The Source chats to Vivid’s Emma Weber about Nella, Tiana and spotting the ‘X factor’.
“We are the same entrepreneurial business as we were when we set up 25 years ago and sometimes we just see something in a property, that magic ingredient, the X factor that we feel will turn into an exciting toy line and appeal to children,” Emma Weber, international licensing director at Vivid, explains.
The toy company is in a good place currently, with a number of strong licences in its locker and a reinvigorated outlook.
Last year saw the ownership of Vivid change hands, with new investors, Privet, coming on board, bringing additional investment and focus for the business. New ceo Tony Hicks arrived, while other appointments were also made to ensure the company had all the resources needed for growth.
And this means there are now plenty of options to build up the licensing portfolio alongside its own-brand offer. Its Crayola business is performing well, with the roster including Disney, PJ Masks, PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, Spider-man and Shopkins among others, and there are plans to further grow the category moving into 2019.
The games portfolio also includes some evergreen licences, such as Catchphrase and Family Fortunes, while the Disney Emoji line is also benefiting from Vivid’s new strategy to build stories around the characters in its collectable ranges to help children engage further.
The big news for Vivid though comes in the form of Nickelodeon’s preschool property, Nella the Princess Knight (see separate box out below), and YouTube star Tiana Toys AndMe.
With 1.6 billion channel views and a forecast to reach 10 million subscribers by summer 2018, Vivid is launching its toy range for Tiana Toys AndMe into the UK, US and Australia/New Zealand later this year.
Emma explains: “The toy line brings physical and digital play together through innovative surprise unboxing which includes the Tiana doll and insanely cute micro toys and accessories so you can build your own micro world and become Tiana the ‘unboxer’. Marketing will be led by a digital campaign across multiple platforms and channels as well as Tiana meet and greets at retail.”
When it comes to Nella – for which Vivid is the master toy – the company is working closely with Nickelodeon on various promotional activations for on-air, online and at retail. These will be supported by a TV ad campaign featuring Talk and Sing and Style Me Nella, as well as a role-play ad spot targeting 1,500 TVRs.
“We certainly took our time to find the next master toy opportunity in preschool that was the right fit for Vivid,” Emma continues. “We are lucky in that we see a lot of fantastic, creative content but our strategy was to move towards global rights and Nickelodeon properties offer just that.
“Vivid has offices in the UK, France and Germany and have rest of world reach through an amazing distributor network and also relationships direct with retail in key markets. We waited for the right property that allowed the R+D team the opportunity to develop a truly global product line. Those licences don’t come round that often.”
Even though the retail environment is very fluid at the moment, Emma says this has not dampened the response for great product, including licensed lines. “If the product and property are exciting the retailers are just as keen as always to get behind it,” she says. “The product itself, packaging, marketing and off-shelf promotion are all then vital to ensure it is top of mind for kids and parents when they are shopping.”
With the 2018 portfolio now locked down and listings in place, Vivid has now set its sights on securing rights for autumn/winter 2019 and into 2020. Emma teases: “There are some exciting discussions in licensing on the horizon and also a strong focus in-house to develop our own IP that may well have ‘licensing out’s opportunities.”
For the immediate future though, Emma is clear on her goals for the remainder of 2018. She tells us: “We have marketing and promotional plans in place to ensure we build a strong and successful platform for our new brands including Tiana and Nella this autumn/winter. This in turn will allow us to escalate our product development plans and investment into 2019.
“We will continue to build on our critical distribution and licensed partnerships, while at the same time looking to develop more and more of our own exciting product to expand our international footprint.”
Understandably, Nella the Princess Knight is a major priority for Vivid going forward.
Emma says: “When we first saw the property we knew that pre-schoolers would relate to such an exciting character, a princess who transforms into a daring knight. Nella is a positive and empowering role model for pre-schoolers and we could instantly see that the transformation from Princess to Knight would enable us to develop a compelling role-play category within the toy range.”
Toys launched earlier this year in several international markets including the UK, with the range encompassing figures, play-sets, plush, dolls and role-play.
Emma continues: “Transformation is so intrinsic to the show DNA that we have created two star products for autumn/winter: a Transforming Princess Knight Nella doll, as well as a Transforming Rose Shield – both TV promoted later this year. We have very ambitious product plans for Nella as we look towards the launch in the US during 2018 and to support the growing international potential.
“We have a breadth of categories to develop into and the creativity between Vivid and Nickelodeon when we brainstorm new concepts together is boundless.”