Museums have a wealth of unique cultural IP at their fingertips, making them fertile ground for developing far-reaching and successful licensing programmes.
The challenge is how to navigate the often-overwhelming amount of cultural IP available in these institutions and, crucially, how to select the properties that will feel most relevant and appealing to today’s consumers, young and old.
We’ve experienced this challenge first-hand, developing IP assets and negotiating licensing programmes for some of the world’s foremost cultural institutions, such as The British Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Gallery in London.
Over time, we’ve developed a unique approach to maximising the potential of the incredible cultural IP that our museum partners have. Instead of simply printing assets on mugs and T-shirts, we create seasonal libraries of IP assets that are closely aligned with upcoming global fashion and lifestyle trends, boosting their relevance and appeal.
It’s an approach that can lead to more lucrative commercial deals while increasing engagement with consumers and is something that all sectors should be considering.
Before we get started, the creative teams in our Los Angeles and Shanghai studios research fashion runways and design trends around the world and use these insights to develop a set of annual themes.
These are carefully matched and integrated with selections of cultural assets from the museums we work with. Next, we develop libraries of new prints and patterns for each theme, derived from the original artefacts and paintings. We then license these libraries to brands and retailers, who are offered a set of meticulously crafted, on-trend assets that elevate private label merchandise and significantly improve engagement with shoppers.
Looking ahead to 2020, we’ve developed a set of themes that includes Electric Egypt, East Side Story, Greek Legends and Pop Voyage.
Electric Egypt features artefacts from various museums partners such as Egyptian stone reliefs, gold jewellery and paintings from the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The MET in New York.
Meanwhile, East Side Story explores the similarities and differences between Western and Eastern cultures inspired by breath-taking ceramics and metal artefacts from the museums’ collections.
Finally, Pop Voyage is ‘a nautical journey for the millennial mindset’, transforming historic maps and paintings and etchings of ships and explorers into bold fashion prints.
This approach to developing IP assets and licensing programmes is transferrable to other sectors too. Through an understanding and synthesis of fashion trends and market needs, original IP can be turned into new products that genuinely resonate with today’s consumers.
A far cry from a crude copy/paste of a painting on a T-shirt or tote bag, new designs and patterns derived from the original IP offer consumers something that feels unique and relevant.
In turn, the originality and quality of the assets can open doors to more lucrative commercial relationships.
For example, through our approach to developing cultural themes and libraries, we’ve been able to secure direct-to-retail licensing partnerships with a wide range of retailers who operate both online and in bricks-and-mortar stores, including with e-commerce giant Alibaba in China.
Brands and retailers are attracted by the flexibility, sophistication and stylish quality of the designs that this approach provides. Our IP assets have been used by Amazon for multiple collections of kindle e-book covers; on special gift packaging by Nestle; and on an exclusive MI Smartphone inspired by 16th century Italian Maiolica pottery from the British Museum, (which became one of the most sought-after smartphones in China in May 2018).
The cultural themes not only produce substantial sales, they’ve also proven to be effective at engaging younger generations of shoppers who are more attuned to trends and developments in fashion and popular culture.
Above all, perhaps one of the most important aspects of this approach is how it enables companies to develop and transform their IP into brand new experiences for customers.
In our case, we are changing how art and culture can be experienced and appreciated beyond the walls of museums, bringing art to consumers’ daily lives through lifestyle products.
For other companies and sectors, the key is thinking creatively about how to maximise the potential of your IP and ensuring that you’re staying in tune with the latest developments in popular culture and lifestyle trends. The possibilities are endless.