Business lessons from the Wiggles

The release of BRW's list of Australia's best-paid entertainers has underlined once again what an incredible success story children's entertainment group The Wiggles is.
The business – yes, that's a fair description – posted gross earnings of $28.2 million in the last 12 months, according to BRW, which is an impressive result the boys in the coloured skivvies didn't release a new album during that period and a key member (purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt) was ill for part of the year.
I've got a three-and-a-half year old boy, so I've had a bit of a chance to study the money-making machine up close in the last few years – or at least through the prism of the CDs, DVDs and Band-Aids (they're a particularly big hit) that lie around our place.
With this in mind, I've compiled five business lessons that SMEs can take from The Wiggles:

Extend the brand

The business of selling stuff to kids is all about licensing – how many different products can you get The Wiggles symbol on? Lunch boxes, backpacks, toys and of course CDs, books and DVDs are all part of the range. But the deal to put the brand on Band-Aids is a particularly good example of the way the group has been able to find left-field branding opportunities.

Diversify

The number of different programs (both on television and stage shows) produced by The Wiggles is pretty amazing. There is the Dorothy the Dinosaur Show, Wiggly Waffle, Wiggle and Learn and a show for little kids called Baby Antonio's Circus. Many of these shows are repackaged or cut down versions of other content, which highlights another business lesson – the power of bundling and introducing different tiers of products.

Succession

A key to any business, but not easy to pull off when your four key "executives" (the Wiggles themselves) are so recognisable. However, when illness forced Greg Page out of the Wiggles a few years back, the transition to the new yellow Wiggle, Sam Moran, was seamless. Will they be able to gradually replace all the members? That will be tougher, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Direct marketing

A key to The Wiggles' longevity on the highest-earning entertainers list is their dedication to live concerts. Not only are the margins much better on concerts than they are on DVDs and CDs, but the constant touring engenders the sort of loyalty that keeps the sales of licensed goods ticking over.

Exporting

Without question, the smartest thing The Wiggles ever did was look outside of Australia and take their brand to America and Europe. It just goes to show that kids are kids everywhere – happy music, bright colours and colourful characters work in any market.