Vikram Sharma, Vice President of Cartoon Network Enterprises, Warner Media Asia Pacific talks about the launch of TUZKI in association with Manish Arora.
Kindly shed some light on the IP TUZKI
TUZKI started life as a Chinese emoji in 2006 and has been on a trajectory to stardom ever since. TUZKI amasses millions of shares every day on messaging platforms like WeChat, predominantly by teens and young adults. That was one of the reasons he was chosen to appear on the world’s tallest building on October 1 this year as part of a large-scale campaign with Dubai Tourism.
He has his own themed restaurant in Hangzhou and TUZKI is also a TV star in China, with a movie on the way. Through the unique collaboration with esteemed designer Manish Arora, we are giving Indian fans a chance to appreciate and become familiar with TUZKI. From being the showstopper for Manish at Paris Fashion Week in 2018, to making a splash in China, TUZKI’s homeland, and now stepping on to Indian shores through a collection launch on KOOVS.com, the rabbit emoji has travelled the world. The addition of TUZKI is a big boost for our portfolio in India.
How did you narrow down on the designer and the launch platform?
What makes TUZKI’s debut in India special, is the one-of-a-kind association with the world-famous designer Manish Arora. He was thrilled to collaborate for the TUZKI-inspired line, given how much he loved the character even before we went to him with the prospect. As you can imagine, the melange of Manish’s astute craftsmanship and TUZKI’s quirky personality resulted into a range of accessories and clothes teeming with style, humour and originality. We needed someone who could exalt the relatability and popularity of TUZKI, and the collaboration with Manish was a match made in heaven.
The TUZKI-inspired range was a part of the designer’s MANISH ARORA X KOOVS collection, which is available for purchase exclusively on KOOVS.com. The platform is a great avenue for fans across the country to get to know the globally popular emoji and indulge in a seamless shopping experience for the TUZKI collection.
What are your future plans for TUZKI in India? Will you be foraying into any other product category(s)?
WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks brands always follow a fan-first strategy. The TUZKI-inspired collection by Manish Arora on KOOVS.com is a great example of this. TUZKI is included in the unisex category and comprises eclectic, gender-fluid pieces.
We are excited for Indian fans to experience TUZKI through Manish’s creativity. The collection represents the rabbit emoji’s ‘One Day in Paris’ – you can see TUZKI meditating below the Eiffel Tower, enjoying a glass of wine and a lot more. Vibrant colours, sequins and Manish’s quintessential artistry – it’s the perfect mix for a contemporary wardrobe.
In fact, we foresee the popularity of TUZKI successfully expanding beyond this fashion line and entering other consumer product segments. This is just the beginning for TUZKI in India.
What were the challenges that you faced during the launch?
The two biggest challenges were that it’s a new IP and that it’s not local. But we’re confident that it can gain popularity here because India is generally very receptive to something that is cool, sassy and relatable.
TUZKI has a unique ability to connect young people everywhere. To help with, we tried to localise the launch as much as possible, while retaining his universal appeal. Our collaboration with Manish Arora was a great example of that.
What are the checks as to know if a brand is ready for licensing?
Not every well-known IP is “merchandisable” and can make the leap to products across different categories. It’s not just about popularity, it’s very much about whether the IP is relatable to a particular demo. It also helps if the IP is managed by a company that owns an ecosystem than can support it with experienced teams and platforms to extend its reach.
What according to you are the factors propelling the growth of L&M industry in India?
Fans love to own tangible pieces that allow them to express themselves, stir imagination and dive into the world of characters they adore. They love embracing pop-culture elements that empower them to showcase their individuality. That’s what the consumer products business does – it brings fans closer to their most cherished characters.And pop-culture, as we know, has always been an inspiration for designers globally because of how relatable it is.
WarnerMediaand its brands like HBO, WB, Cartoon Network, POGO and Adult Swim, understand this well and keeps fans at the heart of its business. We build world-class licensing programmes for internationally-loved characters. For example, this year saw us partnering with the well-known fashion designer, Nandita Mahtani, on a range of high-end fashion pieces that incorporated our timeless cartoons like Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory. The range was a perfect amalgamation of the nostalgic connect of the brand with current fashion trends.
What’s great about these franchises for us is that they span demographics. An IP like We Bare Bears can entertain kids on TVbut also resonate completely with young adults and parents. The Powerpuff Girls can offer both teens and parents great empowerment role models – and this essence of the franchise has lasted more than 20 years. Properties like Rick and Morty and Adventure Timealso have a very specific type of audience.
With numerous IPs and merchandise options, fans get an opportunity to combine their favourite characters with the real world, creating even more licensing opportunities.