Pre-school is one of the most crowded sectors in the licensing business, and any new property launching into it faces a pretty tough time against the more established competition.
From early on, it was obvious that Waybuloo was going to be one of the new properties which managed to make its mark.
It launched in the UK on Cbeebies in May 2009 and that year reached over ten million individuals (20 per cent of the UK population). According to BARB, three quarters of the target audience tuned into at least one episode of Waybuloo (3.5 million) in 2009. The series now airs in 79 countries worldwide.
“We were fortunate in that, from the beginning, we had the support of our broadcast partner and we were launching a programme with 100 episodes commissioned off the bat,” says Jane Kennedy, senior UK licensing manager at Zodiak Rights. “Even luckier that a further 50 episodes were added before the show went to air. The master licensees we secured early on were also crucial to the successful launch of the brand; they all believed in it.”
Building the licensing programme was a key focus right from day one. Zodiak Rights has 35 partners to date covering a wide array of categories including apparel, toys, publishing and food. Happiness, harmony and friendship are the key messages from the show, and Zodiak goes to great lengths to ensure these are portrayed in the consumer products. “We always endeavour to capture the spirit and messages from the show within the product we develop together with the licensees for each category,” Demi Patel, head of creative services at Zodiak Rights, explains. “It is imperative that we build an innovative, inspirational and thorough style guide that consists of strong design solutions to reflect the inherent themes within the show, such as Peeka and Yogo, and combine these with the key messages.”
The next stage for Zodiak Rights is to extend the range in terms of introducing new themes from the show, for example the Yogo segment, as the current programme is pretty complete in terms of categories, explains Kennedy.
“It’s still early days in our programme, with some categories just beginning to roll out, but so far we have seen some really great sell-through on our plush ranges – the mini plush in particular – and also the publishing range. The apparel licensees have done a fantastic job on their range and the products look stunning, so we’re hoping that will sell-through really well, too.
“The animation in Waybuloo is so beautifully done that it lends itself to some great tactile product, which really appeals to children, and the gentle nature of the show has resonated with parents and carers alike.”
While Kennedy agrees that the pre-school sector is very crowded, she also believes that sometimes retailers don’t giving brands long enough to develop at retail before moving on to the next one. Zodiak has a full calendar for autumn/winter 2010 and spring/summer 2011 planned at retail: “We are always working with retailers to deliver effective promotional campaigns and will continue to do so across all channels of distribution.”
There’s no denying that Waybuloo has got off to a very strong start at retail, and Kennedy is confident that this can continue, with the property hopefully challenging the established brands for a top ranking in the sector.
“We see Waybuloo having a long and healthy retail life and would expect that to be the case in five years’ time,” she says. “With 150 episodes behind the brand, we believe Waybuloo has the potential to be here for the foreseeable future. I think as the brand grows in awareness outside of the UK, this will help to build the brand into a bigger global proposition and, hopefully, propel it into the ranks of an evergreen.”