He is an international star. His fans span three generations – at least. His image has generated millions of dollars in sales and profit. He has his own song. Heck, he has his own world! It is not all of his fame and fans and accomplishment that makes him this Friday’s Fearless Brand. As is the case with his predecessors, his fame and success is the result of being a fearless brand.
Of course I’m speaking of Elmo – he of the red fur, orange nose, falsetto voice and huge eyes. A muppet as a fearless brand? I literally cannot think of a better choice for the week. Elmo was a bit of a latecomer to Sesame Street yet he is one of the most popular monsters on the block.
He is now the host of Elmo’s World – the final fifteen minute segment of the show – yet for years lacked clarity as to his identity – his personal brand. That changed.
Fearless brands have achieved great clarity – and clarity is power.
Elmo has been around since 1972 – except he wasn’t Elmo. Back then he was Baby Monster. There was no spark – no connection. He lacked focus and was very unsure of himself and who he was so he spent a great deal of time laying around the muppet offices. Literally. Elmo was just another puppet – a red puppet. Occasionally one of the puppeteers would attempt to bring out the “Elmo” in him but to no avail.
But then a very talented puppeteer, Kevin Clash, met the idle red puppet. Almost instantaneously Kevin was able to help Elmo find himself. Elmo found his voice, his movements, his style, his mannerisms – he found his brand.
He began appearing on the talk show circuit of the time. He was on Martha Stewart Living, The Tony Danza Show and The View. He was a regular on The Rosie O’Donnell show, gave babysitting tips on Teen Kids News, and appeared on the cooking show Emeril Live. His growing fame led him to star in two feature films – Elmo in Grouchland and Elmo Saves Christmas.
Elmo had come to know his brand and with that, his role – one he embraced with total conviction. That role was to bring a new audience to Sesame Street. A younger audience – toddlers. He resonates with that target audience because he acts his age. He has been three and a half since 1985 and celebrates each February 3rd. Like many kids his age he speaks in the third person. “Elmo wants to be your friend.” “Elmo thinks you’re nice.” He is likeable, upbeat, fun and funny.
In the 1980’s, when my son was a young lad, he was a huge Elmo fan. Now, my two year old twin granddaughters adore Elmo…although they call him ‘Melmo’. 🙂 He is a leader on Sesame Street even though many of his friends like Cookie, Big Bird and Oscar have been on the street much longer. Elmo merchandise continues to sell millions of dollars each year.
So what keeps Elmo so popular year after year? Simple. Elmo is a fearless brand. It began with him finally gaining clarity as to his brand and his purpose. He knows his value proposition and where his brand is relevant. Elmo has achieved what every brand strives for – an emotional connection with his target consumers. Elmo parlayed his clarity into conviction which has allowed him to be himself. He is consistent in his actions whether on Sesame Street, on cards, in books, in movies or on DVD’s.
He’s also the same lovable monster on stage – and that’s where I’ll be seeing him with my son and granddaughters in January at the Sesame Street Live Make a New Friend production. The girls are sure to be as excited as they’ve ever been – as will I just by watching them. Elmo, the fearless brand, will be the star of the show once again. Clarity is power.