Today is the 81th birthday of Mickey Mouse. Brand icon to generations of children, Mickey captures the essence of youthful playfulness and imagination. Loved the world over, Mickey Mouse has been a goldmine for Disney and enterprising retailers eager to profit from the brand's success.
But Mickey Mouse is about to get a makeover. Concerned about the relevance and meaning to a new generation of kids raised on video games, films and Nickelodeon, Disney is about to change the way Mickey talks, walks - and lives. Not an easy task, and a risky move when annual merchandise sales are in the $5 billion range.
This "re-imagining" of Mickey will be introduced next year with the launch of a new video game called Epic Mickey. The game will showcase Mickey's darker side, and give him a cunning edge unseen in his former character.
So, a brand icon who had meaning to generations of children will now be re-engineered to appeal to today's more demanding and tech-saavy kids. Yet Disney is treading carefully, fully aware of the possibility of having another New Coke as part of its global arsenal.
Some say that the new Mickey is a return to his roots as the Steamboat Willie character originally introduced in 1928. Back then, he was a trickster of sorts, with an eye for adventure and good times.
The success of the new Mickey remains to be seen, but the question still remains: Is it OK to mess with a global brand icon - or is change necessary to make the character relevent to a new generation of children?
What do you think?