From Rugrats to Spice Girls. The role of characters and personalities in lateral marketing to child and youth markets

Carrick James
Carrick James Market Research, United Kingdom


This paper is concerned with the role of characters and personalities in the lives of children.

It traces the history of characters and explores how characters in the 1990's are becoming more than just fictional characters but brands in their own right; products that are marketed in different guises. Brands also extend to real life personalities, such as musicians and sports people who are also becoming 'licensed properties' that form the basis of varied products.


Characters have existed for children for thousands of years. Fables and fairy tales can be seen as the antecedents of today's proliferation of characters.

The animal fables of Aesop were reportedly written in the sixth century BC but many were far older, being found on Egyptian papyrus of 800-1000 years earlier. Typically the fables were short stories whose characters were usually (but not always) animals with human characteristics. The stories often led to moral conclusions. Aesop's fables were compiled by Demetrius of Phaleron in the fourth century BC. Aesop wrote such stories as 'The Dog in a Manger' and 'The Boy who Cried Wolf'. Aesop's Fables was also one of the first books to be printed by Caxton in 1484. Although it began life as a book for grown-ups, it was soon read by children.