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If Doodles Were Mine
David Horvath on what he would do...
A few weeks ago we ran an article called “Building a Massive, Long-term Character Brand,” written by David Horvath, co-founder of the Uglydoll plush toy brand.
We got a lot of positive feedback on it, so this week we’re publishing one of our favorite David pieces from his own Substack, If Doodles Were Mine, first published back in March of this year.
In addition to being one of the co-founders of Uglydoll, David is also the creator and executive producer of the Nick Jr. animated series, Bossy Bear, based on his Disney book series and best selling toy line.
Littlebony, David’s first animated program produced by Sony and NHK, set the stage for David’s twenty year career in the character IP brand space, utilizing the strategies outlined in his Substack, with focus on the quest for evergreen ubiquity.
If you want to hear more from David (including his response to pushback about some of what he’s written in this piece), check out the interview Carly and David did together in an episode for Overpriced JPEGs last month.
And if you like this content, consider subscribing to Overpriced JPEGs PRO today for even more great insights!
If Doodles were mine.
Doodles is a blockchain based brand run by a brilliant group of people. I’ve never spoken or met with any of them [as of March 2023], but I know their work and have been an admirer from afar for some time, like many of us. Others are fully invested in the project in one way or another. I am quite sure both the holders and the Doodles team can ignore all of this and do far better than most real world brands today.
If Doodles were mine…
I would absolutely treat the web 3 component, the brand’s birthplace, as a product category, just as Sanrio does with Hello Kitty NFTs. A wonderful place to emerge from, but for Doodles I see no reason to remain there exclusively.
I wouldn’t take a dime from VCs. What I would do with Doodles requires years, perhaps decades, of micro movements in culture most investors would, through frustration, deem “useless and small”.
I would avoid all marketing. My past substack letters have gone into the why in great detail. Avoid eyeballs and awareness.
I would avoid all mass market stores, from Target to Walmart until a large portion of the consumer shopping there not only knows Doodles, but is madly in love with it.
I would avoid story driven animation, or all media deals, including gaming. I would make Doodles a lifestyle brand, like Hello Kitty and Tokidoki. Many would argue against this one, but animation, in my opinion, would be a missed opportunity… it’s too hit or miss for something like Doodles, which has the potential, at least in design language, to go toe to toe with Tokidoki on the low end scale of what can be, and Sanrio over the long term, if the proper care and time is put in.
That time and care would revolve around mostly saying no to everything.
I would produce one single core product in house… high end plush for ages 14+, to sell at point of purchase at museum stores across the US and at specialty in Korea and Japan (at first.) I would also go to POP MART immediately. (more below )
Publishing: With a high grade publisher, such as Chronicle Books, produce a line of high quality note books and a high grade coffee table style “story and world book”… not for children, but to be found at Barnes & Noble in the section where one finds Moomin and Totoro goods, and at high end book shops such as Tsutaya in Japan, and Kyobo in Seoul. Supplement the publishing program with dozens of lifestyle accessories made by POP MART, Medicom, or HUMAN MADE.
While I would obviously avoid all brand collabs at all costs, no matter what… given the recent addition of KAWS as creative director at Nigo’s HUMAN MADE, I would seek out an apparel partnership with them immediately. If unsuccessful, go all in on BEAMS.
I would focus on the Japanese and South Korean specialty markets as to have the greatest impact in China, HK, the US, EU, and surrounding territories. What Doodles does in South Korea will either have incredible impact on pop culture in Hong Kong and China, or interrupt the long term potential there. I would avoid mega set ups at COEX in Seoul at all cost. 100% critical.
“Making big moves” is just about the worst way to get potential tribe members… your audience… to fall in love with a brand like Doodles. I would utilize the incredible number of top tier museum stores in the US early.
I would shut down any discussions with animation anything. True, we are entering a down economy where grounded, story driven preschool will thrive… but to me, Doodles feels like a brand to take on San-X and Miffy at the MoMA store vs Target. Self produced Youtube Ala Odds 1 Out could work, but beyond organic growth in such a crowded arena, would require heavy marketing… which outside of broadcast for children goes in one ear, out there other, perceived as “marketing”. I would avoid.
Doodles has the potential to be much more than a media driven property… fortunately, animated properties can always pivot and transition to lifestyle later. Going from lifestyle to media driven / animation… that’s a different story and historically, few have survived the attempt.
core toyetic product at specialty: High end plush for dist through museum stores, specialty (and Barnes & Noble once publishing is ready.)
high grade publishing: focus on dist through Tsutaya. (Carve out Doodles section at Tsutaya in Daikanyama.)
immediately do deal with POP MART in China for a global roll out of blind boxed mini figures and lifestyle accessories at specialty world wide, and run Doodles though similar program seen with LABUBU.
SPC in South Korea: Dunkin Donuts once above is in place. No brainer.
no brand collabs
And that’s it! Once I’d executed on the above… time to take on the likes of San-X and Sanrio, get a majority of the world to fall in love, multi billion dollar IP program by decade three with a shot at evergreen ubiquity.
But that’s just me. This is a fun, opinion based exercise I’ve been doing here since January. It’s a mental activity for my aging mind… but as with Moonbirds and Cool Cats, I am quite sure leadership from Doodles will blow everybody’s minds with what they have planned and where they go from here.