How ‘live licensing’ is taking the industry in new directions… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes in some more examples of experiential licensing in London and further afield this week.

A couple of weeks ago the Lookout was focused on live licensing. I am pleased to report I did indeed successfully find a Grand Way Out from the Wallace & Gromit Escape Room in Bristol. It was a great ‘hands on’ experience and inspired me to look out for more examples of experiential licensing.

With this in mind I made a beeline for Petworth, a National Trust site not far from where I live, this week.

I have visited Petworth before – it is a lovely house set in beautiful grounds but my return visit was to take in a new Wild in Art trail. Wild in Art has done a fantastic job of developing art trails featuring licensed characters – it has a very impressive back catalogue that includes Oor Wullie, The Snowdog and Shaun the Sheep.

LL5At Petworth, Wild in Art has worked with the National Trust to deliver and curate an Elmer art trail. The trail – Elmer’s Art Parade – features 10 Elmer sculptures individually decorated with artwork inspired by artists such as JMW Turner, William Morris and Frida Kahlo. There is also a signature patchwork Elmer which is housed in one of Petworth’s follies, the Rotunda. Wild in Art has made great use of the unique features and views at Petworth to frame the Elmers, creating some wonderful photo opportunities. I visited on Bank Holiday Monday which is of course a busy day, but the trail was certainly seemed to be doing a good job in bringing in families with young children.

The families were following the trail with the aid of a trail map given out free on entry. I am guessing hosting the trail is part of a wider strategy that the National Trust has deployed in regards to attracting new visitors and finding a way of engaging with families. Based on my visit the investment in the Elmer trail seems to be paying off. The gift shop had a range of Elmer merchandise highlighting another benefit of this kind of activation – it creates a new retail outlet for licensees and, in the case of Elmer, a route to market for the core books as well.

LL4I am a great fan of the Wild in Art trails and have been involved in quite a few over the years. Indeed, so much of a fan that Start Licensing has decided to sponsor one of the Morph statues that will be appearing in London soon. Wild in Art has collaborated with the charity Whizz Kidz and Aardman to deliver a Morph art trail that will run along the South Bank, Bankside and into the City of London. We are sponsoring Tiger Morph.

One of the benefits of trails like the Morph one is that it acts as a fundraiser for charity, but it is also a way of getting people active as they follow the trail. Noting that Whizz Kidz provide powered wheelchairs to children who need them and are committed to improving accessibility for wheelchair users, it is appropriate that the Morph trail will be a step free art trail. The first of its kind. I am looking forward to inviting people to join me on the Morph trail this summer.

LL2While out and about I managed to visit the Miffy pop-up shop in Shaftesbury Avenue recently. Bit of a latecomer to this though as I believe the shop opened in March. Rather like the trail at Petworth, this activation seemed to be working as there were lots of customers in the shop on my visit. The Miffy branded window is very eye-catching and certainly stands out on a very busy street. Given its location near Chinatown, the shop includes merchandise that reflects the location. It is also the Chinese Year of the Rabbit – another explanation for the chosen location. Other featured items include plush, lighting, giftware and smaller items such as keychains. It is a cleverly chosen location theming wise, but also geographically as Shaftesbury Avenue sits in the middle of Chinatown and Soho while it is the epicentre of London’s theatre land. Footfall wise it delivers a good mix of local people, international visitors and UK day-trippers. Some of the product on sale was from the Netherlands which added an extra level of authenticity to the product mix and for Miffy fans an extra reason to visit the store. Indeed, when I visited the shop there was a lot of Dutch schoolchildren there buying Miffy merchandise to take back home – I imagine their ‘Gifts from London’ might raise a few eyebrows from friends and family.

Given the fact that in London and other cities there are a lot of empty shop units, pop-ups of this kind may well become more common. That said while this looks like an attractive way to go for brand owners there are lots of business, logistical and financial questions to resolve before taking the decision to pop-up.

LL3While in London I also caught sight of the Paddington Afternoon Tea Bus. These tea tours are run by Brigit’s Bakery combining an afternoon tea and a London bus tour on a Paddington-branded London Routemaster bus. I believe Brigit’s has previously run similar Peppa Pig tours. It is a clever way of blending a popular IP with a London tour and using an iconic London bus. Paddington is, of course, a really nice fit for this concept.

I understand that on board the bus there is a bespoke guided tour that features Paddington and Mrs Bird. Rather like the Terrible Thames river tour, I highlighted recently it is good to see licensing playing a part in the London tourist market.

LL1Also this week, Aardman and Natural England unveiled their partnership which sees Shaun the Sheep positioned as the champion of Natural England’s Countryside Code. Shaun the Sheep is being used as part of Natural England’s campaign to encourage children and young people to ‘respect, protect and enjoy’ the countryside. Shaun and friends will be used to help children better understand the code and to encourage them to care for nature. This is a great example of how a well established IP can be integrated into a promotional and educational campaign to further the campaigns’ objectives. It is also a good example of a well crafted partnership.

It also shows how ‘live licensing’ is taking licensing in new directions and opening up new ways of working. Licensee Pawprint Family has already benefitted from the partnership by producing a special edition Shaun the Sheep Countryside Code patch – a reminder that partnerships like this one and some of the others I have highlighted also have the ability to create other commercial opportunities. From the outside I think the licensing industry is getting better at engaging with the experiential sector and ensuring that their IP is being used in creative ways that are ‘on brand’ and scalable.

If you want to see ‘live licensing’ in the real world please get in touch regarding the Morph trail – I would be very happy to give you a Morph tour and also throw in a London tour as well. BOGOF Tours of London!

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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