Harry Potter, The Gruffalo, and Horrid Henry are the top book brands for children, according to a report commissioned by the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA).
The report—released at the Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) exhibition, held in London last week—found that books were the fourth most talked-about type of brand among children, behind TV shows, films and cartoons, but ahead of video games, toys, music, celebrities and comics.
Several publishers attended BLE this year, with Walker Books and Penguin both taking prominent stands. While the event does not yet rival Bologna or the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of business for publishers, many said it was starting to play a stronger role in their growing intellectual property (IP) ranges. This year, more than 280 exhibitors took part, occupying the main hall at Olympia.
Anna Hewitt, head of licensing at Walker, said publishers have only recently become interested in evolving IP into brands, but added that books were a great starting point in licensing. “It’s early days but we are making inroads. Publishing is always going to be the core of our business but we are in [licensing] for the long term,” she said.
Susan Bolsover, head of licensing and consumer products at Penguin, said publishers were in an advantageous position because of the content they have. “Good content is a hugely prized asset and publishers need to realise that more. Our brands are widely recognised not just in products but also live events, films and TV programmes.”
Egmont has had huge success this year with its books based on video game Minecraft. Sarah Bates, Egmont’s publishing director of licensed character books, said great stories and immersive worlds made for the best brands. “Often it’s about strong narrative and great characters, but with brands emerging from the digital worlds, it can also be about worlds that enable children themselves to build their own adventures and tell their own stories,” she said.
Ian Downes, director at the Start Licensing agency, which manages licences on behalf of other companies, praised Egmont’s Minecraft publishing, but said publishers could do more to signal their interest in acquiring rights from the licensing sector, rather than merely licensing out their own content. “I think licensing content from TV, film or other media could be a good addition to a publisher’s list . . . publishing is seen as a core platform in licensing.”
For the report, entitled Awareness and Popularity of Brands/Properties Among Kids, LIMA researched which brands were most discussed by 1,250 children aged up to 14 in the UK, with a number of book brands featuring strongly.
The other top book brands included Winnie the Pooh in fourth place, Peppa Pig (fifth), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (sixth), Thomas and Friends (seventh), Disney Princess (eighth), Mister Men/Little Miss (ninth) and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (10th).
Kelvin Gardner, m.d. of LIMA UK, said the fact that most of the popular brands were spread across merchandise, films, TV shows and games showed the importance of licensing in children’s publishing. “Publishers are in a great position because they can ride both sides of the licensing spectrum—they can license in and they can license out,” he said.
Gardner added: “Most owners of children’s IP want to enter that world of books. If you can get your brand into the printed word and into bedtime stories, it will become loved and desired.”
Samuel Ferguson, head of licensing at entertainment company Mind Candy, said publishing was a “huge pillar” when trying to grow a brand. Mind Candy and ITV Studios Global Entertainment have signed publishing deals for their latest launches; Mind Candy with Penguin for the World of Warriors series and ITV Studios with Simon & Schuster for Thunderbirds Are Go!