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How the Smiley brand continues to make an impact 50 years on

How Smiley is working on a raft of activity to further underline its message of positivity, optimism and creativity as it approaches its milestone anniversary in 2022.

The world has certainly needed a healthy dose of positivity this year, and if there’s ever been a brand more suited to this, it’s Smiley.

And as it approaches its 50-year anniversary in 2022, the company has never been more focused on its purpose and brand mission – to make the world a happier place and promoting the importance of positivity.

“For us, it’s more about looking at how we can positively impact the world for the next 50 years than looking back at what we’ve done for the last 50,” Matt Winton, global head of brand partnerships, Smiley50, explains. “That said, our whole campaign is about reintroducing our original message from 1972 ‘Take The Time To Smile’ because we think that’s important in the world we live today.

“What’s interesting is that our original incarnation at that time was to highlight feel-good news in a host of Europe’s leading newspapers and this message remains more relevant than ever today, as we have seen a surge in dedicated good news publications, including the launch of our own Smiley News site in 2018.”

The anniversary campaign will aim to bring communities together through arts education and culture, explains Matt, building in Smiley’s EQ (emotional intelligence) legacy. It will also have an emphasis on enhancing social regeneration of areas, working with charities and directly impacting schools and local communities.

A public art trail will see giant Smileys appearing at major global landmarks.
A public art trail will see giant Smileys appearing at major global landmarks.

Key to this will be a public art trail which will see giant Smiley spheroid sculptures appearing at major global landmarks on World Emoji Day 2022. Each will feature an individual state of emotion selected by a significant contributing artist who will create an artistic interpretation on the reverse side.

Smiley will also launch a Happier Schools Programme, aiming to upskill children with vital EQ life tools by inspiring and engaging in-school art workshops and a learning pack that utilises Smiley’s range assets. This will also be rolled out on some scale through an Online Schools Programme and App – this will be a research-based programme for teaching EQ online to adults and children, in partnership with the Greater Good Science Center.

Adding a more playful element, the Science of Happiness Experience will allow people to transport Smileys around a track within a framework of rails. There will be space to learn, play and explore emotions through a variety of science-based interactive experiences. In addition, The Feelgood Institute will also allow fans to journey through an installation of 12 curated and specially commissioned artists’ rooms, aimed at stimulating each sense through a range of creative therapies which will enhance wellbeing and connectivity.

The Feelgood Institute will feature 12 rooms created by commissioned artists aimed at stimulating each sense through a range of creative therapies.
The Feelgood Institute will feature 12 rooms created by commissioned artists aimed at stimulating each sense through a range of creative therapies.

Finally, Smiley will launch 50 hero collectors’ edition products from some of the world’s most iconic brands and designers. These will feature in Smiley concept shops in the world’s leading department stores and a coffee table book due to be published by Maison Assouline. Matt says: “This campaign will pay homage to the ground-breaking brand collaborations that Smiley has been pioneering in the licensing space for decades.”

It’s certainly an ambitious and powerful programme of activity. Matt continues: “I personally think it’s amazing that, nearly 50 years on, our original good news message is more important than ever. This enduring legacy remains completely relevant today and for the future.”

The vibrant collaboration with Loewe was an invitation to look together to brighter days ahead.
The vibrant collaboration with Loewe was an invitation to look together to brighter days ahead.

And speaking on why he believes the brand has stood the test of time, he adds: “I think for me what stands Smiley out from the licensing industry norm is that over the last decade we have evolved the first licensed IP that is not based on an entertainment property or a branded manufacturing product. We are the industry’s first licensed lifestyle IP that is solely based on co-creation with like-minded partners who share our passion for creativity and positivity.”

Matt concludes: “Smiley has ultimately proven that you can succeed in licensing without doing what everyone else is doing.”

Mike Tyson helped to launch a collaboration with Chinatown Market which included Smiley boxing gloves.
Mike Tyson helped to launch a collaboration with Chinatown Market which included Smiley boxing gloves.

2020 at a glance

“It’s impossible to talk about everything we have done because there has been so much,” Matt begins. “Still, the real highlights were the charity initiatives we launched during lockdown to help those most affected by COVID-19, including patients, healthcare workers and people who had lost their sources of income.”

Outside of the charity work – which has included support for KVN Foundation’s FeedMyCity initiative, United We Stream, CéKeDuBonheur and To Write Love On Her Arms – Smiley has teamed with a number of creative and likeminded partners.

These include a capsule with luxury fashion house Loewe, major global lines with Bershka and Pull & Bear and local retail launches with America Today in Benelux, Jennyfer in France and Herring in Brazil.

“What’s been really noticeable for us this year is, while before our partners were mostly using Smiley on products, now they are creating integrated 360 campaigns with us that are harnessing Smiley’s powerful message at the heart of their in-store and content strategies,” Matt adds. “A final project worth a mention was our three-way collaboration with Chinatown Market and Mike Tyson. For me, Tyson is one of the most iconic sports personalities of my era and to see him launching a line that included Smiley boxing gloves was a seminal moment.”

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2020 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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