A Curious Case Study @Sales&Marketing

FrozenStarting off bluntly ,if you don’t have a little girl, you may want to go ahead and back on out of this post because you may not want to relate and will probably get super bored, quickly. Some buds will probably make fun of me for this, too. That’s OK. That said, if you like interesting angles regarding marketing, leadership perceptions, natural attraction, and birth order, this article from the Wall Street Journal hits on a lot of points. Intro the players: Elsa, Anna, and Olaf of Frozen.

Why did this even grab my attention? Well, Amanda and I were cruising Gervais Street in the minivan Wednesday and for whatever reason Elsa’s popularity came up (I have no idea why). One of Amanda’s quick thoughts was Elsa sang the hit song. While “Let It Go,” is the flagship soundtrack of the movie, she was talking to a dad with a five year old that has awakened me a few mornings with, while three inches from my face, “Do you wanna build a snowmaaaaaaaaaan?” That said, while “Let It Go” is more intense, I consider (incorrectly) the songs as equal. According to the article, Amanda is on to something.

So is my wife, Jennifer, when she chimed in after reading the article, “It’s a little off. Anna saved Elsa, got love and dude, and ended up happy.”

Check out the article below. It’s interesting how the pros are scratching their heads about how Elsa trucks Anna in sales.

I know this is a long post but I thought it would be more convenient to just pass the article to you so you wouldn’t have to register with The WSJ and deal with the ads.

The last thing I’m going to say is that for all the little girls that want to dress up like Elsa, damn she was in that room for a freakin’ long a** time. Elsa makes the Flowers In The Attic seem like a weekend with the door shut. (Well, maybe not. The ‘Flowers’ were locked up 3 years, 4 months, 16 days per the mighty Google.)

Look for a Christmas surge from Olaf.

Franklin Jones

Ellen Byron and Paul Ziobro
Nov. 4, 2014 3:06 p.m. ET
Anna was supposed to be the star. She has the most lines, songs and love interests in blockbuster Walt Disney Co. movie “Frozen,” and ultimately saves the day.

Yet at cash registers and in playrooms Anna’s older sister, Elsa, a withdrawn, reluctant queen whose powers to freeze nearly doom Anna and the rest of her fictional Norwegian village, is winning the popularity contest.

Elsa products are expected to dominate sales this holiday shopping season, just as her flowing, sparkly blue gown and long blond braid wig ruled Halloween night this year over Anna’s modest, calf-length dress and sensible boots. Retailers will feature more than double the amount of “Frozen”-related merchandise compared with last year, when the film first hit theaters in late November.

“Elsa is double what Anna is,” says Lesa Nelson, senior vice president for children’s merchandise at J.C. Penney Co., of the dolls and other “Frozen” merchandise depicting the sisters. “You sell two Elsas for every Anna.”

Already, more than three million Elsa and Anna dresses have been sold at Disney stores and at mass retailers in North America since “Frozen’s” release last November, according to Disney.

A wide range of products including soup, mouthwash, children’s shoes, dolls, costumes and princess-impersonators depict ‘Frozen’ characters Elsa and Anna. ENLARGE
A wide range of products including soup, mouthwash, children’s shoes, dolls, costumes and princess-impersonators depict ‘Frozen’ characters Elsa and Anna. Dazzling D’s Princess Productions; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Chasing Fireflies; Target Corp.; Stride Rite; Jakks Pacific, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which currently carries some 700 “Frozen”-related items, expects the Snow Glow Elsa Doll, which talks, sings and lights up, to be among its biggest sellers this holiday season. Wal-Mart stocks about 10% more Elsa dolls than Anna ones, a spokeswoman says.

Retailers are stocking extra “Frozen” toys, clothes and housewares, even soup, to avoid what happened last year. Last holiday season, retailers and manufacturers didn’t anticipate the runaway success of “Frozen,” now the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Stores quickly ran out of “Frozen”-related merchandise, and for months struggled to keep items in stock.

Disney marketing executives were caught off guard by the overwhelming Elsa preference. They initially expected the sisters to be equally popular. But when the movie was released Elsa quickly edged out Anna in terms of merchandise sales, says Paul Gainer, executive vice president of Disney retail, who oversees Disney stores and the company’s merchandise in other retailers.

“This was the first time that we had a story line with these two strong characters together,” he says. “We came in thinking they would be a little more even until we saw the consumer vote.”
Now, Elsa outsells Anna in costumes, dolls and toys, among other items, and Disney stocks its stores accordingly, Mr. Gainer says. Elsa’s sparkling, light-blue evening gown, worn in the film as she creates an ice palace and sings “Let It Go,” is Disney’s all-time best-selling costume. The Academy-Award winning tune sung by Idina Menzel topped the charts. Parents once sang along, but now lament their children play the ballad on repeat.

