Elizabeth Litten Miller, vp franchise strategy at WildBrain, discusses how IP owners maintain a sentimental appeal while also ensuring their brand has fresh and relevant appeal for today’s audiences.
This season’s colour is most definitely bright pink, with the Barbie movie hitting headlines across the globe.
The movie’s success highlights that heritage brands are now more in vogue than ever. For WildBrain’s own IP properties, we have also amassed an ever-increasing roll call of partnerships that reflect this trend. From our iconic Teletubbies Christian Cowan fashion collection, which went viral earlier this year, to Strawberry Shortcake’s American Girl café takeover this summer, we’ve found that collaborations are a great way to inspire a new wave of nostalgic love for these long-running brands.
With these and other instantly recognisable properties clocking up several decades in the spotlight, how do IP owners maintain a sentimental appeal while also ensuring their brand has fresh and relevant appeal for today’s audiences? There are three things that we have learnt are important.
Understand the brand’s core DNA
It’s crucial to identify the core pillars of your brand from the outset, and to define your target audiences. These are essential to anchor the property and to keep it identifiable. It’s effective to remind adult audiences what they loved about the brand in the first place and showcase to newer audiences what makes the brand great. The bond that evergreen IP has with parents also inspires trust.
Staying true to the core values of a brand helps to drive interesting, creative and contemporary partnerships. For Strawberry Shortcake, we’ve found that her values really resonate across generations of fans. We’ve therefore secured a wide range of partnerships to tap into these, from co-baking activities built for parent and child audiences with Amazon Alexa, to working with female entrepreneurs. Teletubbies recent sponsorship of RuPaul’s global DragCon events also leaned into the brand’s renowned joyful DNA, which focuses on celebrating inclusivity and being oneself.
Having such a clear DNA also means that we can trust partners to celebrate the brand in their own way. For example, we launched the Strawberry Shortcake Collective this summer, partnering with female artists to reimagine and pay homage to Strawberry Shortcake. The artwork created by the collective is featured on a variety of fashion apparel and accessories for purchase on Threadless. A recent Teletubbies apparel collaboration saw Adam Bomb, mascot for the streetwear brand The Hundreds, reimagined with our colourful quartet.
If you’re confident in your core brand pillars, you can really think from high-end down to grassroots when it comes to direct fan engagement.
At WildBrain, we look to meet our fans where they are, with targeted activations and pop-up events – everything from Strawberry Shortcake tea parties in Los Angeles, to a ‘berryific’ partnership with The Knot Churros in London. We also know how important the digital space is, and we’re bringing the House of Teletubbies experiential pop-up to a global audience with metaverse fashion collections launching on Second Life with House of Blueberry.
Social media platforms allow another connection point with audiences to build community among our ‘kidult’ fans. The Teletubbies have become viral TikTok superstars, with over one million followers and nearly 18 million likes. In addition to hopping on trending moments, we also tie our social media strategy into our ongoing strands like our ‘Belonging’ campaign, which brings the Teletubbies to global Pride and DragCon events. It’s all about meeting fans where they are, in a platform, age and brand appropriate way.
In addition, being an evergreen brand means identifying opportunities to leverage new platforms. Our colleagues at WildBrain Spark, for example, are experts in understanding and reaching fans with tailored YouTube content, which helps reach new kid audiences as well as enhance the co-viewing multi-generational experience.
Often a significant challenge facing brands and licensors is the constant shift in what’s hot and what’s not.
We prioritise a nimble approach at WildBrain, which enables us to move quickly to seize the moment. We aren’t afraid to try new things for our brands; if you have clearly set core brand pillars and a strong direct connection with your fanbase, it can be much easier to break new ground. The growth of direct to consumer channels is opening up exciting new avenues to engage directly with fans, and we’re excited to be launching a new dedicated Teletubbies ecommerce site with Star Editions. Partnering with digitally native brands such as Hunnideux, Loungefly and Glamlite brought Strawberry Shortcake to new audiences, with collaborative social campaigns and in-person launch events. As we gear up for Strawberry’s 45th anniversary year in 2024, you’ll see even more partnerships and activations as we celebrate with our global fanbase.
Another factor that helps is that we execute our ideas quickly, and we’re super connected with colleagues across WildBrain via our 360-degree approach.
Essentially, Barbie’s movie success, like Frozen before it, is success for all of us in the brand and licensing sector. The message from evergreen brands is clear: being timeless is always in fashion.