BOZO'S NEW FOOD LINE ISN'T JUST CLOWNING AROUND

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It took 50 years, but the world's most famous clown is planting his size 83AAA shoes directly in supermarket food aisles.

Larry Harmon, license holder for Bozo, is celebrating the character's half-century mark with a licensing program he said will bring the red-wigged clown for the first time into groceries with a cookie and frozen novelty line.

Bozo Float Bars, marketed by Florida-based Wells Dairy, bowed in January and Larry Harmon Pictures Corp. signed Boston-based Venus Wafers Co. for Bozo's Animal Crackers, due in May.

50TH ANNIVERSARY

The two are just the beginning of a 50th anniversary licensing plan pushed by Mr. Harmon, a lively personality even at 71 years old. "It's great to do anything for 50 years. Like breathing in and out," said Mr. Harmon.

His goal is to license Bozo-branded products in categories including convenience meals, fruit juice, low-fat cheese and vegetables and fruits. A deal with a popcorn marketer he wouldn't identify is being negotiated.

"We are trying to leverage the equity and trust of Bozo honed over five decades," he said.

Karen Raugust, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, said there's both a possible boon and a drawback in marketing around a half-century-old character.

"It can be an advantage because he [Bozo] becomes a long-term proven property for a manufacturer," she said. "You can assume he's not going to go away and that [recognizability] helps offset upfront costs such as advertising." A landmark anniversary, Ms. Raugust said, is also an opportune time to do it.

But she also said Bozo "could be at a disadvantage if he's perceived as old."

NO NATIONAL ADS

While there won't be mass market advertising on a national scale for the current licensees, licensees will tie in with the "Bozo Super Sunday Show," the 40-year-old national show airing on Chicago-based superstation WGN.

The products will also be pushed through Bozo appearances, retail premium offers and cross-promotions among the food lines with non-food Bozo products, such as the Bozo Floppy Disc Coloring Book marketed by Trendmasters.

Venus Wafers President Bill Ammerman promises regional ad support for the Bozo bakery line via The Mountain Group, Dallas.

Tossing off phrases such as "added value," "self-liquidating promotion" and "high margin"-sounding very odd coming from a timbre instantly recognizable to baby boomers as Bozo-Mr. Harmon said the notion to go into supermarket-distributed foods after half a century was a natural.

"It was a coincidence of time, or maybe destiny," he said, then lapsing into the giggly Bozo voice and catchphrase: "Just keep laughin'...."

He added, "Hopefully, all the way to the bank."

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