Anna’s demure cape and gown is Disney’s No. 2 best-selling costume, Mr. Gainer says. “Anna is holding her own just fine,” he says. “Both girls are above and beyond all the other princesses.”

To meet demand, Disney airlifted especially popular items to retailers from manufacturers, including Elsa and Anna dolls and costumes, earlier this year even though it was pricier than ground shipments.

“Frozen” was created as a princess tale with a twist. Its two strong female characters drew in parents skeptical of traditional princess story lines, as Anna—rather than a prince charming—saves the day. The sisterly love story also made them more willing to open their wallets for “Frozen” merchandise, parents say.

“Frozen” Characters and What Birth Order Says About Their Personalities
“Elsa has powers and she’s pretty,” says Lucy DeMaso, a 4-year-old from Melville, N.Y., who dressed as Elsa for Halloween. Her mother, Janna, wore a matching costume. “She wouldn’t let me be Anna,” Ms. DeMaso says. “I tried.”

Parents are puzzled by Elsa’s outsize influence. “Elsa doesn’t really do anything but sing this great song and, let’s be honest, she’s kind of a jerk,” says Jill Walsh, of Newton, Mass., whose 4-year-old daughter, Maeve, often dresses up as Elsa. “A lot of moms try to push for Anna- she’s the go-getter of the two.”

A $130 version of Elsa’s gown, which includes a train with “sparkling frost crystals,” is the top-selling costume for children’s retailer Chasing Fireflies, a unit of HSN Inc. The company expects strong sales of the costume through the holidays.

Anna’s gown, which costs slightly less at $124 due to its less complicated design, ranks among other top sellers at Chasing Fireflies.
“Elsa outsells Anna because firstborns rule at everything—they get all the accolades, they’re the presidents of the United States, the astronauts, the CEOs—anywhere that perfection pays off, you’ll find the firstborns,” says Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and author of the “The Birth Order Book,” which details how being the eldest, middle, youngest or only child affects one’s personality, career and relationships. Anna’s feistiness, humor and determination come from being the baby of the family.

“Youngest children have this inborn ‘OK, I’ll show you,’ attitude, because firstborns tend to write them off and pay less attention to them, as Elsa did to Anna,” he says.

Though a clear No. 2, Anna is a strong complement to her big sister, says Stephen Berman, chief executive of Jakks Pacific Inc., a manufacturer of “Frozen” merchandise. Sales data from last holiday season showed that girls want to have costumes and dolls of each sister so they can play with them together or act out the movie. This year, Jakks started bundling more Anna and Elsa dolls in the same box, and putting role-play items together.

“We have seen that girls are buying not just Elsa, but into the sisterhood,” says Mr. Berman.

Bundling the “Frozen” sisters has boosted sales for Dava McCoy, who owns Dazzling D’s Princess Productions, a princess-impersonator service in Irvine, Calif. Some 80% of her company’s bookings include appearances of Anna and Elsa together, including 15 for the coming weekend.
Anna appears on her own at parties only about once every three to four months, says Ms. McCoy, adding that she ordered more gowns of both sisters to meet demand. “It’s usually because they can’t get Elsa and they’d rather have Anna than nobody.”

Ms. McCoy is struggling to find actresses who can fill the Elsa role. “She is harder to play because you have to hit all those notes in ‘Let It Go,’” she says. “My girls who are just so-so singers can be Anna.”

Some companies are pushing equality for the sisters. Stride Rite, a unit of Wolverine World Wide Inc., used images of both sisters on every pair of its new line of “Frozen”-themed boots and sneakers.

“We didn’t want to get into a sibling-rivalry situation,” says Kate Cox, Stride Rite’s product director.

At Toys “R” Us, more than half of its approximately 300 “Frozen” products feature both Anna and Elsa together, with the remaining evenly split between Anna, Elsa and Olaf, the film’s comic snowman. The retailer’s Chief Merchandising Officer Richard Barry says Olaf is “a little unsung hero.”

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. is betting that Olaf will be the biggest hit of its new line of “Frozen” plush toys because he appeals to girls, boys and grown-ups, says Chief Executive Sharon John. “He’s a triple threat,” she says. “Besides, every little girl already has an Elsa and an Anna doll.”

Write to Ellen Byron at Ellen.Byron@wsj.com and Paul Ziobro at Paul.Ziobro@wsj.com

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