What Classic Nickelodeon Characters Can Teach You About Marketing

Colleen Vaughan

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Since the early ‘90s, Nickelodeon has been considered the king of kid’s cartoons, with a laundry list of classics running the gamut from Hey! Arnold to Rugrats to my personal favorite, Doug. Many of the characters from these colorful shows still stand as beloved childhood relics for millions of people. Their continued influence has brought “The Splat”, a programming block filled with reruns of these classics that airs nightly on TeenNick, to a new generation. So you might be wondering what a sponge living in a pineapple under the sea or a kid with a football-shaped head could possibly teach you about marketing. Read on.

Being true to your brand is key in the sharing world.

If you don’t know who Spongebob Squarepants is, you truly live under a rock. (And your name might be Patrick.) As the jovial inhabitant of a pineapple in Bikini Bottom and fry cook at The Krusty Krab, Spongebob knows the true meaning of sticking to a personal brand. His “brand” is equal parts happy-go-lucky and clueless. Got stung while jellyfish hunting? Got yelled at by his boss, Mr. Krabs? Got shunned by his jaded neighbor, Squidward? His mile-wide smile is never gone for long after.

The same should be said for your brand. For example: you’re a pharmaceutical company that has always had a somewhat modest tone in brand messaging. During big events like sporting events or awards ceremonies, don’t go tweeting a bunch of questionable content just because you needed to post something “timely”. Always stick to your brand’s target messaging and values, even on social media.

 An assorted cast of marketing vehicles can make for a stunning result.  

Hey! Arnold ran on Nickelodeon for five seasons, with each episode centered around an idealistic kid named Arnold with an intriguingly football-shaped head. Arnold resided in the inner-city Sunset Arms boarding house ran by his grandparents, with the “city” essentially being a fictionalized New York. The residents of the boarding house proved to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the show: there’s Oskar, who proves to be a con artist, Ernie, a man with a Napoleon complex, and Mr. Hyunh, a Vietnamese immigrant with a secret talent for singing country, and many more. While each character appears to be from a different walk of life, each serves a major purpose in Arnold’s life, teaching him (whether they realize it or not) the ins and outs of growing up in the city.

An assorted cast like that is how marketing programs should be approached. In today’s connected world, 360 or cohesive, multi-channel programs have resonated with shoppers far more than programs with siloed methods and vehicles. Just like the Sunset Arms boarding house, each character (or channel) is different, but all work toward a major purpose.

It takes the right people to reach the right audiences.

The Wild Thornberries depicted a family of documentary filmmakers who trotted the globe to televise wildlife. In center stage? Eliza Thornberry, a young girl with a secret ability to communicate with animals, including the family’s pet chimpanzee, Darwin. The series follows the duo getting chummy with several wild animal species while learning lessons through each particular animal’s lifestyle.

Is your brand needing to gain insights about or resonate with a particular audience? The best way to do so is through people that speak the audience’s language and that have gained their trust. These people are social influencers. As today’s predominant builders of brand loyalty, they know what their audience will respond or not respond to. Employ them as a trusted resource with the ability to communicate with the audiences you want to reach.

What does Spongebob Squarepants have to do with marketing? Much more than you think! Click To Tweet

What are your favorite classic Nickelodeon cartoons? Let us know in the comments!

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