Chris Nee grew up loving animated television show – think cartoons. That attraction was strong enough to create thoughts of a career in that discipline. It’s a gift for a person to discover their passion, but having the talent necessary to pursue that passion is another factor all together. For Chris, it would seem that having the ability to draw was a key consideration – a talent Chris lacked. Chris wouldn’t allow that to be a deterrent – after all, someone had to come up with the concept – and write the script. No, Chris would not allow a lack of drawing talent to be a road block because Chris was a gifted writer.
However, Chris did have a concern. Watching the credits roll at the end of her favorite animated shows, one thing became apparent -potential a roadblock which Chris wouldn’t be able to overcome. Virtually all of the writers were male. Chris wondered if her being a female would shatter her dreams. Again, Chris would not be deterred.
Chris, an Irish-American, would see her childhood dreams come true. She would actually have two careers in television, simultaneously writing for children’s programming and producing the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. She had been an associate producer for Sesame Street’s International division before writing for the Sesame Street Workshop.
Chris was also a mother – she learned a great deal about her target audience from her own son. As it would turn out, her son would be at the root of her greatest inspiration. At the age of 2, her son was diagnosed as an asthmatic – a condition which required numerous visits to the doctor and a variety of treatments. Chris sought desperately to find ways to make things a little brighter for her son.
One evening, as she showered and thought about her son’s medical journey, the concept for a new show crystallized for Chris. In a mere ten minutes, she knew the concept, the lead character’s personality and name, the supporting cast – the entire show. Her shower complete, a concept formed, Chris dressed and converted her vision to words.
It was that night that Dottie ‘Doc’ McStuffins was born. Dottie was a six-year old girl who dreamed of becoming a doctor like her mother, a pediatrician. ‘Doc’ spends her time providing care to her toys, stuffed animals and dolls – all of whom come to life through the magic of her stethoscope. The show was pitched to the Disney company, who jumped at the opportunity. Their only condition was that young Doc McStuffins be African-American. Chris Nee agreed enthusiastically, realizing that move could only enhance the character and expand the show’s diversity.
Doc McStuffins has become a fiercely popular show on the Disney Jr. network. Doc has millions of fans who loyally tune in to watch the show. Sales of Doc games, puzzles, costumes, clothing – merchandise of all sorts – demonstrate the robust connection children have with this animated heroine. Doc McStuffins has won a Peabody Award, the Kidscreen Award for Best Animated Series and an NCAAP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. The show was renewed for its fifth season in November 2016. Doc McStuffins has influenced an entire generation of kids – and parents. That’s a pretty impressive list of accomplishments for a fictional character – but then again Doc McStuffins was created to be a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands are powerful influencers
Doc McStuffins is an award-winning program, the lead character a delightful and likeable young girl. Doc McStuffins also represents tens of millions of dollars in revenue to Disney. Both of these are tremendous achievements. However, both of those achievements are merely measurements of Doc McStuffins impact.
Doc has impacted societal norms. Consider…
- Doc McStuffins presents doctors as caring, nurturing and kind-hearted
- Kids see that going to the doctor is something to embrace vs. being feared
- The show puts a female in a position of authority in a natural, non-threatening manner
- Doc is African-American in a typically underrepresented position, making her a positive role model for people of color
- For other races – mainly whites – Doc begins to establish the concept that there shouldn’t be anything abnormal about a black doctor
- Doc is a female with a completely average physique, average looks and a normal wardrobe (well, beyond the doctor’s smock)
- Doc McStuffins teaches that’s it’s a good thing to have empathy for every ‘person’ needing care
- The show makes a point to include adults through its music and use of recognizable voice talent for its characters
Doc McStuffins certainly has her share of critics. The show doesn’t go far enough supporting minorities – it goes too far. Such is the case for any brand/show/concept which pushes people out of their comfort zones. The balance to that is the realization that positive change requires stretching limits – expanding comfort zones. In that regard, Doc McStuffins is truly a change-maker. There’s a great deal to learn from Doc about leadership, changing paradigms and building a fearless brand.
Shatter paradigms – There’s virtually no situation that justifies having the perspective of “It’s always been this way!” The main role of branding is to recognize unique traits and value – to create a significant point of differentiation. While it may not be readily apparent, Doc is unique in that she breaks the mold of so many stereotypes. Challenge the norm. Embrace your uniqueness. Be different.
Embrace your imagination – Chris Nee’s imagination created Doc McStuffins. Doc McStuffins’ imagination allows her to escape, to achieve, to follow her dreams. Imagination creates new potential, paints new visions, opens doors. Embrace your creativity. Pursue new possibilities. Chase unicorns. Get out of your comfort zone.
Conviction trumps criticism – It seems interesting that even a children’s animated show can generate criticism. Actually, any person, place or thing will garner some form of criticism. The cornerstone of a fearless brand is having the conviction of self – knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and accepting them at face value. That conviction negates any power that the critics seek to have. As the saying goes – ‘Haters gonna hate’ – let them.
Doc McStuffins is a fearless brand – one more far-reaching in impact and purpose than apparent at first glance. Having the conviction of self is one of the most powerful attributes of fearless brand. Conviction exudes a quiet confidence. If you don’t know Doc McStuffins, go meet her. You’ll find her on Disney Jr., YouTube and countless other outlets on the internet. Learning from her will help you as you build your fearless brand – even if you don’t have a magic stethoscope.