Start Licensing’s Ian Downes gets some encouragement that licensing is making an impact and creating positive consumer experiences even in challenging times this week.
This week was a week of experiences for me – licensing lead experiences that is. There is no doubt that there is a lot more life in live licensing these days and that there are a range of examples of IP being used to support events, attractions and retail activations.
My first experience was at a National Trust site in Surrey. Winkworth Arboretum is a wonderful place to visit all year round – although given its magnificent collection of trees I would recommend a visit in the autumn (make sure you book). However at the moment it is hosting a Snowman themed art trail, with 12 decorated Snowman statues curated by live event and trail specialist Wild in Art on show. The Snowman on show each depict one of the 12 Days of Christmas. The designs featured are bright, colourful and contemporary. The trail is included in the price of entry to Winkworth and is accompanied by a few fun Snowman-themed games like skittles and bingo.
The target market for this trail seems to be families with young children. Presumably it is part of the National Trust’s drive to connect with that audience and judging by the numbers at Winkworth on Sunday the strategy is paying off. It was great to see a classic IP being used in this way and, of course, the fact that The Snowman has cross generational appeal makes it well suited to this kind of activation. The Snowman is, of course, a character that comes alive at Christmas in licensing terms. Even though Winkworth doesn’t have a large retail space, there was a small range of Snowman merchandise on sale another benefit of this kind of activation.
Wild in Art is a company that should be applauded for the way it has helped licensing reach parts other licensing can’t. Declaring an interest, I have worked closely with it over the years on a number of trails and found it a really proactive partner to work with. The trails help create momentum and focus. You may have seen a myriad of Morphs at BLE earlier in the year. These are part of a Morph trail that will be coming to the South Bank and Bankside in London next year. It is great to be working on this trail, not least as it is located on very familiar territory for me. In this case the trail is being run in conjunction with the charity Whizz-Kidz. It will be the first ever step free trail dovetailing with Whizz-Kidz’s outlook and objectives. These trails are also a great way of supporting and connecting with the artist community as most of the statues are designed by artists who have been chosen to develop designs for the trails.
Talking of charities and characters working together, my second experience of the week was in Bristol at the Cribbs Causeway shopping mall. Aardman has worked for a number of years with local charity the Bristol Children’s Hospital and The Grand Appeal, the fundraising brand and identity for the charity. Wallace & Gromit are part of the campaign and the charity has developed a themed shop at Cribbs Causeway. Indeed it recently moved into new larger premises in the centre.
I visited The Gromit Unleashed shop this week and it was quite an experience. The shop blends retail with experiential elements making it a great template for modern retailing. Featured in the shop are art trail statues of Wallace, Gromit and Shaun coupled with other features such as Wallace & Gromit’s rocket and photo opportunities. There is also a space for events to take place – these include ‘on brand’ events such as Aardman model making classes. Product wise, the charity develops its own exclusive ranges including collectables based on the art trail statues, plus a number of lines that have a local Bristol theme. These are blended with a strong range of licensed products sourced from across the Aardman licensing programme including the likes of Hype, Danilo, Dean’s, Zippy & George, Half Moon Bay, TruffleShuffle and Aurora. Displays are well presented with groups of products collected together such as Half Moon Bay’s giftware including shaped mugs all being presented as one range. Suppliers like Star Editions have developed bespoke ranges using specific style guide looks for the shop.
The team at the Grand Appeal Shop are also good at capitalising on seasonal opportunities – Christmas being an obvious one – themed products include Christmas jumpers, while they also embrace higher end products such as Licensed To Charm’s Aardman jewellery collection. Indeed Licensed To Charm and the charity have worked together to offer some exclusive designs. The shop is really well curated and has a genuine retail buzz. When I visited it was busy with customers buying Christmas gifts. The shop has two entrances so also benefits from shoppers moving through the store, browsing and buying. From an IP owner and agent point of view, The Grand Appeal is a fabulous way of showcasing the Aardman brands and delivering a concept store. It also allows us to explore new designs, product areas and ideas in a real world retail environment.
We were joined at the shop by some licensee partners who were all impressed by the store layout and presentation. It is a location that has inspired them and it is a shopping experience they can share with other retailers. But, of course, it is important that the shop works for the charity and delivers good revenues for them. It certainly seems to do that and it seems to be going from strength to strength.
It is also a really welcoming shop and it even has a bench where tired Lookouts are allowed to rest!
I have referenced fandom and fan experiences before in the Licensing Lookout. This week I was made aware of another great example of how pop culture and fan driven merchandise is entering the retail mainstream. Kevin Langstaff from Abysse shared a photo with me of a range of manga and anime properties featuring in an aisle of products in Asda. It was very impressive in terms of display, delivery and merchandising. A great example of how pop culture properties are proving popular.
This week has certainly given me encouragement that licensing is making an impact and creating positive consumer experiences even in challenging times. The Grand Appeal shop really shows how a well curated brand-led store can enhance a retail environment and add value to the shopping experience even in a busy well tenanted shopping mall. While The Snowman trail and the wall of product in Asda show how licensing can deliver a point of difference.
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.