John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton


Down the hall from the calendar store where I work part-time is a young women's clothing store called Wet Seal. On a typical work day, I pass Wet Seal at least twice, which means that I've seen a lot of one particular advertising display they have near the entrance, a full-length photograph of a cute young woman with short, blonde hair wearing a short, green dress. It's not a woman I recognized the first time I saw it, nor did I recognize her name, but I didn't think much of that; being both quite a lot older and quite a lot more male than Wet Seal's target customer, I assumed it was an actress or a pop star who hadn't managed to penetrate my cultural consciousness yet. My curiosity finally got the best of me though, so the other day I Googled the name on the display, Riley Perrin.

It turned out, to my surprise, that Riley Perrin is, in fact, not a real person. She's a character on a TV show on ABC Family called Baby Daddy. Interesting! There's a long history of companies licensing fictional characters to act as corporate spokespeople, of course, but that's not exactly the role Riley Perrin plays for Wet Seal. Rather, she's one of four characters from four different ABC Family shows who served as inspirations for a line of clothing created by the network for Wet Seal: Crush by ABC Family. Crazy!

It's all very reminiscent of The Truman Show, where viewers could order the clothing and other products seen on screen from a catalog. I mean, I've never seen Baby Daddy, so I don't know that Riley has ever worn "her" clothes in an episode, but why wouldn't she? One would think that if the producers of a TV show goes to the trouble of creating a clothing line inspired by a character on that show, they would want to show that character actually wearing those clothes, right?

I suppose this sort of thing is no different from, say, the producers of Doctor Who designing a new sonic screwdriver for a new Doctor and then making a replica of that new design for fans to purchase (the calendar store, in fact, carries two such items, a full-sized replica and a keychain model) and I wouldn't even think twice about seeing an official Doctor Who bow tie or official Firefly brown coat for sale in a men's store. But as Dave Lartigue has observed, "nerd culture celebrates acquisition and retention," which is not something I would have said or believed about the ABC Family-watcher culture, if it had even occurred to me there was such a thing as the ABC Family-watcher culture.

But if there is, why wouldn't you try to sell licensed merch to them just like you would to a Doctor Who fan? It's an interesting experiment, and one that makes perfect sense for Disney to try. They make a lot of money selling branded merchandise to nerds, so why try extending that same marketing strategy to other subcultures? I may stop into Wet Seal one of these days and ask how the Crush by ABC Family line is selling for them.
Tags: fandom

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