Sesame Street, the first preschool educational programming has entertained and taught millions of children across the world. It all began on November 10, 1969 as a means of preparing young children for school and has become the longest running television program on PBS. In its early yearly years the focus was on the children and teaching them letter sounds, counting, songs that were about letters, words, counting, etc. Nowadays, Sesame Street while still focusing on the children and the fundamentals of learning, they have added a bit of a twist that appeals to parents in their parodies of shows, commercials and the online world as we experience it.
Sesame Street’s Adaptation of Lifestyle & Television
Sesame Street premiered with huge ratings and admiration from parents and children. Television back in 1969 was not only free, there were limited channels and programs. Young children were home all day and as a parent to find something that held their attention, was educational and got them excited and talking about learning was hard to come by. Moms were home and soap operas were the rave for the front porch talk with the neighbors. Sesame Street brought change to television for children but it has not been an easy road.
Sesame Street has survived cable, competing television programs like Barney, The Teletubbies, The Wiggles as well as changes in families with working moms, single parents and preschools; and of course funding. But yet it has managed to stay on the air for 41 years. The core characters of Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover and The Count have remained as staples with some new characters that attract a younger crowd but yet also to parents.
Sesame Street has always been the show that is always on. It never really makes the news, it has never changed networks, it has remained under the main stream media for years. It has attracted the biggest and best stars in the entertainment industry while continuing to educate children. Over the past 8 years or so, we have seen a shift that has addressed real life issues from single parents, adoptions, divorce, economic struggles to appealing to parents with parodies of shows that they watch. These parodies do not resonate with the children, but they laugh as the parents are laughing.
Popularity Through Parodies
When we think about a show or a public figure being poplar we think of the parodies on Saturday Night Live.The best in entertainment appear on SNL and act out skits that are entertaining and current. If you made SNL pretty much you knew you “made it” for doing something right (or wrong) but yet you still were a part of SNL. Sure there were the butt of jokes on Leno, Jimmy Fallon or the Top 10 of Letterman but yet SNL was the cream of the crop. The skit on SNL was telling as you knew that if you were on it was because you were “big” enough to have the writers write and Lorne Michaels and his team put it on air. SNL is still alive and we cannot deny we have tuned in for many of the skits, but Is it time for SNL to move over as there is a new “made it” in the works with Sesame Street?
Sesame Street Parodies as the New Brand Builder
Sesame Street has created skits albeit are educational but yet entertaining for the parents. I can remember watching with my son when I first saw the parody of Law and Order. I laughed as it had the dun dun of the music but the skit as educational with the “case as a missing letter.” Now, the parodies have changed bit as Grover in a bathroom with a towel “Smelling Like A Monster” is a parody of the Old Spice Campaign.
The Old Spice Campaign was brilliant and to have Grover want you to smell like a monster is very telling. Sesame Street did not stop here as they also parodied Mad Men which was has to make us think – does Sesame Street build brands through their parodies?
Building a Brand Brand
A brand is the message and while all brands do what they can to get their message out to their target and have it resonate so that the consumer chooses them and remains with them is how we have seen small businesses emerge as competitors to the larger brands. Interaction with customers, positive feedback and mentions is what helps to build the brand. The consumers are buying based upon the message or the brand identity they have developed from the message. Sesame Street is identifying and building upon the identity that they have built for the brand. Old Spice having taken us by surprise and pulled us in and then leaving wanting more now has a 41 year old icon wanting everyone to smell like a monster. If that is not “making it” then what is?
Our memories of Sesame Street are alive through our children. As my son has moved on to the “big kid” shows of Sponge Bob, Johnny Test, Scooby Doo, he still wanders back to Sesame Street as Elmo’s World with Mr. Noodle and Cookie Monster eating the letter of the day never gets old!
And for me, it reminds me of when me and my sisters would fight over our favorite characters as I was a Mr. Snuffleupagus and Oscar fan (still am especially with his new friend Slimy) and my older sister was Big Bird and my younger sister was Cookie Monster. It is a family treasure I suppose.
Is Sesame Street a brand builder?
photo credit: from John McNab