17th June 2024 – (Hong Kong) In an era where nostalgia has become a marketable commodity, the commercialisation of beloved cultural icons often comes at a steep price. The recent “100% Doraemon & FRIENDS” Tour (Hong Kong), lead-sponsored by Prudential Hong Kong Limited and organised by creative brand AllRightsReserved, exemplifies the pitfalls of prioritising aggressive merchandise sales over genuine fan engagement. While the event promises a diverse range of online and offline activities featuring the cherished Japanese robot cat, Doraemon, it ultimately undermines the authenticity of the character and risks damaging the brand equity of both Prudential and AllRightsReserved.

The tour, which runs from 13th July to 11th August, kicked off with the world’s first Doraemon drone show on 25th May. While the spectacle initially generated excitement among fans, many were left disappointed by the brevity of the performance and the blatant display of sponsors’ logos, including those of Prudential and AllRightsReserved. The show’s focus on corporate branding rather than celebrating the beloved character left a sour taste in the mouths of attendees, some of whom even resorted to booing.

Picture source: Prudential

This misstep highlights the fundamental disconnect between the objectives of the event organisers and the desires of the fans. While Prudential and AllRightsReserved aim to boost merchandise sales and brand visibility, fans seek an authentic and immersive experience that honours the spirit of Doraemon. By prioritising commercial interests over genuine fan engagement, the event organisers risk alienating the very audience they seek to attract.

Moreover, the aggressive launch of collectible toys on a weekly basis by AllRightsReserved further undermines the event’s credibility. The constant barrage of merchandise not only dilutes the significance of the character but also contributes to the growing problem of consumer waste. In an era where environmental consciousness is on the rise, the excessive production and promotion of disposable collectibles is not only tone-deaf but also socially irresponsible.

The negative impact of this commercialisation extends beyond the event itself. Prudential’s association with the tour may initially seem like a strategic move to tap into the nostalgia market, but it ultimately risks damaging the brand’s reputation. By aligning itself with an event that prioritises short-term profits over authentic fan engagement, Prudential runs the risk of being perceived as opportunistic and insensitive to the genuine affection fans hold for Doraemon.

Furthermore, the event’s pervasive presence across various touchpoints, from the MTR Corporation’s Doraemon-themed platform at Siu Hong Station to the limited-time trains on designated routes, only serves to amplify the commercialisation of the character. The oversaturation of Doraemon imagery and branding not only diminishes the character’s charm but also contributes to the growing sense of consumer fatigue.

For Prudential, the decision to sponsor the event may have seemed like a strategic move to tap into the nostalgia market. However, by aligning itself with an event that prioritises corporate interests over fan engagement, the brand risks damaging its own reputation. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and are quick to spot insincerity. By associating itself with an event that feels more like a cash grab than a genuine celebration, Prudential may inadvertently erode the trust and loyalty of its customers.

Similarly, AllRightsReserved’s focus on aggressive merchandise sales undermines its credibility as a creative brand. By prioritising short-term profits over the integrity of the character and the desires of the fans, the company risks being perceived as opportunistic and insensitive. This could have long-term consequences for its reputation and its ability to engage with audiences in the future.

As brands navigate the complexities of nostalgia marketing, they must prioritise authenticity and genuine connection with their audience. This requires a shift away from the traditional sponsorship paradigm, which often prioritises competing objectives and short-term gains, towards a more collaborative and fan-centric approach.

Brands must recognise that the true power of nostalgia lies in the emotional bond fans have with the characters and the values they represent. By respecting this bond and fostering genuine engagement, brands can tap into the magic of nostalgia without compromising their integrity or the trust of their consumers. This means moving away from aggressive merchandise sales and instead focusing on creating meaningful experiences that celebrate the character and the fans. It means prioritising quality over quantity and embracing more sustainable and socially responsible approaches to merchandising.

Moreover, brands must be transparent about their sponsorship decisions and ensure that they align with their core values and the expectations of their audience. By carefully evaluating the potential risks and benefits of sponsorship opportunities and engaging in diligent due diligence, brands can avoid the pitfalls of commercialisation and maintain their reputation in the eyes of consumers.