The videos succeeded in spite of Mary-Kate and Ashley's demonstrably and, apparently, incorrigibly modest ability to dance and sing. They were better as actresses, showing a winsome sweetness and natural on-screen air that is unquestionably genuine, given that they have literally grown up in front of a camera. They were less successful with a second television series called Two of a Kind that didn't last out the 1998 season. Their feature films, starting with 1998's Billboard Dad, performed better, but Mary-Kate and Ashley weren't destined to find nearly as much success as entertainers - during the 1990s, at least - as their cornucopia of branded goods did in the marketplace.
Mary-Kate and Ashley's success as Martha Stewart-style purveyors of signature goods such as dolls and clothing is based largely on one thing - control. Thorne, and to a lesser extent the two girls, control if not every aspect of the products churned out by their branding machine, then at least far more details than a typical celebrity licensing enterprise. The usual celebrity trying to cash in on fame will happily and indiscriminately slap his or her visage on T-shirts, lunch boxes, blue jeans, and any number of other products. The deals will be made with companies that design, manufacture, and distribute the goods, with no more than after-the-fact approval from the celebrity.