Andersen Press tells us about its 25th anniversary plans for Elmer

Sarah Pakenham, licensing director at the firm, talks about the year-long celebration planned for the character.
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Firstly, can you tell us the history behind the brand?

Elmer the patchwork elephant started as one book published by Andersen Press in 1989, and was immediately a success in many languages because of the appeal of the message that it's okay to be different, the iconic and easily recognisable character, and the distinctive art work. It became a series by popular demand and there are now 22 original Elmer stories, part of a character publishing programme which also includes novelty, activity and board books. The books have now been translated into over 40 languages and Elmer's iconic, design-led look has helped grow an evergreen brand that has stood the test of time. In his 25th year, Elmer is now a firm international favourite in millions of households across the world.

How did the brand perform in 2013?

The brand has a successful global merchandising programme and an established, fast-growing list of licensees creating high quality, fun and eye catching product that is widely stocked in retailers across the country. Brand awareness is continually growing and 2013 saw product, including books, appearing not only in independent book and toy shops, but also more frequently in chains, out of town stores and supermarkets. Elmer continues to be popular amongst teacher and is regularly used in schools, featuring on national school book lists and approved by educators. In 2013 new licences were added, and new books and merchandise released and we also saw more retailers stocking a wider range of Elmer product.

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How many licensees does it have to date, and in which categories?

Globally there are over 50 licences for Elmer and in the UK there are currently 14. These include toys and games; paper products such as cards, calendars and posters; household items from tableware in melamine to lamp shades; accessories including luggage, bags, aprons, umbrellas; library furniture and lastly apps.

What are some of the best performing products?

The Elmer plush has proved very successful, appealing to both boys and girls and across all ages from babies up to older children. The same for greetings cards, which have adult appeal due to the iconic and humorous design, but still appeal to younger children who love the simplicity and bright colours.

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – if so which categories are you targeting?

We are looking to expand into the nursery area with a delightful nursery range coming from Rainbow Designs in 2015, and a publishing programme aimed at babies and toddler to sit alongside this. We would love to add new licences such as nightwear and bedding, toiletries, garden products, party items.

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Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2014?

Andersen Press will be promoting a year-long celebration of the Elmer anniversary in 2014 with a dedicated press and marketing campaign, national consumer press coverage and a nationwide events programme with the Elmer costume character. We have an extensive brand publishing programme for the anniversary year which includes a brand new hardback story, a signed limited edition of the first Elmer story, a mini library of board books and a special Elmer treasury for the gift market. We are running year-long retailer promotions including a buy one get one free offer across all paperbacks and have created branded dumpbins for displaying the books in this promotion.

What has the reaction from retail been like to the brand?

Elmer is popular amongst both book and toy retailers, recognised as an evergreen brand that has stood the test of time. Instantly recognisable and with wide appeal amongst both boys and girls and all ages, Elmer’s messaging about accepting and celebrating difference and individuality makes him popular amongst parents and championed by educators, which retailers value. The bright colours and vibrant patchwork patterns allow retailers to create eye catching and appealing displays of both book and toy product that draw in both parents and children alike.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand by the end of 2014?

With the year-long campaign around the anniversary in 2014, we hope to raise the profile of the brand amongst both new and existing fans, building on Elmer’s reputation as an evergreen children’s character brand. We would like to acquire additional licences and see new, eye catching Elmer merchandise on the market, maintaining the same high quality of existing product. We are also looking to expand Elmer’s fan base in the anniversary year, introducing the character to a younger audience through a new range of board books and nursery product aimed at babies and toddlers. We hope to see more book retailers stocking toys and merchandise alongside books and toy retailers doing the same, with more Elmer displays uniting different types of product from plush to books, from games to paper products.

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