There has been on-demand merchandising available on the internet for quite a while now. CafePress was once the most common, but in recent times, they’ve seen a bunch of competitors emerge offering either specialised products like T-shirts (such as WeLoveFine) or simply better quality products (like Redbubble, etc.) What all have in common is the DIY approach. Essentially there are standardised items and then your name/logo/graphic is printed on according to the customer’s preference. It’s been used by independents and smaller studios with success, but larger players seem to have held off, until now.
DC Comics Gets Involved
The news recently emerged that DC Comics (erstwhile appendage of the Time Warner conglomerate) had established a presence on the merchandise site Zazzle featuring characters from the Super Best Friends Forever series of shorts by Lauren Faust.
The list of products is quite long and includes much more than your standard fare like T-shirts and mouse pads. There is stretched canvas art (a respectable upgrade from a poster), a pet sleeve and even stamps!
Why Now Though?
It’s perhaps surprising that a large entity like DC hasn’t gotten involved in something like this before. It’s natural given large companies preference for dealing with established merchandise players for reasons of connections and profit.
The reason that DC is doing so now is down to how on-demand merch retailers like Zazzle represent a way of extracting the dynamo effect of merchandise from shows/shorts that couldn’t necessarily sustain regular merchandise that would be sold in stores.
The short duration of the shows is certainly one factor, but so is risk. DC/Warners/CN had no idea how they would be received and rather than tie up capital for months with a high probability of failure, it makes much more sense to simply make it as customers demand, even at the expense of higher per unit cost.
Where They Stumbled (Slightly)
The only place where DC missed the mark was timing. They should have had this set up even before the first short aired. It’s great that stuff is available now, but they’ve missed the swell of interest that accompanied the shorts’ broadcast on TV.
Frederator have this down pat having had Bravest Warriors merchandise available on welovefine well in advance of that series debut on YouTube last year. They’ve since significantly expanded the range to include characters and quotes that have resonated with fans.
A Merchandise Model For the Future?
We should certainly hope so. If anything, it would be nice just to see other DC shorts merchandise too [coughAmethystcough]. With a little fine tuning, it would be possible to get on-demand merchandise up and running for any animated property and use it as a way to not only drive sales, but also to sustain interest for longer periods than current merchandise models permit.