In a world where licensing has thrown up some surprising success stories, few have been as unexpected as The Dog. How, you might ask, could pictures of puppies inspire a series of licences worth millions? And yet, at the same time, The Dog’s appeal is easy to explain. Photographs of puppies taken in a way that enhances their heads and bodies are both expressive and enormously appealing.
It’s so simple you almost feel like saying “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Well, of course, you didn’t. Content development specialist Artlist International did and launched the brand in 2000 in Japan, where it was an instant hit. Since then it has moved into Europe where it is licensed by 4Kids International and has been hugely successful, most notably in the UK and France. In fact The Dog now boasts more than 50 licences, 20 of them in the UK and more than 33 in EMEA.
It’s no surprise perhaps that the best-selling lines are stationery and paper-based products. This is a highly visual property, after all. The Dog is the number two licensed partwork in the UK after Dr Who and number one in Greece. In France the top sellers are Panini, stickers and sticker albums.
But The Dog is about more than just paper. Familiar names like Ravensburger, Leomil Fashion and One2Play are taking the puppy brand into puzzles, apparel and collectibles. Plush is growing in importance across the UK – it is soon to be listed at all major chains as well as independents.
In France, plush by Cesar is one of the most popular lines. And apparel ranges are about to be listed at the biggest retail players across Europe.
The cute canines have nuzzled up to a wide range of outlets, led in the international arena by supermarkets, hypermarkets and independents. In the UK The Dog products appear not just in independents but in grocers, supermarkets, High Street chains, Toys 'R' Us, on amazon.com – even in garden centres.
Not bad for a posse of puppies. But it certainly won’t stop there. 4Kids is keen to push further into areas like apparel, mobile phone accessories and the highly promising and appropriate area of pet products.
Promotions in McDonalds and Woolworths along with an appearance in the spring/summer Argos catalogue have helped to keep awareness high in the UK, while a pan-European McDonald’s promotion combined with country-specific initiatives have enhanced the brand’s presence in the international market. However, one of the brand’s biggest news stories in recent months has been the launch by Ubisoft of the first video game – The Dog Island – across Europe on Nintendo Wii and PS2.
Promotion opportunities with the QSR and pet food sectors will be pursued through this and next year, but there will be no shortage of launches and events in the meantime, with the UK market welcoming plush and greeting cards (on moonpig.com) later this year, a national sponsored dog walk with the PDSA, the UK's leading veterinary charity, in October and the listing of UK licensees on Artlist Collection’s official The Dog website.
In the international market expect to see the launch of Ravensburger puzzles in France, the partwork in Sweden and apparel lines and shoes in all the main territories.
Licensing activity remains high for The Dog but, as 4Kids International is keen to point out, licensed products must emphasise both quality and the brand’s core values: its appeals to dog lovers of all ages and, of course, its simplicity.
After all, the foundation of its international success was one of the simplest concepts you could come up with: pictures of puppies. Now why didn’t I think of that?