Wednesday, August 13

The Characters of Times Square

There's an interesting debate going on in New York City this month regarding the "costumed characters" that frequent Times Square, making tips by posing for pictures with tourists.  Many of these characters are brands, cartoon characters, or super heroes.

While many say they are just trying to make an honest living, a few have made a bad name for the group by behaving indecently.  The New York Police Department started handing out flyers to inform tourists that tipping these characters is optional.

The city also wants these folks to potentially register  to get licenses to wear the costumes and pose for pictures.

The actions from the city have evidently hurt these folks' ability to make a living, so they are trying to band together to perhaps form a union and exercise their rights.

As a New Yorker, I never knew this was even a problem, but if you think about it I understand the issue.  If left unregulated completely, we have no idea who is under that costume and what their intention is.  By having the city monitor this activity, perhaps it's a way to legitimize it all and make it all safe.

As a marketer, I never thought about this before either but truthfully these are brands ... and they are in this case being represented by other people ... that could be a problem.  Brands like M&Ms, Sesame Street, Disney, Marvel, etc.  They are licensed characters that in theory are protected by law from infringement.  If the characters aren't behaving well, then it could affect the brand's reputation/identity.

It's ironic because I've seen these characters in Times Square many times and just never thought about it before, but it could be a potential problem on many fronts.  Perhaps by regulating it and allowing them to join together, it can become a safer experience for all ... with permission from the brands of course.

What's your experience?  JIM.

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