The famous five power back

A new breed of Power Ranger is eyeing your money, warns

Every Saturday morning at around 9am, five American teenagers team up and save the world. These are no ordinary teenagers: these are the Power Rangers. But these are no ordinary Power Rangers either: they are the latest incarnation of the popular children's television characters - the Power Rangers Zeo. As any child up to the age of 11 will testify, the Power Rangers are an extremely potent force. But while their strength can be measured by their success in repelling the evil intergalactic intruders led by King Mondo and Queen Machina, they can also be measured in commercial terms. Take the Power Rangers away from the small screen and into big business and they morph into a mighty retail brand.

Global sales of Power Ranger merchandise have been running at around $1bn (pounds 625m) a year.

However, children are notoriously fickle, and yesterday's fad can easily become tomorrow's reject. That the Power Rangers are now in their fourth year in this country is some measure of their longevity. They have certainly defied the critics who dismissed them as one-minute wonders. That is in part due to the strength of the series, and in part due to some extremely skilful marketing and licensing.

In the UK the responsibility for licensing Power Rangers falls to Jackie Ferguson, managing director of Saban UK. It is Saban Entertainment in the US which produces the Power Rangers television series which represents the lifeblood of the merchandising initiative. A year or so ago that blood began to flow a little less readily. Toy sales of Power Ranger figures slumped in the US amid fears that the series was becoming a little jaded. Saban responded by killing off the old Power Rangers and replacing them with the new improved Power Rangers Zeo.

It was a moment of inspiration. The launch of the Zeo series on US television last year confirmed the show's top rating with young viewers, and, in turn, gave a new lease of life to the merchandising initiative.

Ms Ferguson believes that experience will be mirrored in the UK. New Zeo merchandise is already on the shop shelves, and the series premiered on terrestrial television a fortnight ago. She has already built an impressive list of licensees who will be using the Power Rangers Zeo on a range of products from shoes and socks to tinned pasta shapes and sausages.

She attributes the success of Power Rangers to its easy differentiation from the competition. Much children's programming is animation-based, whereas Power Rangers is live action which provides the audience with excitement and also creates the potential for role models. Parents may scoff at the notion that a bunch of teenagers in leotards can inspire a small child but there is no doubting the clear admiration in the mind of a four- year-old for the Red Ranger because he is the leader of the pack.

Whatever the reasons for its success, the one big challenge which faces Ms Ferguson is extending the product's durability. Her licensing campaign in the UK would make something of a textbook study. She has always trodden a careful balance between exposure and exclusivity. The quickest way to make money would be to grant licences to anyone and everyone. However, market saturation is also the quickest way to retire a product too early.

It may have been luck rather than judgement which ensured there was a shortage of Power Rangers toys in the shops for their first Christmas in Britain. There is no doubt, however, that shortage of a product enhances demand significantly. Other merchandise was also filtered in steadily, rather than in bulk.

This helped establish the credentials of the brand. However, one of Ms Ferguson's key roles is not to add new licences but to monitor existing ones. She is constantly reviewing consumer demand and checking to see that the right licensees are delivering the right products to meet the changing needs of the market. Originally, the typical Power Ranger audience was from six to 13 years of age. Now it is three to seven. That has the effect of dramatically changing the merchandise which will appeal, and the licensees must reflect this change.

The merchandise is therefore frequently reviewed, relationships with retailers strengthened and the concept is constantly promoted, often being strengthened by Establishment or corporate endorsement. The Power Rangers can now frequently be found at the centre of anti-drug campaigns.

With such a roaring success on her hands it would be easy for Ms Ferguson to sit back and admire her handiwork. This, she knows, is a recipe for disaster. She is acutely aware that the hunt is always on for new Power Rangers. Four years ago transatlantic audiences were blissfully unaware of their existence. Today they are part of child folklore.

When the challenge comes, Ms Ferguson will be there to meet it. With five of the world's toughest kids on her side, how can she possibly fail?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Stockbroker

£Basic (OTE) + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Stockbroker (qualified / p...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence