The US leg of the farewell tour of The Wiggles' original line-up kicks off tomorrow heralding the end of an era, but industry analysts argue the three new Wiggles beginning next year will give the brand a much-needed boost.
It was revealed in May three Wiggles will retire in December, with Yellow Wiggle Greg Page to be replaced by a 22-year-old woman and not his former understudy Sam Moran, who had filled the role for five years while Page suffered ill health.
But branding experts have argued the Wiggles brand is not dependent upon the identity of the skivvy-wearing singers to succeed.
“The Wiggles will be stronger with three new members,” JMK Advertising chief executive Julian Martin told AdNews. “The original four were losing their 'wiggle' as their wallets and waistlines expanded. The Wiggles started as a band but became a branded franchise.”
The band – formed by Page alongside Blue Wiggle Anthony Field, Red Wiggle Murray Cook and Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt in 1991 – has become a global success, selling 23 million DVDs and seven million CDs worldwide.
“The [Wiggles] formula delivers renewable pre-school appeal and parent endorsement,” said Martin. “Changing members isn’t the risk … member rejuvenation was overdue.
“Fatt is 58, has a pacemaker and wears a back brace. Two of the four men have grey hair; the other two use [hair dye]. Adding a 22-year-old female is a smart idea that will widen appeal and if a newbie doesn’t work out, [Moran] proved its ‘easy come, easy go’ in Wiggle World.”
Paul Southgate, strategy partner at The Brand Agency, told AdNews the Wiggles’ brand “is less dependent than one might think on its founders” and depends more on its branded characters including Dorothy the Dinosaur.
“Would the Rolling Stones still be the Rolling Stones if Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts were all replaced at once? But then, the Stones are only the Stones. This is The Wiggles we’re talking about,” Southgate said.
Southgate also said the move to add a female Wiggle to the line-up was a savvy one: “Julia Gillard … added ‘Prime Minister’ to the list of little girls’ viable career aspirations, it was only a matter of time before the ultimate glass ceiling was breached. Yes, a girl can now grow up to be a Wiggle!”
But not all in the industry agree the new members will rejuvenate the brand.
“The Wiggles stumbled by allowing very adult problems to tarnish the brand,” Nickelodeon Australia general manager Ben Richardson told AdNews. “Kids may not have long memories, but parents hold onto a shared affection for the original group. It's parents who buy the tickets and merchandise.”