Celebrating the 20th anniversary of continuous production, Power Rangers redefines the mold of a sustaining kid franchise. After reacquiring the brand from Disney three years ago, Saban Brands has re-introduced Power Rangers to the marketplace with Nickelodeon and a new TV series that launched a few weeks ago. Beyond a successful TV show and evergreen retail, Power Rangers is an all-encompassing brand that has authentic relationships with its fans, consumers and audiences alike. With a focus on content and adapting to industry behaviors, the Power Rangers have morphed into an iconic property.
"From virtually the first airing, we knew we had something," says Elie Dekel, President of Saban Brands. In the early 90s, when Power Rangers debuted, it was unlike any other children's show of its kind in terms of format and content.
Saban deconstructed what was successful in those early years and has rebuilt the show in modern context. "Remarkably, those same ingredients that worked 20 years ago, that connected with kids, are working again."
The format was based on the Super Sentai series and influenced by Toei film using old school techniques to recreate what would otherwise be an animated show in live action format. "We were taking scenes out of the Japanese show, rewriting an entirely new story, new premise, a whole new creative around that footage and producing those elements that tied it all together. We had a multi-cultural cast speaking English, a setting that Western audiences could relate to -- namely school -- local juice bar, where they hung out, and we made it relatable."
The themes of the show, good versus evil, fantasy, teamwork and friendship are universal and continue to resonate with a global audience. "The concept of morphing and transformation would take kids from being regular teenagers to transform themselves to super heroes was breakthrough, new and different." At the end of every episode, the kids-next-door would transform themselves to play out the hero and transform back to their normal life as a kid. "Letting kids become the superhero is why it became so popular. Now kids could aspire to see themselves not as adult superhero, but now there were kid superheroes. Fan base loves it." It showed that kids themselves could save the world.
In order to put Power Rangers in the context of today, Saban Brands adapts to the industry influences of age compression and technology. These influences ultimately affect who their audience is and how their audience engages with content.
Age compression is an industry phenomenon which is the notion that "kids are maturing younger faster, not necessarily emotionally, but in the way that they consume media, awareness of the world and ability to interact with technology and in the way that they play."
Today's audiences are digital natives who embrace choice and technology. They don't have to learn the new behavior of interactivity, social media, streaming, and mobile applications. While these capabilities are relatively new to the media business, kids "don't have to adjust to watching TV at a specific half hour to now worrying about time shifting or DVR or on demand they don't think that way. To them it's about finding the content they love and then having it accessible online anywhere anytime. And that is the new expectation, that is the new behavior, that is the new audience that is growing up and will dictate the future of the media business."
To combat this shift of accessibility, Saban Brands aligns Power Ranger with online distribution where 800 episodes are available on Netflix, distribution across Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, DVD/ Blu-ray, and on the Xbox platform. Additionally, they have video games online and social media.
"There's another layer that we didn't necessarily anticipate, but we quickly realized and have been embracing, is having a relationship with our fans, that couldn't have existed before."
Years ago, fans interacted with the brand through the Power Ranger fan club, which for $10 a month would send a box of Power Ranger merchandise and paraphernalia with an occasional newsletter.
"But apart from the mail bag, which occasionally had some drawings or scribbles from kids, there wasn't much of a two-way relationship. Today it's completely a two-way relationship."
Through the online marketing strategy of tapping into social media and nurturing their fan base, Saban Brands empowers their fan community to be the driving force in getting out Power Ranger-related news and perpetuating its own pop culture relevance.
By engaging online through social media and chat rooms, Saban Brands realized they had an intensely passionate following in a global marketplace. Super fans, as Dekel refers to them, are fans who've grown up and stayed loyal to Power Rangers, some have built websites and fan sites. In 2007, a fan created Power Morphicon, a Power Ranger convention where super fans come to be immersed in the world of Power Rangers. The convention is held every other year; last year, 7,000 people flew from all over the world to attend.
Fans "want to feel a connection they want to feel it's not a one way relationship, it's not an anonymous connection -- when our fans love our brands we need to find ways to love them back."
With such a strong following of fans, Saban developed the concept of a super fan council, which received thousands of applications. The "Power Force" program honors a group of super fans with an influential online presence, passion and knowledge for the franchise and demonstrate active fan involvement. These super fans utilize their influence and relationships within the Power Ranger community to help build and expand Power Ranger initiatives.
"They tell us what they think all the time, we now have a closed communication with this group whose critiquing every episode, making suggestions, storylines, and every time we have something new to say, we tell our Power Force first and before we can check our inboxes, they've re-tweeted and post it."