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How Easter is choc-full of opportunities for licensing

It may be a religious holiday, but in financial terms, Easter is big business. The US National Retail Federation’s annual Easter survey reveals that 81% of families are expected to mark the occasion in 2024, with spending projected to hit $22.4bn – an average outlay of $177.06 per person. LicensingSource.net looks at the ways brand owners and licensees are elevating their offering and making the most of the season.

It’s no surprise that Easter is a key selling time for bakery firm Finsbury Food Group.

“Spring is in the air and the opportunity to treat and spend time with family and friends over the holidays is on everyone’s mind,” says Daryl Newlands, the company’s head of brands and marketing. “That gives us the perfect opportunity to develop products for the event. We look to launch a wide range of hot cross bun flavours, mostly in retailer own brand, as well as branded and cakes, and we focus more on sweet and savoury treats that can be snacked on or shared.”

For Easter 2024, Finsbury Foods is launching an M&M brownie product in conjunction with Mars. “We ensure a balance between our branded and non-branded offering at this time of year,” Daryl points out. “Both branded and own label products play important roles in shopper choice, depending on the category. Bakery has a mix of both, so getting the offer and mix right is important. I would say brands tend to perform well within the bakery and sweet treat confectionary categories, mostly through the strength of brand offer. Over the years we have launched different licensed branded products based on the opportunity and size of the brand at that moment in time.”

For Easter 2024, Finsbury Foods is launching an M&M brownie product in conjunction with Mars.
For Easter 2024, Finsbury Foods is launching an M&M brownie product in conjunction with Mars.

Confectionery and bakery companies are naturally quick off the mark at Easter, says Amy Macaulay, creative producer at Kids Industries. “It always feels like Easter products appear earlier each year. The reality is that as soon as Christmas is over, Easter chocolate brands are straight onto the shelves, taking over from festive tubs of Celebrations and Quality Street.”

Chocolate brands are adept at seizing marketing opportunities, says Amy. “We’ve already seen the return of the ever-popular Cadbury Worldwide Hide campaign, which creates meaningful experiences for participants as they hide a virtual egg for someone special, write clues and then send that person on the hunt. It’s a fantastic and engaging method for deepening consumer relationships. But it seems to me that brands in other categories could do so much more around the occasion, given that it’s a time when families are on the hunt for activities to do together.

“Looking back at successful Easter marketing campaigns of the past, Tesco’s 2013 partnership with Google Street View to create a virtual Easter egg hunt based on the user’s postcode stands out to me. By typing in your postcode, you could seek out three eggs near your location – it was fantastic fun.”

Amy also points to a “lovely” 2023 tie-up between The Walt Disney Company and Mattel with Kinder, to launch Avatar eggs. “I wonder, though, if it could have been so much bigger if they’d included a hunt where customers could seek out Avatar eggs using an AR filter?” Amy says. “Or, when visiting a shopping centre, they could have taken part in an Avatar egg hunt? AR has such potential to bring brand stories to life, creating a special moment that can stand the test of time and drive brand salience.”

Bluey is heading to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst this Easter.
Bluey is heading to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst this Easter.

One company successfully bringing stories to life is BBC Studios, whose stable of brands includes preschool favourites Bluey and Hey Duggee.

“Seasonal celebrations are especially important when it comes to our kids & family properties,” says senior marketing manager Katie Hibbs. “They provide us with a great platform to curate themed merchandise, seasonal digital campaigns and hooks for experientials that engage and excite our audiences. As a result, seasonal licensing has become more integrated into our licensees’ product strategy and in our wider marketing campaigns. We ensure we provide new seasonal style guides annually and we’re very agile in our responding to licensee and retailer requests for new seasonal artwork.”

This Easter, Hey Duggee fans will be able to tuck into branded Easter eggs from confectionery partner Kinnerton, and enjoy several Hey Duggee Easter-themed books published by Ladybird. Meanwhile, Bluey fans can enjoy interactive activities at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, inspired by episodes of the show.

“Bluey at its heart is all about the joy of play and having fun and I really loved the idea of combining this with a celebration of nature,” says Katie. “Kew Gardens and Wakehurst have offered some brilliant seasonal activations for families over the years and offered the perfect partnership for Bluey over the two-week Easter holiday period. Families can choose from a variety of fun outdoor activities and games inspired by episodes of the show, such as Barky Boats, Dance Mode and Shadow Lands, and learn about the plants and wildlife found at Kew and in Bluey’s native Australia along the way.”

In addition, Bluey has just arrived at CBeebies Land at Alton Towers. Fans of the hit TV show will be able to meet the Bluey costume character, plus her sister Bingo, each day, and even enjoy a stay in the world’s first ever Bluey themed bedrooms at CBeebies Land Hotel.

“Easter felt like the perfect opportunity to create more memorable and shareable experiences for our consumers to enjoy during the holidays,” says Katie, “and for winding down, there’s Bluey’s first ever extended episode, The Sign, which airs on Disney+ on 14 April; it’s the perfect opportunity for the whole family to watch together and spend time with one another.”

