Rebranding Nickelodeon: How Did The First Network For Kids Make It Work?

Curator's Note

Nickelodeon has been synonymous with kids since its inception as a cable network in 1979. Throughout it’s thirty plus years as a network, Nickelodeon has branded itself to appeal to both children and adults, most notably by empowering kids and positioning the network as being the “place for kids”. Continually, they have offered kids opportunities that are often granted only to adults: choosing show lineups, picking the president, and having their own award show. In the early ’90s, Nick empowered kids by juxtaposing them against adults and emphasizing how different kids are from adults by focusing on adults’ responsibilities. Adults have to do dull things, like shave and use deodorant, while kids get to just have fun. They further playfully divided kids and adults through gross-out effects in their network produced shows and promos such as “sliming” individuals, which kids love and parents will tolerate particularly because their shows abstain from violence.

As its original audience from the ’90s has aged, they have gone from being the target audience of kids to the parents of the target audience. As such, Nick has had to rebrand itself as a network. No longer does the approach to divide parents from kids work – parents lived this approach and are less likely to appreciate their network poking fun at them. Instead, Nick focuses on a 360-degree experience in which kids can participate in Nick culture from various mediums and technologies – television, movies, music, apps for phones, iPads, and tablets.

As a brand, Nick has maintained their parent friendliness, encouraging kids to be a part of a more immersive experience through multiple media outlets, while focusing on television as the main port of entry into their brand. Shows such as iCarly emphasize the ability and need to visit websites while simultaneously providing adults with comedic excuses to enjoy Nick shows. This change in branding, specifically from othering and positioning the adult as “responsible” and “different” from the kid, to bringing everyone together to have an immersive, family-like experience is reflective of changes in kids’ media culture in general which has also moved to a more family-friendly approach.

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