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Cause-related campaigns, Halloween and Rumble in the Jungle… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes discovers some further examples of cause-related campaigns this week in retailers as varied as M&S and Pets at Home.

Continuing one of the themes of last week’s Lookout, I noticed another couple of examples of retailers working with charities to develop in-store campaigns.

Marks & Spencer has a campaign running with the Young Minds charity. The campaign is promoted prominently in-store and encourages customers to donate to the charity that supports young people’s mental health with a ‘rounding up’ donation at the tills. It is a well chosen cause by M&S and one that I am sure resonates with a lot of the customers. The fundraising aspect is of course important and valuable to Young Minds, but I imagine of equal importance is the awareness this campaign is driving of the charity’s objectives.

LL6M&S has really embraced the campaign with prominent posters including ones affixed to chiller cabinets and, of course, the fundraising message at the tills. This sort of campaign should also encourage the public and young people in particular to talk about issues around their mental health should they want to – it is putting an important cause into the public domain well. For M&S it shows it cares and that it is prepared to use its retail platform to support the community.

The other example of a cause-related campaign I saw this week was in Pets At Home. It has linked up with The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and is selling a range of poppy decorated pet accessories including bandanas, bow ties, poppy collar charms and a dog collar.

The campaign and products are displayed prominently in-store including at till points, with the poppy charms being sold in a countertop box by the tills. Pets At Home has a long-term commitment to good causes and regularly features charity lead campaigns (and products) in-store. In this case it is nice to see how it has developed a bespoke product range and is focused on the iconic poppy emblem.

LL7It is an interesting moment for the Royal British Legion as it has launched a new version of the traditional poppy this year, switching to an all paper poppy and dispensing with the plastic components that were used previously.

This development has been widely covered by the news media and has generated a lot of positive PR for the annual Poppy campaign. It is a smart move by the Legion and should help it connect further with younger consumers in particular.

I am sure the ‘paper poppy’ will be well received by the younger generation. That said I am also a fan of it and my whippet loves the poppy collar charm.

LL2Another theme from last week was how licensing has embraced the opportunity around Halloween.

I saw a really good example of this in the Paddington shop at Paddington station. The shop itself is a great example of a destination store and location specific retailing, but it was interesting to see how it has curated a range of products to tap into Halloween. It has also used this to create a retail theme in the shop. It has chosen the products well, blending Halloween ‘specials’ like themed books with other items like confectionery which are relevant to the event.

The Paddington Shop is a really good example to show people how a licensed brand can be used at retail and also shows how destination shops can work. Indeed there is also a Paddington-themed café on the station, a further example of licensing can be used to create compelling themes for retail operators.

LL4I found another example of Halloween influencing things at the National Theatre. It is about to open a musical production of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. In itself a good example of how IP is being used in the theatre at the moment. But what I also thought was noteworthy was that the theatre is currently running The Witches Adventure Trail in the theatre. Timed for half term, this was a really interesting and enterprising example of how IP can be activated in fresh ways.

The trail ran around the National Theatre building and involved interactive screens. It seemed very popular during my visit. It is a very clever way of creating a half term activity while also promoting a new production. It was also well promoted outside the theatre encouraging people to pop into the theatre.

I would imagine this is one of the National Theatre’s key objectives – making the theatre and the building more accessible to more people.

LL5Sticking with live events, exhibitions and theatre it was also interesting to see the sort of content production companies are using to create events these days. It seems ‘classic’ or ‘legend status’ celebrities are considered strong bets in this genre these days.

I spotted a poster promoting Elvis – the Exhibition ‘Direct from Graceland’. The exhibition is on at the Arches London Bridge and features a range of items from Elvis’ Graceland home including stage costumes. Exhibitions like this are also help keep the Elvis name and brand alive creating fresh momentum.

Of course, the exhibitions have to be well curated, content rich and represent a ‘good experience’. Reading the website preview I think this exhibition would tick all the boxes. It is, of course, also a way for locations such as The Arches to draw in an audience. As areas such as London Bridge are being ‘regenerated’ to become retail and leisure hubs,  events like the Elvis exhibition become more valuable as focal points to give consumers a reason to visit a specific location.

LL3A similar example to the Elvis exhibition is the Rumble in the Jungle experience currently being staged in Canada Water in London. This is billed as a theatrical re-telling of the 1974 boxing match between Ali and Foreman. The fight and the sideshows around are regarded as one of the most noteworthy moments in boxing history. It is rich subject matter for an immersive experience. It is also a really good example of how immersive licensing is delivering an opportunity to bring a range of content alive and also how potentially this sort of activation could kickstart a licensing programme. It, of course, also allows a new generation of consumers to experience an event that took place before they were born.

Finally, it was also good to see how Squires Garden Centres is supporting licensing and licensed products. I had reason to visit two of its branches this week and saw across the two stores that licensing is continuing to play a role for Squires. Notably in categories like greetings cards, calendars and giftware. There was also a good presence in the toy section with a prominent display of licensed jigsaw puzzles from Ravensburger which included Bluey, Peppa Pig and Elmer. This suggests that jigsaws for preschoolers and younger children are still selling well.


It was also good to see smaller companies such as Playpress Toys featuring prominently in-store. Its papercraft kits featuring the likes of The Gruffalo, Shaun the Sheep and the RNLI had good displays reinforcing the fact that crafting is a good category for garden centres.

I also think outlets like Squires know their customers well and have a good handle on the sort of products that will resonate well with the local community. This is a good reminder that different retailers and different retail settings often have different requirements. It is important to know your customer, whether that’s retailer or consumer.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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