One of the truths about success is that the impulse to fiddle with it always overrules the wisdom of leaving it alone. No sooner has an animated show achieved critical acclaim and commercial success than ideas are hatched to parlay that success into something else. Today’s topic represents the epitome of the concept of ‘brand extension‘, where a successful brand in one area is transplanted into another. Think of the Disney cruise ships as being an extension of the theme parks. The former plays off the positive public image of the latter despite no real connection to it besides a common owner.
The proposed Equestria Girls animated TV show is just such an extension. It takes the wildly popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and attempts to transplant it from a show based on ponies to one based on human characters. The move is being spun as a celebration of the toy line’s 30th anniversary and will take the form of a series.
Why Equestria Girls Raises Concerns
So what’s the deal with it; why should it matter? Well, brand extension is inadvisable for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that the very hope that customers will follow has been proven again and again to be false. This belief can even be a double-edged sword in the case of a poor extension attempt. Not only is there the risk of failure, but also the risk that the contamination can spread back to the originating brand.
In the case of My Little Pony, this could mean that if audiences reject Equestria Girls, then they may also stop watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, buying the associated merchandise and attending the various conventions. So far, both The Hub and Hasbro have been extremely accommodating of fans (despite some hiccups) but this attempt was clearly initiated without any concern for them.
Why Its Being Attempted
Efforts like Equestria Girls are often symptoms that studios or networks are becoming risk averse. In other words, they don’t want to take the chance that a new venture may fail so they rely instead on variations of an existing success story. The risk is certainly lower, but the risk that the brand itself will wear out quicker is a major conern.
At the time of writing (March 2013) the MLP brand shows no signs of slowing down, but the inevitable slowdown is coming sooner rather than later. The Hub (or rather Hasbro) is sowing the seeds for the efforts to keep the brand afloat with Equestria Girls.
We’ll have to wait until later this year to find out how things go, but as of now, Hasbro is willing to take a chance with their most valuable property.