Easter4Another beloved kids’ property, Peter Rabbit, is a natural fit for Easter celebrations, says David Sprei, commercial director at Penguin Ventures.

“While Peter Rabbit is an all-year-round proposition, spring – and more specifically, Easter – really is the season that offers us the most meaningful opportunities to engage with our family audience. Our ambition is for Peter Rabbit to be the ultimate Easter Bunny and for him to be present at all family touchpoints across products, experiences, retail, and digital platforms.

“Our breadth of licensing activity for Peter Rabbit ensures we are catering to every aspect of this important family moment. We are seeing emerging trends for Easter celebrations, driven by influencers and KOLs [key opinion leaders], such as filled gift baskets and table-scaping, that have become almost on a par with Halloween and Christmas festivities in certain markets.”

David points out that last year the Kardashians’ Easter family celebration was fully Peter Rabbit-themed and included items from Pottery Barn’s homewares range, while in the UK, Stacey Solomon chose Peter Rabbit to decorate her Easter table.

“This appetite for Peter Rabbit reinforces the brand’s continued relevance and desirability and reinforces our ambition to build our global licensing programme to meet consumer demand,” says David. “Peter remains truly accessible through our grocer business and is available to family audiences during the lead-up to Easter. He is highly visible with placement across infant apparel, nursery, homewares, toys and publishing as well as dress-up, which has remained in store following World Book Day. This year, Tesco has been a key partner, launching a ‘Get the Look’ fixture showcasing Peter Rabbit F&F Babywear ranges for newborn and toddler fashion in 400 stores, with further dedicated promotion across stores nationwide.

“Spring sees a shift in purchasing as parents are buying new season clothing for their children and, together with Easter gifting, this offers us a perfect opportunity for Peter Rabbit apparel. Beyond grocer, we are enjoying success across the high street with our continued Marks & Spencer and JoJo Maman Bébé DTRs. This Easter, all 74 JoJo stores will have Peter Rabbit dedicated windows with in-store activities at flagship stores.”

Orchard Toys' Peter Rabbit range of games and puzzles is the company's first licensed collaboration.
Orchard Toys' Peter Rabbit range of games and puzzles is the company's first licensed collaboration.

A recent arrival in the toy aisle is Orchard Toys’ Peter Rabbit range of games and puzzles – the company’s first licensed collaboration – which won a Hero Toys accolade at Toy Fair 2024, while in the LBE space, Peter Rabbit will be arriving at Peninsula London in time for Easter 2024; the new luxury hotel will offer themed stays, cinema screenings and sumptuous afternoon teas so that families can celebrate the season with an authentic Peter Rabbit experience.

And, of course, there’s chocolate… Peter Rabbit is entering its fourth year in partnership with Cadbury, with the branded range now available across all major grocers, and an exclusive line available at Waitrose.

Easter5Chocolate may be king at Easter, but when it comes to seasonal indulgencies, families today are looking further than the confectionery aisle, believes Emily Campan, publisher, brands and licensing at HarperCollins’ imprint Farshore.

“I think families are increasingly looking to celebrate moments like Easter with treats which aren’t necessarily chocolate or sweets, and we’re seeing the benefits of that,” she says. “Easter is a huge moment for us, particularly at the preschool end of our list. At HarperCollins we’re home to some of the UK’s best-loved brands, including Mr. Men Little Miss, Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington and PAW Patrol and we are increasingly finding that consumers want to celebrate those seasonal moments with us. We have a full roster of new Easter-themed titles publishing in any given year, and also plan to maximise the exposure of any annual bestsellers on our backlist.

“We also traditionally see footfall increase at retail in the build-up to Easter as spring begins to arrive. We saw a week-on-week market uplift of 14% this February half term, and hope for more of the same over the Easter holidays.

“We love making the most of seasonal moments, so we have campaigns running throughout Q1 which cover Valentine’s Day, Pancake Day and Mother’s Day and culminate in Easter. Each of our Easter titles will have a bespoke promotional campaign attached which targets key children’s book buying audiences. These will often encompass strategic digital and print marketing, influencer partnerships and social media marketing.”

Easter6It can be tricky, Emily admits, to align retailer listing and space around seasonal moments for cross-promotional purposes, but it’s something Farshore is keen to do more of, and there are still opportunities to be seized.

“I think Easter has the potential to grow and grow as a seasonal opportunity for books,” she says. “Our success to date has been very preschool focused, but I think there’s an opportunity for older brands and books to start making more of the moment, too. After all, video games are full of Easter eggs if you know where to look!”

In time for Easter 2024, Farshore has released a new Winnie-the-Pooh picture book, Easter Hunt, a celebration of springtime for children and adults alike written and illustrated by Pooh experts Jane Riordan and Andrew Grey. It has also reissued its bestselling, “riotously funny” Mr. Men Little Miss Easter story, The Easter Egg Hunt.

“It’s written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves, and the cover features Mr Happy having a whale of a time in a ball pit of Easter Eggs,” says Emily. “It’s easily my favourite Mr. Men Little Miss cover.”

Mr. Men Little Miss © THOIP

Illustrations by Andrew Grey © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Based on the ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ works by A.A.Milne and E.H.Shepard.

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