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Nickelodeon: The Evolution of a Brand

Posted: December 5, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
by Katie Lansford.

What’s orange, green and watched all over? Nickelodeon — the “number one entertainment brand for kids.” The network is in its 35th year and continues to grow, not just in the television arena, but also as a brand overall.

According to a press release from Viacom, the network’s parent company, “Nickelodeon’s U.S. television network is seen in more than 100 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 19 consecutive years.”


The “golden age”
From its start in 1979, Nickelodeon was different from other television networks because it catered directly to children. It offered them a chance to be silly and fun, off the wall even. The network offered game shows, live-action shows and cartoons. One of the most popular game shows, “Legends of the Hidden Temple” (1993-1995), allowed contestants to participate in a final round in which they raced into a talking temple to retrieve an “artifact” and win the grand prize.

Classic Nickelodeon Ads and Commercials:

In 1988, Nickelodeon found another unique way to reach kids when it introduced the “Kids’ Choice Awards.” The show, which continues today, has been hosted by celebrities like Whitney Houston and Justin Timberlake. It allows kids to vote on categories like favorite movie or TV show and features famous faces getting slimed with the green goo so many kids know and love. From 1989 to 2005, Nickelodeon Studios operated at Universal Studios in Florida, where shows like “All That” and “Slime Time Live” were filmed. Visitors could also take an interactive tour of the studio and audition to participate in various game shows.

Today’s Nickelodeon
Since then, Nickelodeon has evolved from a target audience of millennials (mid 80’s to 2004) to “post-millennials,” “an emerging generation of kids, including those born since 2005.” It has kept the same passion for understanding what kids want, but shifted it toward the needs of a world that is increasingly becoming more mobile.


In 2013, Nick rolled out its first mobile app. In an article from Ad Age, Jeanine Poggi described the app as an “entertainment hub where users can stream animated clips, play free games and take part in interactive polls.” In July 2014, Nickelodeon held its first-ever “Kids’ Choice Sports” show with former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan as the host.

In 2011, nostalgia from millennials caused Nickelodeon to bring back its popular 90s shows starting at 12 a.m. ET on TeenNick. The shows continue to air, and there is an active hashtag on Twitter #90sareallthat for the program. The network also created Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts to coincide with the late-night programming.

The company has a reach that includes many areas. Like its main competitor, the Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon’s brand expansion outside of the television network is massive. Facets of the franchise include a store, themed hotels, cruises and a theme park in the Mall of America, just to name a few.

The public relations industry can learn much from Nickelodeon’s shift over time. As your audience evolves, many times your brand or client will too. It is important to understand your audience and find a way to appropriately re-target your core public.

While some might say that Nick reached its “golden age” in the 90s with millennials, the network is doing well and has managed to continue capturing the attention of today’s technology-savvy children. After all, if it wasn’t for Nickelodeon, we wouldn’t get to see our favorite celebrities doused in slime.

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