After looking at multiple million-dollar IPs within the media industry, I’ve noticed 4 common traits that they all have – other than a set of good lawyers. They are — in no order of importance — creating a universe, merchandising opportunities, cross-collaboration, and emotional connection.
Creating a Universe
Saying that a strong IP has a universe is like calling someone with muscles strong. While seemingly obvious, many IPs tend to fall into the trap of creating a universe around the main character, rather than creating one for the character to live in.
Think about most cartoons in the early 2000s – Dexter’s Laboratory, Ben 10 and The Fairly OddParents to name a few. Most episodic stories revolved around the main characters and quickly grew stale. In fact, it can be argued that most IPs with universes centring around the main character result in said character being the architect of their own challenges, hardly heroic and very repetitive.
Now take something like Hey Arnold or SpongeBob SquarePants which have universes of similar scale as the above, but with attention distributed more evenly among all the other supporting characters. The result is an IP with depth and appeal across multiple audiences. I mean how many of us felt our hearts sink as Sandy tried to prove herself in the episode “Pressure”?