I've been a tad critical of the Disney marketing machine here and there, but I predict that the House of Mouse's recent decision to angle for a major franchise featuring a triangle and a rectangle will shape up beautifully for the Disney brand.
Mattel Inc. is embarking on an expensive strategy to create a new toy craze from scratch, with the movies and TV shows coming on its heels—an abrupt departure from usual procedure. In fact, the Monster High toys are the least of it. The company is aiming for an entertainment juggernaut, with books, movies, clothing, and anything else it can think of, in addition to the dolls. Mattel, the world's largest toy company, is feeling Disney envy, experts say.
After months of public acrimony, Burger King appears to be letting franchisees have it their way. The chain will raise the price of its $1 double cheeseburger, and is working to resolve pending litigation related to a proposed advertising increase. Burger King has been embroiled in two lawsuits with franchisees, one relating to whether the company can set prices -- stemming from the cheeseburger promotion -- and another pertaining to the chain's right to divert rebates from soft-drink companies to boost advertising spending.
Hundreds of Holiday Inns may soon have to change their names. InterContinental Hotels Group PLC is ready to strip the brand next year from as many as 300 of the 2,700 Holiday Inn hotels owned by franchisees in North America if those properties don't undertake the brand's $1 billion overhaul by Feb. 1. IHG, based in the U.K., started its overhaul of Holiday Inn two years ago in a bid to "contemporize" the 57-year-old brand and weed out older, poorly performing hotels.
Hospitality giant Marriott International is launching a new brand called the Autograph Collection, aimed at tapping customers who prefer independent, high-end hotels over brands such as Marriott, Hilton and Four Seasons. The Autograph Collection will allow independent hotels, many of whom have lost business in the recession, to maintain their character while using Marriott's massive reach to bring in more customers and save on costs.
Activision expands its blockbuster Guitar Hero franchise this week with the release of DJ Hero, a game that lets users play DJ with a turntable and more than 100 songs. Crispin Porter + Bogusky targets music fans and gamers with TV and online ads that highlight the player experience and tout the title's exclusive tracks. A TV spot breaking this week shows gamers on stage controlling the performances of Jay-Z and Eminem. Online, banner ads allow folks to create their own mixes.
The new owners of Saturn – whoever they are – will get a franchise that offers a fresh array of products and a dealer network well versed in providing a superior retail customer experience. What the new Saturn owners will not get, though, is a brand with a demonstrated ability to capture a substantial share of the U.S. market.
Burger King is trying to throw more raw meat on the grill by redirecting marketing funds normally spent by franchisees, and using it to run more corporate branding. We're talking $25 million next year, and $40 million every year through 2022. Its National Franchise Association, which represents the vast majority of those franchisees, has filed two lawsuits to stop it. As I possess friend of the Whopper status, I'd like to submit a brief in support of the complaints.
In an economic crisis, the weak die first. So it was no real surprise that the first sports casualties of the current recession came from minor professional leagues: Last month the WNBA shuttered its premier franchise, the Houston Comets, and the Arena Football League, which had been scratching out a living since 1987, canceled its 2009 season. Were these failures part of a normal, recessionary, thinning of the herd? Or were they the early warning signs of a pro-sports bubble that may be about to burst?