As bizarre as it sounds, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” a gentle little cartoon aimed at little girls, has become wildly popular among perfectly normal adults. The phenomenon is so widespread that its male fans have taken to calling themselves “Bronies.” I must stress that this affection for the show is not ironic, mocking, or sick; the show is genuinely, honestly loved and watched by thousands upon thousands of grownups, many of whom don’t even have kids. They cite the show as having terrific characters, stories, and animation.
The success of the show among adults is surely a huge surprise to the studio, whose branding approach has been, understandably, aimed at little girls, not 30-year-old accountants and truck drivers. So should the studio rethink its marketing?
I would say definitely not. The branding of a product is, almost by definition, a central part of the product itself. If “My Little Pony” was reaimed at its new older audience – even if the show was left unchanged and it was just the branding that was retargeted – it would change impressions of the show, and quite possibly not for the better. Many of the show’s adult fans, asked why the show appeals to them, cite its honesty and sincerity; the fact that it appeals to them might well be because the sales pitch for the show’s related merchandise isn’t aimed at them, and so its commercial aspects don’t stand between the viewer and the show’s artistic merits.
Of course, I’m not a fan and this is all guesswork, but the point being that whatever they’ve done has worked. Branding is a science but also an art, and if you suddenly land a customer set you didn’t expect, be very careful about changing it – you could lose it as fast as you gained it. For their part, the producer of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” Lauren Faust, has said that while she’s overjoyed the show is popular among a surprisingly wide audience, they are going to be very careful about making radical chances to accomodate the not-little girls demographic. If it ain’t broke…