One consequence of being a Licensing Lookout is that you never quite switch off from being a Lookout.
I am member of London’s Tate galleries and often enjoy popping in to Tate Modern and Tate Britain between meetings. Both have fabulous collections and are set in very interesting buildings. However I find it hard to pass the gift shops. Not least as they are very well presented.
This week I popped into Tate Modern. It was a good day to be there as shafts of sunlight lit up the Turbine Building and I was able to see Our Labyrinth – who knew how relaxing watching people sweeping up could be.
If you are passing by Tate Modern pop in and take a look. Anyway I popped into the gift shops for a quick Lookout.
It was interesting to see that the Tate is still working with Miffy. It seems to have a long-term relationship with Miffy and has created its own product range which includes bespoke books such as Miffy the Artist, canvas bags and enamel mugs. This range features Miffy posing with paint brushes – artwork that suits the location.
The ‘own brand’ range is topped up with bought in products from licensees such as plush toys. The products are well presented in the gift shop and actually merchandised in two locations in the shop.
It is a good example of how a well known brand can find a home in ‘specialist’ distribution. For the Tate, it is able to create unique products featuring a tried and tested character.
Here, what was interesting was how the National Trust retail operation is supporting and integrating licensed products into the shops. I am sure for licensees this distribution is welcome both in terms of volume and exposure. It shows that the National Trust is supporting licensees. That said I imagine the ambition is to develop distribution beyond the National Trust’s own shops. Featured products included Forthglade dog food: the National Trust has developed a range with Forthglade.
This is integrated into the National Trust’s ongoing campaign to promote dog walking at its sites that are dog friendly. Working with the National Trust in this way opens up a great platform for Forthglade and access to an audience that is attractive to it. Burgon & Ball, a long-term National Trust licensee, also had products in-store including garden kneelers. Other featured products included Beeswax Wraps – a plastic-free alternative to cling film – from The Beeswax Wrap Company. The National Trust shops also support local suppliers. This is not licensing, but it is good to see it supporting local suppliers in categories such as food and drink.
I also noticed that Hinton Ampner would be hosting a performance of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny by Quantum Theatre. A reminder that licensing is making a significant impact in the live events sector and how classic characters like Peter Rabbit are well suited to this sector. Peter Rabbit is a character well suited to the live sector and fits well into the culture of the National Trust.
Thinking heritage, it was also noteworthy to see how Transport for London used its feature page in the London edition of free newspaper Metro this week. In the run up to Father’s Day, the London Transport Museum was featured and it showcased a range of products that it was recommending as potential Father’s Day presents. These include a gift set of socks developed using patterns from vintage moquettes (the patterns on old bus and tube seats). Great creative use of TfL’s archive and for older Londoners like me a lovely reminder of bygone bus and tube journeys.
Other featured products included a deluxe version of Scrabble which features the Johnston typeface which is used by TfL and the Scrabble set is boxed in a wooden box made from hemlock which mirrors the wooden finishes seen on buses, trains and stations from the 1930s to 1970s. Great attention to detail.
Other featured products included deck chairs, laptop cases and picnic bags all using the vintage patterns that are part of TfL’s history and archive. It is good to see a brand owner making the most of their archive and pitching products at the premium market recognising the value and appeal of the heritage.
I was also lucky to be at the launch of the Wild In Art Whizz-Kidz Art Trail this week. The event was at the Museum of London. The art trail will feature the Aardman character Morph. Up to 70 Morphs will be located around the South Bank, Bankside and the City of London from June 2023. Whizz-Kidz is a charity that supports young wheelchair users. It focuses on ensuring young people get the wheelchair and support they need with an emphasis on allowing them to lead independent lives. A key part of this is ease of access and accessibility. With this in mind the Morph art trail will be London’s first step free Art Trail. It will be a very visible demonstration of step-free accessibility.
It is great to be involved in a project like this and a fabulous example of how licensing can play a part in influencing positive outcomes. I am really looking forward to seeing the Whizz-Kidz Morphs coming alive – Wild in Art is really good at getting artists and creators involved in the art trails and they are a fabulous showcase for creativity. The Art Trail will give me and others another excuse to explore London and who knows do a bit of Looking Out at the same time!
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.