History of science: The Science Museum talks heritage

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

June 21st 2017 at 9:36AM
UPDATED June 21st 2017 at 10:54AM
History of science: The Science Museum talks heritage

Licensing.biz catches up with The Science Museum's brand licensing manager Zuzi Wojciechowska, Fashion UK's Laura Clowes and M&Co's head of buying Julia Redman over the strength of The Science Museum

How does the Science Museum lend itself as a heritage brand? 

Zuzi Wojciechowska, senior account manager, brand licensing at Science Museum: The Science Museum was founded in 1857 so of course it is a well-established institution. We were one of the first UK museum to offer an interactive children’s space back in 1931.

This showed a shift away from targeting specialists in the field to making science open and accessible to all, especially young inquisitive minds. This is a cornerstone of the Science Museum licensing programme and I think what makes our branded products so popular and unique – we are the only UK heritage scientific brand. 

Why is the heritage sector, and the Science Museum brand, so important to licensees? 

Laura Clowes, licensing manager at Fashion UK: Heritage properties we find are incredibly diverse in the themes you can explore, the Science Museum is true to this and gives us the space to work with a wide cross-section of historical, modern and topical themes. Science Museum is an exciting design challenge for us, the scope for creativity is limited only by your imagination.

Can you tell me a bit about your partnership with M&Co?

ZW: M&Co have been very visible in the licensing arena, with great partnerships with other heritage institutions and entertainment brands as well. Fashion UK have experience with both as well, and really understand what is involved when working with a heritage brand.

They know how to translate the educational side of the Science Museum brand to a compelling design that kids will want to wear. The resulting range of t-shirts with fun finishes like foiling and glow-in-the-dark is one that even some adults around the office have expressed interest in wearing.

Julia Redman, head of buying at M&Co: The graphics are fun and interactive, but also quite cool, so really appeal to our target age range. We have also picked up on the very topical and current trend for all things “space & planets” following Tim Peake’s mission, which generated a huge amount of interest in schools amongst children, and has had a positive effect on our sales.

Can you tell us about the strength of the Science Museum brand on apparel, what has demand been like from consumers?

JR: We have seen great success with licensed product from the Science Museum, which offers our customer a fun and creative way to include an educational element in their child’s clothing.

ZW: Sales have been great, it has been a very popular range and the reviews online have also been very positive.

LC: Due to the versatile nature we can flex and adapt in our clothing designs to suit various age ranges, react to emerging fashion/consumer trends and tap into themes surrounding children’s play patterns, bringing the museum and its values outside of London and out to the masses.

Parents also resonate with the educational aspect that we integrate into all our children’s product designs, which when coupled with the endorsement from a well-respected source, gives the brand a real point of difference on shelf.

What is the strength of the Heritage Brands sector of the market in general? Particularly in an era where a lot of emphasis is placed upon big entertainment franchises?

ZW: I think this has to do with both credibility and the evergreen nature of heritage brands. Consumers want something they can trust, or they feel has added value. The sales of Science Museum branded products support the valuable work of the museum, which makes them a worthwhile purchase.

Heritage brands don’t have a release date or ‘past it’ date – they’re always in style. This allows them to develop and gain trust and recognition. Additionally, in the case of the Science Museum the topics licensees can focus on are so vast – from space flight to medicine, maths to robotics – that there is a never-ending supply of new product ideas and inspiration. 

Who is the biggest audience for the property and how is this reflected in the partnerships you secure for the brand?

ZW: One of the great things about the Science Museum brand is that it appeals to both children and adults alike, which allows us to build interesting brand extensions. For example, we can utilise our picture library to create more design-led products for adults such as the diaries and notebooks from Frances Lincoln which have just launched.

We are just starting to take advantage of our archives and ‘non-traditional’ imagery, this includes some great retro robot and sci-fi imagery we uncovered further to our blockbuster Robots exhibition.

Our core, I think, will always be toys and gift, and even though we have been in this area for many years it is continuously growing. Our branded products have a great presence in the marketplace and are available in most retailers including Debenhams, Toys R Us, Hamleys, Waitrose, Smyths and Argos as well as independents. Presence in both shops like Hamleys and shops like Maplin shows that our brand really is universal in terms of age appeal.

What are some of the most exciting partnerships you have secured for the property?

ZW: Some of our most exciting partnerships include presence in the Argos gift guide for our Clementoni product, decided shelf space in Hamleys complete with demonstrators and video displays with Wow Stuff and Great Gizmos and of course our apparel range in M&Co!

Can we expect to see new toys and games soon? 

ZW: Yes, we are currently developing some new ranges with existing partners that cover new areas for us like kitchen science, agricultural equipment, VR filming and anatomy. We are also currently in discussion for card games and toys for preschool age groups, which will be a first for us.

We are also launching a fantastic new design-led stationery range from Quadrille further on this year.

What’s next for Science Museum at M&Co, how are you keeping up with current trends?

LC: Astronomy is a particularly strong theme for us at present, which has been received really well by consumers when our first range launched into M&Co stores earlier this year and we are launching further product into M&Co on the back of this success later this year. Looking into next year, we are looking to build the brand out further at retail with new and exciting ranges for Spring/Summer 2018 season and beyond.