Sunday, May 19, 2013

'Star Wars'-Loving Kid Has Never Heard of 'Star Trek'

Earlier this month I mentioned how the boys in Elliot's preschool class all seem to know about "Star Wars," even if they haven't seen the movies.

A writer for the New York Times picked up on this phenomenon last year, noting how his son was similarly fixated on the sci-fi franchise:
Other parents tell me they are also bewildered by their sons’ “Star Wars” obsession. Perhaps the younger ones heard about it from an older sibling. Or maybe it’s just further proof that marketing can create a mythology as elemental as Mother Goose. American consumers spend about $500 million a year on “Star Wars” toys, clothing, video games and just about anything else you can think of, according to NPD, a research firm.
After "Star Trek Into Darkness" emerged as the No. 1 movie in America over the weekend, I have to wonder: Why don't young kids have any love for "Star Trek"?

I'm fairly certain if you polled the children in Elliot's class, none of them would know what "Star Trek" is. That was Elliot's reaction, as you can see in the YouTube clip above. He only perks up when he believes that "Star Trek" might be a movie about "Star Wars."

I guess "Star Trek" has always courted an older audience and explored more philosophical themes. But it still seems odd that the franchise is so unknown to the preschool set.

It turns out that merchandising may be a factor in the recognition deficit. There's a dispute over licensing rights, which is one of the reasons you see fewer "Star Trek" toys and products out there.

From a story that ran in The Wrap last week:
"Star Trek's" licensing and merchandising rights are spread over two media conglomerates with competing goals. The rights to the original television series from the 1960s remained with CBS after it split off from Paramount’s corporate parent Viacom in 2006, while the studio retained the rights to the film series. CBS also held onto the ability to create future “Star Trek” TV shows.

Paramount must license the “Star Trek” characters from CBS Consumer Products for film merchandising.

Much to the dismay of Bad Robot [the J.J. Abrams production company making the current movies], CBS' merchandising arm continued to create memorabilia and products based on the cast of the original 1960s series and market them to Trekkies. The production company did market research and found that there was brand confusion between Abrams' rebooted Enterprise crew and the one starring William Shatner and DeForest Kelley.

TheWrap has learned that Bad Robot asked CBS to stop making products featuring the original cast, but talks broke down over money. The network was making roughly $20 million a year on that merchandise and had no incentive to play nice with its former corporate brother, the individual said. In response, the company scaled back its ambitions to have "Star Trek's" storylines play out with television shows, spin-off films and online components, something Abrams had been eager to accomplish.
Elliot doesn't own a ton of "Star Wars" merchandise, but he does have some clothing and the aforementioned M&M light sabers.

Maybe if the "Star Trek" folks sold M&M tricorders or phasers, the movies wouldn't be so invisible to 4-year-olds.

UPDATE: You can't say "Star Trek" marketers are laggards when it comes to this product category: beer.

Vulcan Ale, the film franchise's first “officially licensed alcoholic beverage,” is being sold in Canada. (It's unclear when it will be available in the U.S.)

Not sure this will help build awareness with children (I hope it doesn't, actually), but perhaps it's a step in the right direction.