We talk to Lizzie Barklem, MD of Four Seasons Licensing & Merchandising, about the consumer products strategy for the classic brand.

How Brambly Hedge is still going strong 35 years on

Firstly, can you tell me the history behind the brand?

Jill Barklem, author and illustrator of Brambly Hedge studied art at St Martin’s and would travel each day to college on the Central Line from Epping. To escape the horrors of the tube commute, Jill would draw and escape into the enchanting and absorbing world of Brambly Hedge. By 1980 this world was fully developed and Harper Collins published four little picture books by the young author and illustrator. Intended for small children, the books were an immediate success with readers of all ages and in a short time four more stories were created. The series has now been translated into 13 languages and over six million copies have been sold around the world.

How did the brand perform over the past 12 months?

The last year has seen a great deal of investment in the future for Brambly Hedge with Jill’s children, Lizzie and Peter, appointing Rockpool Licensing to help manage the refresh. Investment in social media and a beautiful new style guide from Watermelon was very recently launched to the trade.

How many licensees does it have to date (in the UK and worldwide) and in which categories?

Harper Collins are our lead licensee. Over the past few months, we’ve been designing a new look for the publishing programme and, to celebrate our 35th anniversary this year, we will be launching a beautifully packaged slip case Treasury in October. We have a small number of prestige licensees in place providing excellent flagships for the brand and setting the tone for our programme as we extend out into broader categories.

What are some of the best performing products?

Our best selling publishing formats are higher price point gift items and we’ve begun our redevelopment of the programme taking this as our lead. Dragon’s of Walton Street have recently launched a wonderful range of hand crafted-furniture.

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – for example into new categories or territories?

All the foundations are now in place to grow our programme significantly this year. Our strategy focuses on adults and gifters and target categories for us include greetings, stationery, puzzles, home and giftware. We’re also appointing international agents as the heritage and quintessential Britishness of Brambly Hedge has great appeal. We’re thrilled to have Asiana on board as our first international agent for Korea and are looking to meet with agencies in particular for Japan, China, Germany and North America at Licensing Expo.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2015?

We have just embarked on a 15 Year initiative with Essex Wildlife Trust whereby their Abberton Reservoir Nature Trail will take on Brambly Hedge branding. A soft launch with lots of activity days and events is now underway and the grand opening of the trail is set for Summer this year. Trial markers and maps feature Brambly Hedge characters and illustrations and hand-carved wooden sculptures, the shop is to be Brambly Hedge themed and Bramby Hedge will become the central message of EWT’s consumer marketing campaigns.

What has the retail reaction been like to the brand?

Reaction to the new style guide and our new partnerships has been wonderful. So many licensees and retail partners have fond memories of the brand from childhood and we’ve been touched by the reaction to the new style guide as retaining all the magical elements of the Brambly Hedge while delivering a fresh and contemporary look.

What are some of the main challenges you’ve come up against? And how have you overcome them?

The programme had been largely dormant for the best part of a decade and our main challenge was to bring new energy to the programme without losing any of the essential core of brand. Our strategy has been to ensure that our new guide, new partnerships and new look for the publishing programme have been tailored to appeal to the adult fan who are now parents and grandparents themselves.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand in 2015?

This year our goal is to continue to raise the profile of Brambly Hedge to the adult consumer and secure new partnerships in paper, gifting and home categories and with agents in key territories worldwide.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Vickie will be in Las Vegas to meet new potential licensing and agent partners. Contact details are 07799 064288 or vickie@rockpool-licensing.co.uk.

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