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My Little Pony: the Hip New Trend Among the Geekerati

Hub TV is hoping to capitalize on a cultural trend no one saw coming: the kids' show My Little Pony is the new, hip thing among the geekerati. Now the company is reaching out past the brand's traditional little-girl demographic to this new fan base with an oh-so-slightly ironic music video. It's a careful approach. Too careful.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic just finished its first season on the The Hub, a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery. During that season the show sprouted adult fan groups at influential geek culture sites around the web, including:

  • The offbeat news site BoingBoing
  • Hardcore gamer sites like Valve and Bungie.Net
  • Penny Arcade -- The hugely popular web comic runs the massive PAX gaming conventions
  • Geeknights -- A podcast with a large following among gamers, anime fans and other denizens of Nerdistan; and
  • Among players of the science fiction shooter game HALO, where users are giving their characters MLP names like Rainbow Dash, Pinky Pie and others.
The show (abbreviated online as MLP:FiM) has also spawned its own slang, "bronies" -- guys who are fans. It has become a meme with the 4chan and Icanhascheezburger crowds and it spurred at least one meet-up for "NYC Area MLP:FiM Adult Fans."

In response to all this, Hasbro and the show's creators released a Pony-fied music video of Katy Perry's California Girls. The video not only references bronies but also the character name DJ Pon-3 -- a name created in the online community.

So what has everyone so interested in this? For one thing, this is not your grandfather'sMy Little Pony. It was created by Lauren Faust, who had previously been involved in the demographic-straddling shows The Power Puff Girls and Foster's Home For Imaginary Creatures. Previous versions of the show were little more than animated attempts to sell the Hasbro toy line.

Faust's MLP is definitely not that. "Female characters [in children's shows] have been so homogenized with old-fashioned "niceness" that they have no flaws and are unrelatable," she said. "They are so pretty, polite and perfect; there is no legitimate conflict and nothing exciting ever happens... This perception, more than anything, is what I am trying to change with My Little Pony."

So far Hasbro has taken a low-cost, low-impact approach to marketing to adults but it will have to go farther. The online forums are filled with people wanting MLP merchandise that will appeal to them. Hasbro will probably wait a while longer to see if this trend has hooves before responding to that. Even if the company opts for items like stickers and t-shirts that don't require a lot of capital outlay, they are going to have to pony up if they want to keep the herd growing.


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