Ben Myhre

Software Engineer

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The My Little Pony meme, losing control of your brand and making the best of it

As a child of the 80’s, I remember My Little Pony as a toy and cartoon that I did not watch very often, but many girls I knew had the toys and watched this cartoon. It was popular. I had largely forgotten about My Little Pony, but the brand has experienced rejuvenation over the past few years and young girls across the nation are once again being introduced to this 80’s favorite. A person may be surprised to learn that the main target audiences of My Little Pony is not just young girls anymore, but has gained a large following of adult males as a secondary target audience. This bizarre combination of viewership is directly tied to internet memes. Today, I will review how memes have impacted My Little Pony and also how Hasbro (owner of My Little Pony) has used this interesting phenomenon to their benefit.

While My Little Pony has been around since the 80’s, the most recent iteration of popularity began with an animated television version on The Hub television station. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic first debuted in October 2010. The show follows several ponies and their adventures where they learn about the importance of friendship. The animation combined with a light-hearted and moral storyline seems to make a perfect match for a young audience. Well, apparently for any audience, as proved by this meme.

According to Knowyourmeme.com, the My Little Pony meme originates from a blog post written by Amid Amidi where he asserts that the new My Little Pony series is an example of why creator driven cartoons are now a thing of the past and replaced with commercially oriented cartoons that exist as “extended toy commercials.” This blog turned into a discussion on a popular cartoon image board on a social media outlet called 4-chan. Soon, people began to post image threads of My Little Pony that became widespread throughout the site and the My Little Pony meme was born. The term Brony was also born, being a combination of the word “pony” and the origination from 4chan’s popular ‘/b/’ board. Since then, the MLP phenomenon has spread to other areas of the internet and there have been multiple MLP sites that have popped up. Ponychan, Equestria Daily and the My Little Pony wiki are all examples of communities dedicated to the MLP cartoon and culture.

What can your business take away from the My Little Pony phenomenon? First, sometimes markets can surprise you. It was not the intention of the My Little Pony creators to gain a mass of followers in the 18-25 male demographic, but it happened. Things could have gotten awkward for the Odd Couple relationship between the My Little Pony owners and the grown man My Little Pony fans. The second take away that might be relevant is how the My Little Pony creators reacted to the new fan base… they embraced it.

Memes, particularly image macro memes, typically means that content (in this case intellectual property) may be altered and shared. While many corporations tend to frown on this type of behavior and may even take steps to prevent the alteration or sharing of this sort of content, Hasbro and MLP producer Lauren Faust have embraced the unexpected fan base. The MLP meme may have meant that they lost some control over the MLP brand and that could be a scary thing, but the positive reaction by Faust and Hasbro has only served to further strengthen this fan base. Faust regularly communicates with fans (as well as critics) and the My Little Pony crew have released exclusive content on the MLP fan site Equestria Daily where they made a parody of Katy Perry’s California Girl. In the video, they even mention and acknowledge bronies. Losing control of your brand can be a scary thing, but in a world where the internet and social media can drastically help or harm any brand, it is important to be able to consider what you may do if you find yourself in a My Little Pony moment.

The MLP team could have turned their backs on the odd fan base, but instead they chose to embrace them Instead of potentially creating an internet backlash, they emboldened a whole subculture of diehard fans. The My Little Pony meme has had a considerable impact on the brand and how the creators have handled this fandom is an important consideration for any business that may be impacted by social media.

Posted in: Integrated Marketing, Mass Media, Social Media