DC Entertainment’s Diane Nelson: Toys & Merchandise For Girls Is “a Big Business Opportunity”

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DC Comics may have problems catering to several demographics at once but DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson is making sure their new line of toys and merchandise are being targeted at an undervalued market – girls who like superheroes.

I didn’t realize this but Nelson holds more than just her DC Entertainment title. She’s also president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and president and chief content officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Speaking to Fortune recently Nelson said this of her team and their goals:

My leadership team has a strong and active goal: to create diversity by making sure that we have a diverse staff and content that is diverse. In the last few years, girl empowerment has come to the fore, and the consumer products department saw this opportunity. We have strong female characters in the DC universe, and decided that creating a program around female teenage super heroes could give young girls role models they’ve never had before.

It’s good that someone is finally taking advantage of this huge money-making opportunity (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve personally written about how women and girls are forgotten when it comes to superhero merchandising) but I’m still amazed it took this long. I mean, we were discussing how Marvel dropped the ball with Jessica Jones just yesterday.

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Smaller companies like GoldieBlox and IAmElemental (action figures above) have started filling in the gaps more established companies have been ignoring. Mattel, who is working with DC on their line, recently got with the program and started offering Barbie dolls with different body types, hair, and skin tones to make their product more appealing to a diverse population.

But while many try to hold on to gender norms when it comes to marketing, others have been vocal about how girls shouldn’t be ignored. In 2013, Kevin Smith famously had writer Paul Dini on his podcast. Dini, having worked on countless Warner Bros. animation projects in his career, was frustrated by other companies insisting they didn’t want a girl audience for their animated shows because “They don’t buy toys. The girls buy different toys.” Smith was also very vocal about this:

You can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, maybe not as many as fucking boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a t-shirt, man, sell them fucking umbrella with the fucking character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s, it’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

Maybe Nelson was listening? You might have started seeing DC Super Hero Girls merchandise in the toy section (beyond action figures they include apparel, accessories, books, and more) at Target a few months ago but the official worldwide rollout of most of the items isn’t until July. Nelson told Fortune, “It’s a big business opportunity.”

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“Girls in our research groups wanted action stories with heroes, so we started with animated shorts on YouTube, an hour-long animated special on Cartoon Network and Boomerang, and a website of adventures available in various languages,” she said. “Now come the dolls, action figures, and books, with animated shorts, direct-to-video and apps underway. Mattel will launch a 12-inch Katana action doll as a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive.”

“We can’t keep it on the shelves,” Nelson said so far of their success in stores. “We think the DC Super Hero Girls can be bigger than a $1 billion brand.”

I have seen some of the figures and costume play sets in Target and they stand out because they aren’t the normal pink of the “girls” toy aisle. Nelson said that was by design and also because they wanted to stay consistent with how the characters are represented in the DC Universe.

“So we have golds, greens, and reds that really pop on aisles that are full of pink,” she told Fortune. She also mentioned one of the specific design thoughts was that the dolls be made to stand on their own two feet instead of relying on a stand. “The characters wear practical uniforms instead of swimsuits and high heels. We have 12-inch action dolls and 6-inch action figures, which is the first time action figures have been made for girls. There’s a great Wonder Woman shield, capes that appeal to younger girls, and novels that appeal to older girls.”

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As a DC fan, I would have loved to have this merchandise around when I was a kid and I know plenty of adults who’ve picked them up for themselves and loved ones already. The style may not appeal to everyone but you can’t deny DC Entertainment has made a very smart business decision here that’s not only good for their bottom line but for great for fans.

If you’ve yet to check out the animated DC Super Hero Girls stuff on YouTube you’re actually way behind. Luckily they’re short so it doesn’t take much to get caught up. And if you can’t seem to find the merchandise in stores [Editor’s Note: affiliate link] Amazon and other online retailers still have them in stock.

You can read the entire interview at Fortune.

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7 Responses to “DC Entertainment’s Diane Nelson: Toys & Merchandise For Girls Is “a Big Business Opportunity””

  1. Those toys are fu-pretty neat. Seeing them in the aisle, I thought, man, maybe parenting will be easier than I thought.

  2. Every time I see Barbara as Batgirl, I’m going to complain that it’s a missed opportunity to use Oracle, but other than that I’m loving these. I can’t wait to see more lines; I want to see more figures. More I tell you!

  3. Pontifex says:

    Was looking for news of how well they are selling, but so far couldn’t find anything specific, but given that Amazon is sold out of nearly every one but for a couple that they only have one or two of…

    I think that they are doing fine

  4. Pontifex says:

    I like Supergirl’s red Converse high tops.

  5. KA says:

    I love this SO MUCH! I was vacationing in the USA awhile ago and made sure I stopped by Target to find myself some dolls! Got myself the Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy dolls! They are stunning~ <3

  6. Spidey Super Comments says:

    My daughter is DC Superhero Girl crazy. I bought almost all of them and have them in hiding to dole out as presents at key times. But if yo don’t buy them when you see them, you ain’t getting them!

    Right now, they’re available online and not just in store….
    http://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=dc+superhero+girls&category=0%7CAll%7Cmatchallpartial%7Call+categories&lnk=snav_sbox_dc+superhero+girls

  7. They Call Me The Fizz says:

    Meanwhile at Marvel, Ike grinds his teeth and mumbles about charts from 20 years ago…