Catching them young
Cartoons & Merchandising

They are vibrant, fun, and truly loved by the little ones. Cartoons are undeniably children’s favorite pastime; one they never seem to tire of. What started as a Saturday morning ritual back in the ’70s and ’80s, has today given way to a trend of 24/ 7 cartoons. America, in particular, has been at the forefront of this, with homegrown giants like Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network dominating this burgeoning space.

With time, cartoons (and characters) became more than just entertainment. They have invaded almost every aspect of our children’s lives - from the clothes they wear to the school supplies they use, and the toys they play with. That cartoons are a huge influence on kids is an understatement. What are the trends that are driving this cartoon craze, and which cartoons are making waves? To find out, Piplsay (powered by Market Cube) reached out to 42,000 parents across the country, and this is what they had to say:

Close to 75% of children today watch cartoons regularly, with almost two-thirds of them watching them every single day. Though the numbers have come down over the years, it is still a huge percentage considering that children today are often kept busy with after-school or other activities like games, music, dance, etc. That about 19% of kids rarely watch cartoons is proof of that. Though television remains a popular medium with kids, it’s not the traditional channels that are always tuning into. Video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime are fast catching up in this space, with their huge content library and original productions. Not surprisingly, Kid’s TV networks have lost half of their audiences over the past decade, with market leader Nickelodeon losing about 1.75 million viewers between 2010 and 2018.

Within cartoon genres, comedy remains the most favorite, with shows like Spongebob Squarepants and Tom and Jerry grabbing maximum eyeballs. A big reason as to why the two remain so popular even today is that they appeal equally to adults as well, which makes them so easy to watch. Spongebob Squarepants, in particular, has a massive fan following. Despite being on-air for nearly two decades, it continues to remain one of the most popular shows on Nickelodeon even today, with several awards and even a broadway musical to its credit

To reign in their falling viewership as well as to revive their popular characters, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are even rebooting some old classics like Rugrats and Looney Tunes

While preschool cartoons like Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Mickey Mouse are getting more popular with time, others like Ben 10, Powerpuff Girls and Steven Universe seem to be losing their charm, as reflected by children’s surprising lack of interest in action genres. However, it’s not just the shows that keep children hooked to cartoons. Merchandising has become a serious business today, as kids increasingly seek to engage with their favorite characters in real life as well. It is little wonder, then, that markets today are teeming with cartoon merchandise of all shapes and sizes.

While the demand for kids merchandising is driven largely by cartoon shows, movies have also become major influencers of late. The roaring success of films like Frozen, Moana, and Toy Story is proof of that. In fact, Disney’s Frozen has already surpassed Mickey and Friends in terms of licenses, and that too with just a single release. But interestingly, despite the cartoon craze, over half of American parents seem less than eager to buy cartoon merchandise for their kids.

When do they do buy them, about 40% of parents spend less than $20 on them each month. Is this because of the declining demand for the array of kids’ products, or is their overwhelming availability? This is something that brands have to figure out. After all, they are the ones investing both time and money into building a character’s appeal and marketability. No matter the sales, the demand for cartoons in today’s digital age continues unabated, and with streaming platforms now having joined the fray, even TV networks seem to be slowly heading the digital way.

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