Take one lively girl—Pucca, the daughter of a Chinese restaurateur—add the object of her affection, Garu, who's more interested
in becoming a ninja, toss in some noodles, and an array of colorful characters, and you have a property that's gone from cult
Internet phenomenon to mainstream TV, backed up with a successful licensing program.
Pucca began as the cheeky star of an animated online e-card service created by Korean company Vooz in 2000. After gaining
popularity and licensing success in Korea and other parts of Asia, it arrived in Europe in 2004, a result of Jetix Europe
acquiring the licensing and TV rights. A series of 2.5-minute flash animation shorts (produced by Vooz) followed, airing on
various Jetix and MTV channels before being made into a longer series.
"The possibilities with Pucca were immediately apparent, especially because you were left wanting more after watching the
original shorts," explains Richard Woolf, director of international licensing, Jetix Consumer Products. The success of the
shorts encouraged Jetix Europe to develop a brand-new animated series with Canada's Studio B that aired last year. Each episode
was extended to seven minutes, the storyline developed, and some characters were given voices. The series debuted on a number
of Jetix channels in the U.S., Japan, Latin America, and much of Europe. Most recently, in February, it launched in Poland
and Central and Eastern Europe.
"The challenge in developing Pucca further was to remain true to the property, but also to add a new dimension through new
characters and worlds, which would enhance the brand and engage the Jetix audience," says Woolf. "The original shorts had
a very specific look and feel. We wanted to make sure that the visual style of the new series reflected this. The expansion
of Pucca's world creates new opportunities for the further growth of the licensing program."
Even before the new series began airing around the world, the licensing program for Pucca was developing nicely. Drawing inspiration
from its vibrant visual style—bold designs, quirky characters, and colors—Pucca was originally established as a design-led
property, targeting a slightly older age group than the TV series. This approach enabled Jetix to look at opportunities with
high-end product and fashion retailers that, according to Woolf, might not have been options had the TV series existed. The
notorious uncertainty retailers often have when dealing with non-TV properties was never really a problem. "The product sold
itself," Woolf explains. "Pucca brought something new to the marketplace and retailers were attracted by the unique look and
style of the character. In particular, the red and black colors associated with Pucca created real impact and stand out on
Initially, the launch of Pucca products focused on high-end channels, targeting teens and comprised of apparel, accessories,
housewares, giftware, and stationery. This campaign was supported by the debut of the original shorts on MTV channels across
Europe, which developed awareness among the target market. Since the TV series began, the focus has shifted slightly.
"In a licensing sense, Pucca is very much a fashion and lifestyle brand," says Woolf. "With the introduction of the TV series,
the target audience has broadened and more mainstream opportunities are now under consideration. For example, we have held
back on introducing a toy line, but now with a more mainstream approach we are actively looking for potential master toy and
gift partners. In addition, we are in discussions with publishing partners and looking at both mobile and game opportunities.
The most successful licensing categories are those that hold strong appeal to the target audience, but that also fit with
the brand and use imagery to the best effect.
"The retail strategy for Pucca combines both independents and [chains] and is tailored to each individual market," he adds.
"For example, in France we've partnered with Galeries Lafayette and in the UK we've worked with both independents and more
mainstream retailers such as Boots and Woolworths."
In Korea and Asia, there are more than 3,000 different Pucca products as well as branded stores. For Europe and the Middle
East, Jetix Consumer Products (Jetix Europe's licensing division) has secured upwards of 80 licensees so far.