Going Dutch: Mercis talks 63 years of Miffy

As brand owner Mercis heads to Las Vegas’ Licensing Expo next week, we sit down with Mark Teunissen, senior project manager for Miffy to explore the universal appeal of this iconic brand.
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From time to time, Mark Teunissen, the senior project manager at Mercis hears that the company’s flagship IP, Miffy, is a girls’ brand.

However, for the Dutch executive, this misconception of the Miffy brand couldn’t be further from the truth. At over 60 years old, Miffy actually, he insists, boasts a universal appeal to girls, boys, men and women, spanning all ages.

The reason being, of course, is that Miffy’s striking simplicity allows the brand to carry across language barriers, time zones and generations where the brand acts – with its rich heritage – as a ‘forefather of today’s call for simplicity in children’s design.’

“The longer you work with Miffy and the more you get to know her creator, Dick Bruna, it becomes evident that in his drive to keep things simple, he might have stumbled and incorporated some globally resonating values,” Tuenissen tells Licensing.biz.

“So why try to categorise Miffy at all?”

While Miffy may not strictly fit into one definitive age or gender category, it’s a brand that certainly translates well and truly into the consumer product space. And as brand owners Mercis head to Las Vegas’ Licensing Expo next week, we sit down with Teunissen to explore the universal appeal of this iconic brand.

What is the strength of the Miffy brand? How have you seen the business and licensing portfolio grow over recent years?

After 63 years, this is a good question but I by no means think that there is an easy answer and therein probably lies the beauty and appeal of Dick Bruna’s Miffy.

Originating from the square shaped classic picture books, it has grown into a timeless character with global appeal. We can talk about this for hours, or at least, I can, but the graphic design background in combination with a strive to capture essence are no doubt important, intangible features that are driving the brand and inspiring all involved.

It simply resonates on the level of small children and most likely also our own innerchild, Let’s be honest, who actually wants to grow up at all?

Being in tune with this core value allows us to have tremendous faith in the brand’s ability to properly communicate the benefits of lining-up with the Miffy as an external partner. This timeless appeal is furthermore reinforced by a seeming renewed appreciation for truly original brands and characters in this overcrowded and overstimulated world and who doesn’t get enchanted by the curious, fun and truthful way Miffy and her friends explore theirs?

It is rewarding and encouraging to see that this not only strikes an innate chord with young children, but also older age groups. Maybe Miffy is being seen more and more as a Dutch design icon which broadens her appeal and expressions of this emotion can be seen through the many additional extensions into lifestyle and design oriented partnerships.

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What categories have you taken the Miffy brand into over the past 12 months? How has this driven consumer demand for the Miffy brand?

The lifestyle, homeware, apparel and toys categories have clearly been driving brand visibility and awareness, but even traditionally important categories such as gift and plush have shown a tremendous capability to creatively renew themselves and now offer much more appealing products that resonate with people no matter what age they are.

What is the current content portfolio for Miffy looking like? Are you across the digital space as well as linear broadcast?

It might have taken us a bit longer to enter the CGI HD content space but despite our understanding of the importance to keep the brand relevant in this day nad age, we are also passionate about not diluting Dick Bruna’s design philosophy or Miffy’s DNA.

After the release in 2015/2016 of Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small, we are now broadcasting globally and still rolling out series three during 2018, bringing the total to 72 epsidoes each running at seven minutes in length.

The initial launch of the 2D series many years ago evolved into 3d stop-motion and a movie which combined with a run of specials now provides us with more than enough content to have a diversified non-linear offering.

Miffy furthermore has her own YouTube channels in a variety of countries and languages to ensure that we share Dick Bruna’s work with as many people as possible.

Miffy’s world can be explored and enjoyed through apps like Sanoma, Story Toys and Edujoy, which are made available for both Android and iOS devices globally.

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How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the last year or so? How do you maintain your position and strength of Miffy within it?

We have seen everything change around us and it seems to speed up more and more each year, so where to start?

An amazing team of partners from around the world always keeps everybody on their toes and our teams at MErcis and Dick Bruna Japan are constantly ensuring that we not only follow up but also challenge each other. We know that we need to keep up and never sit back, but I guess the main driver is always an intrinsic belief that we are all working with an amazing legacy from an extremely talented artist.

What will you guys be showcasing at Licensing Expo this year? Why is it a key show for you and what are you looking to achieve this year?

We will sow, and always do, the various initiatives from around the world, hoping to inspire and challenge new and existing partners to creatively colour their own world with Miffy.

This can range from product developments to expositions and in-store activations to artist collaborations. This is the one show where Mercis as IP owner completely and fully merges all our key partners from around the world into our brand experience. Our primary aim is to share Miffy’s world and inspire as many industry professionals to not only consider working with Miffy buy jointly stimulate each-others imagination to create even more successful future collaborations. Some of these include co-branding initiatives with for example Tobias and The Bear from the UK and Chocolate in Asia.

What new categories are you looking to take the Miffy brand into this year and beyond?

It is not so much about new categories after 63 years but rather about improving and fine-tuning exposure and performance in the already existing categories. If there is something we have learned it is that it is not necessary to move fast all of the time, but rather work on a lot of smaller steps over a longer period to achieve our objectives. We certainly do not exclude adding new categories or considering opportunities tat this digital area offers, but it is not per se the main objective.

Assisting our existing partners to further extend their global reach makes a lot of sense for a family business like ours which values long-term relationships so that is always a focus.

What big campaigns or partnerships have you got in the pipeline for 2018 and beyond?

2018 still sees the roll-out of Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small series three in South America, Asia and a number of other territories. We will be seeing more design driven collections in specialty stores around the world and a further roll-out of apparel through the likes of C&A.

Germany is a fast-growing market for Miffy so watch out for inspiring fun things to pop-up there and we are busy with a project to facilitate product availability in now under-serviced territories where there clearly is a retail and consumer demand.

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