Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Dora the Explorer has amassed over $11 billion in global retail sales since 2001. A pretty impressive fact? Well, I have some more: the series is broadcast in 140 markets, has been translated into 33 languages and 29 Nickelodeon websites worldwide containing Dora microsites or sections.
Still want more? Dora has sold over 20 million DVDs and 50 million books. In 2009, in the UK, 7.9 million viewers tuned into Dora the Explorer, with almost half a million viewers watching 50 or more episodes.
I still have some facts up my sleeve though: globally, Dora ranks among the top three across all Nickelodeon shows. For example, in Australia, year to date Dora is Nick Jr’s number one ranking programme among children 0 to four, and during October in France, Dora was number one in its timeslot with a 29 per cent share among four to ten year olds. In Mexico, again in October 2009, Dora was the top show in its timeslot and in Germany, since its launch in September 2005, the character has delivered an average market share of 50.7 per cent. In the US, meanwhile, Dora is the number one pre-school toy licence.
Room for one more? Okay, worldwide there are more than 950 licensees across multiple categories, of which approximately 80 are based out of the UK.
“Dora is a truly global phenomenon,” Clare Piggott, VP of consumer products at Nickelodeon UK, tells Licensing.biz. “When the brand first took off in the UK, I was at Mattel and was aware of how well the toy sales were performing when they went live via the Argos catalogue. I noticed a real groundswell of popularity around the character and I even remember my children being invited to numerous Dora parties, so I did feel that the writing was on the wall for Dora at an early age of the brand’s life.”
The theme of Dora’s anniversary celebrations is ‘Explorers Wanted’ – a call to action, if you like, inviting pre-schoolers around the world to come and explore with the character.
“It all pays back to empowering children to explore and celebrate with Dora,” explains Piggott. “In the UK, the focus of this activity will come from all areas of the Nickelodeon business including the channel itself, online, in-store with our retail and licensing partners, off air events, PR and marketing initiatives. It is of key importance that Dora is represented across all platforms in 2010, as consumers now expect multiplatform experiences from the brands they love. As a broadcaster, we can also look holistically at how our consumer products business is supported by our on-air channel offering.”
A range of new style guides have been created around the Explorers Wanted theme to offer a broader range of options to licensees. Nickelodeon has also widened the activities and outfits in the style guides. “[Dora] can still be found in her trademark t-shirt and shorts, but in addition, she can be doing gymnastics, exploring forests, playing in the snow or visiting a farmers’ market and has a range of outfits to suit these, and many other occasions. The wide range of style guides also reflects the diverse scenarios and adventures of Dora’s on-air content.”
In terms of product then, Piggott explains that new items are appearing pretty much constantly in all categories.
“In the toy category for 2010 there is the featured ‘We Did It’ doll which ties in with the anniversary messaging; she sings and dances, encouraging celebration. Clothing ranges are constantly refreshed and updated for every season; for every phase on the High Street there is something new. This is also the same for publishing. Research has shown that Dora products are regarded as having a greater educational value than all their competitors; this is reflected in new products from tech licensees such as Vtech which has a fantastic new musical-based item and is expanding its range of early learning aids this year. The same applies to Linmark whose range offers pre-schoolers something for on-the-go; they can take music and film with them as they travel and explore.”
Various activity is due to take place at retail, too, including unique in-store programmes. Piggott explains: “For example, in one retailer we have developed an activity which enables pre-schoolers to follow a map throughout the store and encourages them to find hidden characters. They can collect stickers, win prizes and there will be meet and greet opportunities. In another retailer, ‘gift with purchase’ activity will be linked to a unique giveaway item that is tied in to the anniversary celebrations. We are also designing a first to market promotion with one retailer that involves a huge family holiday competition.”
On top of all this retail activity, the shopping centre tour of the UK returns, with a significantly increased number of venues.
Piggott also says that Nickelodeon is developing several alternative iterations of the Dora style guide and looking at how she can appeal to an older audience, although this is not likely to happen in the UK in the immediate future.
Looking forward, and Piggott is confident that Dora has what it takes to remain in the spotlight for another ten years, if not longer.
“Dora is a pre-school property, so within that age range she will always have an appeal,” she says. “When a child becomes a fan of the franchise at about two years of age, they can potentially stay loyal until they are about five. That’s the natural lifecycle of the relationship. As children develop, Dora goes on a journey with them. New fans are attracted by continuous investment in the property, from new animated series being commissioned to fresh new product ranges that are relevant to the current market being developed with licensees.”