Weekly comic The Beano has been entertaining children for decades - and it turns 75 this year.
The DC Thomson publication is still going strong thanks to successful licensee partnerships, celebrity appearances, digital activities, as well as classic characters like Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids.
Over the past year, The Beano has partnered with Wembley Stadium, where Dennis acted tour host during the Easter holidays, and The National Trust, which won a Licensing Award. Licensed product sales also increased in 2012 due to ‘a very focused programme, partners who know the brands well and a trustworthy name in The Beano’.
A partnership with road safety charity Brake has also just been announced, where Dennis will help to promote safe cycling in schools.
Today The Beano is also available digitally on the iPad via Apple’s Newstand. Dennis & Gnasher's TV series is available via BBC’s iPlayer service and agency Start Licensing is looking at other proposals for iPhone apps, which it hopes links to other parts of its licensing programme.
However, while DC Thomson is aware of how the digital market is evolving rapidly, there is still room for traditional media. The Beano annual is still a household favourite and a best-seller every year.
“Traditional and new can be blended together,” Start Licensing's Ian Downes tells Licensing.biz. “I think you can also use new platforms and technologies to realise new opportunities – a good example is the range of Beano personalised products available through Signature Gifts (Gone Digging). People can now buy a Beano where they can be the ‘star’ Menace.”
Some things that haven’t changed over the years are The Beano characters. While the design has been gradually tweaked over the years, and more modern storylines have been introduced, the characters' personalities, antics and actions are as they have always been.
"This is one of the charms and appeals of the characters," comments Downes. "Dennis in particular is the ‘naughty boy’ and children respond well to this – he does everything they would like to do. That said, he gets his comeuppance so parents are happy.
"DC Thomson is always striving to make the characters appealing to today’s readers and so the characters are presented with contemporary stories and settings. For example, the current issue of Beano Max is linked to Red Nose Day and features One Direction among others. This story has relevance for children and also generates huge PR – papers like The Sun and the Mirror carried the story.
"Other tie ups include one with magician Dynamo who was delighted about the feature in The Beano – he described it as a career highlight."
Other celebrities featured in The Beano include Brit Olympic star Jessica Ennis, Alexandra Burke, Emma Bunton and members of Little Britain to name a few.
Downes is also confident there will be "further celebrity tie ups and features in the coming months".
BASH STREET LICENSEES
The Beano has around 40 licensees across a wide range of categories (see the list at the bottom of this article), from Golden Bear toys to print wall murals from Surface View, classic artwork from Artko and even pet toys at Rupert’s Pet Shop.
Now it plans to get Dennis and friends into even more categories.
“We are keen to look at gaming but also some traditional licensing areas, as well such as party goods,” comments Downes. “We are also keen to explore areas such as promotions with brands and develop a presence in family entertainment. We are always looking to work with new companies in new categories.
“We are also keen to be involved in markets such as the festivalgoers market. For example, allover Beano Comic print tents – I could see those being very popular at places like Reading.”
Of course, The Beano is cross-generational. Children who grew up reading the comic may now be parents who continue to have a relationship with the brand.
For example, the Bananaman licensing programme has been going for about three years now – proof that characters can have a ‘second life’ with adult consumers as they grow up but look to relive their childhood memories.
“Smiffy’s Bananaman Dress up range is well established,” says Downes. “We also work with Truffleshuffle who are experts in retro characters.
“Design and product are important in this sector. We hope to see Gnasher, Desperate Dan, Billy Whizz and Roger the Dodger make more progress in this area in 2013.”
HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY
The Beano turns 75 this year which is being marked by a range of consumer and trade PR, among other celebrations.
New partnerships have been established with UK brands including Raleigh Bicycles.
There will be a repeat of the successful Golden Ticket promotion that ran last year, and Start Licensing expects to see The Beano featured on a range of TV and radio shows looking at the history of the comic.
Finally, The Beano is also in the shortlist for Cover of the Century – a poll run by the PPA.
So how has The Beano managed to stand the test of time?
“The quality of the characters, the storytelling, attention to detail, high standards and old fashioned craftsmanship that goes into each issue,” explains Downes.
“The fact that The Beano is a trusted brand helps as well – parents and grandparents endorse the brand and also recognise it. The Beano characters are household names and widely recognised – this familiarity has helped in building partnerships.
“The use of other media has also helped – the Dennis & Gnasher TV series on BBC is really popular. We have also had a fantastic track record of success in consumer PR with some really high profile stories.
Downes concludes: “The Beano is a licensing opportunity that has a number of facets to it – we work closely with DC Thomson and try to provide a ‘hands-on’ management style with licensees and have found this is a good way of working.
“We are always keen to hear from new licensees and new categories – The Beano offers licensees a relatively safe route to market with an experienced licensing team to support their activities.
“And it puts a smile on your face!”
LIST OF LICENSEES FOR THE BEANO
Brand owner DC Thomson and agency Start Licensing work with a number of licensees including:
•151 Products - car air fresheners
•Artko - canvas prints and framed prints
•Ashley Wilde Group - domestic and home softlines
•BC International - apparel
•Benham Collectibles - philatelic products
•Beswick - gifts and collectibles
•Blues - apparel
•Card Mix - greetings cards
•Castle Melamine - gifts and accessories
•Comic Art - gifts and collectables
•Delta Music - video and DVD
•Divine Chocolate - Easter eggs
•Ethos International - mugs, cookie jars and plush toys
•Fabric Flavours - apparel
•Fine Digital Print - gifts and collectables
•Flair - toys and games
•Foska.com - apparel and accessories
•Golden Bear - toys and games (master toy licensee)
•Gibsons - puzzles
•Hallmark Cards - stationery goods, cards, gifts and collectables
•Heroes For Kids - food and beverages
•Hoskins - canvas art and other home softlines
•Hype Associates - stationery
•Kimm & Miller - food and beverages
•Kinnerton - food and beverages
•L&H Leisure - children's soft play centre in Dundee
•Lagoon Group - toys and games
•Mask-Arade - face masks
•MBI - pin badges
•Name It Labels - accessories
•Perkins Group Services - gifts and collectables
•Poetic Gem - apparel
•Poolebeck - health and personal care
•Portico Designs - gifts and stationery
•Push Merchandising - apparel, giftware and stationery
•R Griggs - apparel, accessories and footwear
•Rainbow Productions - costume characters
•Raleigh UK - sporting goods
•Robert Harrop Designs - gifts and collectables
•Rose Marketing UK - food and beverage
•Royal Mail - giftware
•Rugby Plus - apparel and sporting goods
•Rupert's Pet Shop - pet accessories
•Samuel Eden & Son - apparel
•Signature Gifts - publishing, giftware and stationery
•Smiffy's - apparel
•Smith & Brooks - apparel and footwear
•Surface view - domestic and home softlines
•Tanside - accessories
•TJ Morris - accessories, toys and stationery
•Trademark Products - apparel
•Truffleshuffle.com - apparel
•Vertical Takeoff - magnetic picture boards and doormats
•Vogue International - domestic and home
•Wallpapered.com - domestic and home softlines
•Wild and Wolf - giftware and stationery
•Wizard Limited - gifts and collectables
Picture credit: Dennis and Gnasher ®© DC Thomson & Co. Ltd. 2012
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