Twilight's Merchandising New Horizon: Fan-Made Tie-Ins

Posted by Abe Sauer on November 21, 2011 12:00 PM

Twilight is at its twilight. Part one of the series' two-part finale, Breaking Dawn, bit down and sucked the dollars out of wallets across the nation this weekend. The film brought in over $30 million from Thursday midnight shows alone. (That is about as much as Immortals took in total to win last week's box office.)

But the money-making machine goes beyond the screen. As with any cultural phenomenon, there is an equal amount of money to be made in merchandise. And while Twilight has largely foregone product placement, it has found a genius other way to profit on its brand of romancing vampires verses werewolves.

The identifiable products in Breaking Dawn, as with the last film Eclipse, added up to just a handful. Brands that have appeared in most of the film — like Volvo and Apple — are again onscreen. Apple's glowing logo jarringly leaping out in one scene. Less obvious are the placements for jacket maker-to-the-stars Belstaff, which here appears on stars Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. (Ironically, earlier this year Belstaff had a tie-in with Water for Elephants, as the jacket of heartthrob Robert Pattinson.)

Thousand dollar Belstaff leathers and Manolo Blahniks may be out of the reach of many "Twihards," but that doesn't mean the franchise has forgotten them. In fact, in a breakthrough scheme, Twilight: Breaking Dawn has put the business of movie tie-in collectables in the hands of its audience.

Cafe Press—the site where people go to make personalized hats for grandma's 80th birthday or "I'm with stupid" t-shirts for their dogs—is the "official store" of the Twilight saga. The products are certainly "Cafe Press-y." For instance, this "Twilight Memories Stadium Blanket."

Not to take anything away from the artist, but that's not the kind of professional work one looks for from a billion-dollar film franchise. And it shouldn't be, as that blanket is "fan made."

Indeed, it seems Twilight is onto something genius with its merchandise. Just as Amazon democratized the publishing process with its CreateSpace self-publishing arm, so has Twilight turned its merchandising operations over to its fans.

The idea is that instead of guessing what consumers want, fans are allowed to make Twilight merchandise available for sale. Of course, the idea is that the fans themselves, and their handful of friends, will buy the items. Like Create Space, the profit comes from small margins on multitudes of salsas instead of large margins from a smaller number of sales.

Twilight's official Cafe Press store even has a "Personalizable Products. It's not hard to ignore the appeal.

Rwar! Brandchannel is Team Jacob!

The "Stickers & Flair" section of the Twilight Cafe Press store lists 2,095 items alone. "T-Shirts & Apparel" lists 2,644 items. And since Cafe Press is "print on demand," there is no up front production or stocking costs to offering all of these items. It really is the exact same model as Amazon's print-on-demand self-publishing operation and may herald the future of how studio's license their properties.

The one risk Twilight runs by crowd-sourcing its merchandise is the erosion of its brand image and qaulity. Judging by its other official tie-ins though, it's a challenge to imagine how a 13-year-old girl dragging and dropping a boatload of flair onto her shirt could erode the brand quality any more than the banner ads currently floating around for Twilight's PRO Beauty Tools tie-in.

The brand says of its Twilight marketing: "All of us at PRO Beauty Tools® are huge Twilight fans and thought it would be great if we could help others create their favorite looks from Twilight with the same great products they know and love from PRO Beauty Tools®. The Twilight Limited Edition Sparkle Tools collection features five new professional products and hair brushes designed to take the guesswork out of creating signature styles of each major Twilight character, and features official movie imagery and step-by-step styling guides." (And what to wear in that good-looking hair? Why, Bella's hair comb, of course!)

But Twilight seems far more interested in turning its brand over to its fans. One of the highlights of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn site is the "Time Capsule" where fans can upload Twilight memories, milestones and photos of themselves at watching parties or theaters… wearing their personalized Twilight merchandise, or course.

Earlier at Brandchannel:
Twilight Product Placement Draws Blood

Twilight Product Placement Blood Bath

The Twilight Product Placement Lawsuit

For more on Twilight and hundreds of other top films, visit the Brandcameo product placement database.

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