JLG Highlights Caterpillar Anniversary Products, Events

2014 is the year of the caterpillar–a very hungry one at that. This year, the classic children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is celebrating its 45th anniversary. To mark the occasion, brand licensing agency The Joester Loria Group has planned a yearlong schedule of events, products and promotions.

"Eric Carle's work is truly timeless and relevant as ever, as demonstrated by the fact that he continues to sell 7 million books every year," says Debra Joester, president and chief executive officer, The Joester Loria Group. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar is his most famous book, and for the past 45 years, has remained one of the most read and best-selling children's books worldwide. Some consider the book ahead of its time, others simply call it a classic–however you define it, Eric Carle has resonated with three generations."

First on deck for the brand is a yearlong QSR program with quick-service restaurant Wendy's. The kid's meal promotion for children under 3-years-old will feature Carle's branded collage art and characters in a series of board books. The program kicked off last month and will run through Dec. 28 and is available in more than 6,500 Wendy's locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Customers will receive one of seven exclusive, collectible mini board book premiums that center on key themes of animals, insects, food, vehicles, sea creatures, colors and sounds.

Participating Wendy's will also distribute coupons for Carle products available at key retail partners (such as Babies 'R' Us), and will support the QSR with in-restaurant and drive-thru signage and an online presence.

"Both in the restaurant and at home, parents, caregivers and children will discover and re-discover the magic of Carle's work," says Joester. "We will reach several million consumers and millions of Can You Guess books will be distributed. This program has been developed as a continuing connection to Carle's art and characters."

On the digital front, JLG has facilitated a deal for a series of educational activity apps from StoryToys that will combine classic game play with Carle's art, themes and characters. Over the course of three years, 10 apps will roll out.

"Apps are really important," says Joester. "When it comes to an additional platform for engagement, apps are a great new world for this property. The world of apps continues to change–it's still relatively new and an emerging way to reach consumers–but the desire from children to play with apps is here."

JLG and StoryToys are approaching the app with care, calling quality a must. The first app from StoryToys will go live in time for Very Hungry Caterpillar day March 20, while an additional app, "Around the Farm" from Publication International, launches this month.

There are international plans for the property as well in honor of its 45-year milestone.

"Most properties are 50/50 U.S. or U.S.-centric, but the Eric Carle program is huge internationally," says Joester. "Eric Carle's books are top sellers in all English-speaking countries, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the top read children's books in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Japan as long been a strong market, and Eric Carle has a loyal following there, as well. Asia is a growing market too, with Korea and now China coming on board. Europe has long been a strong market as well, led by Germany and Benelux."

And the facts back up Caterpillar's popularity. According to JLG:

  • Every 30 seconds, a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sold worldwide, with more than 37 million copies sold to date.
  • It is the No. 1 most read children's book in the U.K.
  • It is the No. 1 most read children's book by an international author in Japan.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the No. 1 translated book in the Netherlands.
  • It is the No. 3 children's book in the U.S. (according to Scholastic's top 100).

To honor the property's global appeal, a slew of events and promotions are scheduled including a partnership with Sanrio that co-brands Caterpillar with Hello Kitty; a partnership with Action for Children to encourage children's centers, nurseries and groups for kids under age 5 will host sponsored Giant Wiggle walks on Very Hungry Caterpillar Day; and a Storyland sand sculpture exhibit that will run through April in Australia.

A live show is also in the works–Australia will see the production "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Timeless Stories" launch with partner Joey Creative.

The show will debut by the holiday season but head into previews late this spring. The show will continue to tour Australia's major cities and smaller local venues beginning this year.