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June 1, 2016

Pixar’s “Finding Dory” opens in theaters nationwide on June 17, and for anybody in the fish industry, now is the time to follow your feelings. That familiar feeling deep inside is the memory of just how big the first movie in this series, “Finding Nemo,” was for the industry. The thing to do now is recognize that feeling and follow your instinct, preparing for just as big an effect from “Finding Dory,” if not more.

“As soon as ‘Finding Nemo’ came out, kids started showing up in the store shrieking, ‘There’s Nemo!’ and it’s been repeated every single day since,” said Sally Trufant, general manager of B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Alabama. “We set up small aquariums with a clownfish and an anemone and they sold like hotcakes.”

B&B Pet Stop wasn’t the only store that benefitted from increased sales thanks to Nemo. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the immediate and somewhat unforeseen popularity of the movie caused a worldwide shortage of clownfish, and sales of fish tanks, cleaners and other décor went through the roof.

“Finding Nemo” made $937 million in global box office revenue, and with Pixar’s ever-increasing popularity and an intense pre-release marketing campaign, it shouldn’t be surprising if “Finding Dory” surpasses that.

Merchandise and More

Penn-Plax, a leading manufacturer of licensed fish products, has been working with Disney to produce a great line of products specifically for the new movie, not just as an addition to the current “Finding Nemo” products. Dory merchandise depicts favorite characters from Finding Nemo while highlighting characters from the new movie including Hank the octopus, Bailey the beluga whale and Destiny the whale shark. These characters are featured on betta tanks, in resins of three different sizes and on eye-popping backgrounds.

It’s a given that retailers should stock up on Dory products and maximize sales with marketing techniques such as hanging movie posters in the store window and putting Dory stickers on the fish tanks. But it’s also important to build excitement in your store by hosting special events tied to the movie.

“We host fun events at our store every month because we believe that’s what sets us apart not only from our local competition, but also from the Internet,” Trufant said.

In addition to the store’s regular monthly fish swaps and sales, they plan to have a contest where kids can bring their ticket stubs from “Finding Dory” to the store and enter to win a saltwater tank containing Dory and her friends. Other ideas for events and promotions include classes on how to care for a saltwater tank with a Dory theme, “Finding Dory” birthday parties and movie ticket giveaways.

Dory’s Not the Only One Making a Splash

This summer, “Finding Dory” isn’t the only big movie marketed to families that will have an aquarium tie-in.

“Teenage Mutant Ninjas 2” releases June 3 and the characters are pretty popular in aquarium décor as well.

“In the world of Nickelodeon, the TMNT franchise is five times bigger than Spongebob,” said Ivan Fielman, vice president of national accounts at Penn-Plax.

Retailers can also look for excitement over Disney’s “Moana” in the holiday season, a movie about an epic adventure in the ocean, and the fifth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise next spring. Penn-Plax will have a variety of resins, betta tanks and backgrounds available for those movies as well.

Hitting it big with licensed products is an art, and in more ways than creating beautiful resins. Part of the success comes from finding the right movies and franchises to promote. Not every big movie with beloved characters will find its way into the resins and other aquarium décor.

Successful products usually have some link to the water, whether it’s Spongebob’s underwater world or the ships of Jack Sparrow. That connection is part of what helps franchises remain popular for many years.

For example, “Finding Nemo” came out in 2003 and “The Little Mermaid” in 1999, and both are still very popular in aquarium sales. And there are exceptions to the water rule, such as TMNT and the characters of “Frozen,” which continue to do well.

“After years of shipwrecks and castles, it seems like licensed characters have taken center stage,” Trufant said.

And these eye-catching items are a great way to not only increase sales and traffic—they are also helping bring new people to the hobby.

“The idea is that when a kid sees Nemo, Dory, Spongebob or another of their favorite characters on a tank, they’ll ask their parents for the tank and then grow to love the fish,” Fielman said. “Our motivation is to drive the category, to get people into the hobby. It benefits the entire aquarium industry, the people who make the plants, water conditioners and food, and the retailers who sell it all.”

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