  The new manager went to a “Disney On Ice” show, and noticed long entrance lines of small girls, all dressed up in thrown-together ‘princess’ costumes. Mooney thought this looked like latent demand.  He briefed his production and marketing team with a swatch of colors and a sheaf of draft license agreements. “We’re going to help these little girls to do what they’re doing anyway” he said;  “project themselves into characters from our classic movies”.

The idea took wing, and suddenly Snow White, the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were wearing Pantone Pink #241 and gilded tiaras. Disney broke its oldest rule, and started marketing characters separately from its hitherto sacrosanct film-release cycle.

“Princess” had no explicit marketing plan, no focus group research, virtually no advertising. “We just started giving little girls what they wanted, though at the time I don’t think any of us grasped how much they wanted this”, Mooney later modestly admitted.

It worked like magic. There are already over 25,000 different Disney Princess items: DP pens, crayons, secret diaries, DP bed-linen, DP band-aids, DP lip balm... “Princess” has become the fastest-growing ‘brand’ in Disney history.

Princess rules.  Peggy Orenstein, a writer who has analyzed the phenomenon, says “Try buying your daughter something that isn’t pink”. (Pi remembers that it was not always so. Half a century ago the ‘feminine’ color was blue. Remember all those Dorothies in blue Gingham? And the Sleeping Beauty wearing shades of Forget-Me-Not…?)

Princess changed what little girls aspire to. Spunky, tomboyish gals like Lara Croft the Tomb Raider and grubby-kneed Dora the Explorer were swept aside in a tidal wave of cutie-pie pink. Even tough-girl Disney characters like Pocahontas and Mulan were pressed into service as supernumerary princesses, and obliged to join the girlie-culture by wearing regal feminine garb like their fictional sister-princesses.

The trend echoes the troubled times we live in. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original book “The Little Princess” appeared in a painful period of industrial upheaval and urbanization. The Shirley Temple movie version comforted those hit by the Great Depression.  We need to dream…

Zone: Self-Fulfilment Country: USA / North America Product – Consumer Products