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A royal figure’s 80th birthday seems a likely cause for celebration—even, or perhaps especially, when that figure is a kindly elephant who has graced the pages of children’s books for all that time and in multiple countries. Babar was originally a French export, appearing in the United States for the first time in 1933.

In celebration of the upcoming anniversary, the publisher of the books is partnering with several top tier retailers and licensees to promote the celebration and introduce a new generation of children to King Babar and Queen Celeste. The $100,000 campaign spans several channels and outlets. For example, in addition to a new animated series, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, which introduces Badou as Babar’s 8-year-old grandson, a line of plush toys representing the characters will appear on store shelves next to the classic picture books. At the independent Books of Wonder bookseller for example, a “Babar wonderland” will feature other nostalgic toys as well.

Saks Fifth Avenue is the other main retailer participating in the anniversary events. Its holiday catalogs feature Babar prominently, and store window displays will lead shoppers directly to Babar boutiques within the high-end retailer. Because Saks’ demographic tends to be older and wealthier, the appeal to nostalgia and classic toys is likely to resonate with grandparents of young children.

Such “comfort marketing” campaigns become particularly popular in uncertain economic times. Not only do they hearken back to an idealized past, but they often promise simplicity and a lack of complication. For Babar, that means no “Babar beer, or Babar ninjas.” Instead, the plush and wooden toys, together with the brightly colored, calmly appealing books encourage children to play they way they always have: with no technology other than their imaginations.

Source: Stuart Elliot, “A New Coronation for the King of Elephants,” The New York Times, November 13, 2012

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Stuart Elliot, “A New Coronation for the King of Elephants,” The New York Times, November 13, 2012

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