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Brands bank on Mickey and friends to drum up sales in Year of the Rat

By WANG ZHUOQIONG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-01-11 00:00
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With the Year of the Rat just around the corner, consumer brands are vying with each other to use popular cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as their brand ambassadors to reach more Chinese consumers.

"Mickey Mouse stands for optimism, joy and friendship, themes that are familiar for most Chinese consumers," said Kermid Rahman, who is in charge of the consumer product business at the Walt Disney Co for China and South Korea.

On Friday, Disney teamed up with top artists to launch handmade Mickey-themed lanterns in Yu Garden in Shanghai for celebrating the upcoming Lunar New Year. It has also joined hands with Alipay for developing Mickey Mouse-themed red packets or lucky money. Tencent's WeChat platform rolled out its Mickey and Minnie emojis on Friday for users to send Lunar New Year greetings. Disney has also incorporated traditional Chinese cultural elements with many of their designs such as the Kung Fu Mickey images.

The company has worked with over 450 local licensees and witnessed a double-digit growth in terms of the revenue from the licensed products sold in China. China is Disney' fastest growing market for licensed consumer products by revenue in the world.

"We expect better sales than last year for the upcoming Year of the Rat as we have more movies and content to boost local consumption," said Rahman, whose team launched a three-year marketing campaign for Mickey Mouse in 2018.

The company has developed more than 20,000 stock keeping unit products specially for the Year of the Rat, with many adding localized designs according to various geographic regions in the country.

Sales of Disney-themed licensed products have seen stronger growth in the third-and fourth-tier cities despite the bulk of the market being in the first-and second-tier cities.

"Lunar New Year is the most important festival in China and a time that consumers are willing to spend more money on products that are unique, interesting and bring a sense of fortune and good luck," said Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China.

"Mickey Mouse and Jerry Mouse from Tom and Jerry also have eternal and wide appeal."

Unlike the United States, Disney consumer products are purchased by more adults than children in China, Rahman said, with 55 percent of the Disney consumer products including licensed products bought by adult consumers versus 45 percent by children. The ratio for adults and children was 15 percent and 85 percent respectively a decade ago in the country.

The change reflects the growing interests of teenagers and young Chinese consumers for Disney-themed consumer products, he said.

Meanwhile, this year Disney is expanding its commercial presence and making its products and characters more visible at top shopping malls in eight cities across the country to bring consumers closer to Mickey Mouse and Minnie.

Cartoon and animated characters help consumer brands to enhance their Lunar New Year sales as they can be widely used for various products without too much restrictions, thereby making the products popular with children and adults alike, said Jason Yu. Last year, Peppa Pigthemed products dominated the market in the Year of the Pig.

Mickey Mouse and his companions wear new clothes to celebrate the Year of the Rat. Shanghai Disney Resort announced its arrangements for the Lunar New Year on Thursday. XINHUA

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