Start Licensing's Ian Downes talks us through the Dennis & Gnasher licensing programme

With 20 partners already on board, we find out what's next for the popular duo in 2014.
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Firstly, how did the brand perform in 2013?

Dennis & Gnasher had a great 2013. The series broadcast on CBBC performed really well and proved to be one of the most popular shows on the channel. A new dedicated Dennis & Gnasher comic was launched - published every month the comic has a fantastic covermount programme which ensured it caught the eye at retail. New licensees such as Golden Bear launched new products and we are delighted to see Golden Bear launching more new products at Toy Fair. These include the Farting Football - a great piece of NPD which is really on brand. Dennis & Gnasher also star in The Beano and The Beano Annual - both publications create fantastic visibility for the characters. Penguin Books also came on board to publish The Diary of Dennis the Menace and other book formats like Joke Books. It is great to have a partner such as Penguin embracing the characters. 2013 was a big year for The Beano - it was the 75th Anniversary - as part of this Dennis & Gnasher were at the centre of an exhibition on London's Southbank - Beanotown - which was a celebration of the comics , the characters and their history. Beanotown was very popular and generated great PR for the characters.

The Beano also won a Licensing Award in 2013 at the UK Licensing Awards.

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

There are around 20 licensees including licensees such as Dr Martens and Raleigh Bicycles. In toys and games we have Golden Bear, Gibson's, Wizard and Flair. Trademark Products are the licensee for bags and accessories. We work with Blues, Smith & Brooks and Aykroyds in apparel. As mentioned Penguin are on board for publishing - their books will sit alongside the comics and annuals published by DC Thomson. Other licensees include Dubble and Rose Marketing in confectionery; Abbey Home for DVD; GBEye for posters and badges; Ashley Wilde for bedding; Mask-arade for face masks and Portico for greeting cards.

Rainbow Productions also operate the Dennis & Gnasher costume - the costume features both characters and is very impactful. The characters are well represented in licensing and we also have a programme centred on classic Beano artwork which helps create additional activity and is a great outlet for innovation - for example we recently licensed Jennie Maizels to develop Beano Iron On patches. This is the first time she has taken a license and her product has been well received at retail.

What are some of the best performing products?

Raleigh's Chopper bike has been a sell out. Dr Martens are launching a new range in 2014 based on the success of their launch range in 2013. We had great product range in Tesco this Christmas which was primarily made up of gift products developed for them exclusively. It is early days for some of the other licensees but Rose have had significant success with their confectionery range achieving quite broad listings. Golden Bear have expanded their toy range and are unveiling a number of new lines at the Toy Fair. Early buy in to Penguin's book range is very good suggesting that this series will be a success and it seems to have filled a 'gap' that needed to be filled. Ashley Wilde's products have performed well especially in department stores and we are looking to extend their reach in 2014. It is also important to remember the success of The Beano Annual as well - Dennis & Gnasher star in the annual and the annual is always a best seller.

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Are you looking to sign more licensees this year – if so which categories are you targeting?

We are keen to create more promotional partnerships in categories such as family dining - we think Dennis & Gnasher will work well in this category as their comic heritage can be used to create really impactful added value such as activity books. We also feel there is great potential with Live Events , travel and tourism ; we hope to develop more activity in apparel extending our product range with new artwork to capitalise on design trends ; we are hoping to secure a dress up partner that we can work with to develop activity around World Book Day and maybe develop a charity partnership to capitalise on the iconic red and black that is readily associated with Dennis. Within toys we think that Dennis & Gnasher can be used in arts and crafts, science and outdoor toys. They are fun characters and in the arts and crafts area have great credibility as their comic roots mean children are inspired t be creative by them. At Beanotown we had great success with comic art workshops. Flair have had a Beano Comic Maker Kit for around 8 years. We have a couple of exciting new partnerships being finalised at the moment - we feel these will fit well with the brand and allow us to create some eyecatching products that are on brand and stand out for innovation.

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

The characters appear in weekly and monthly comics which are supported by promotional activity at retail and in the case of Dennis & Gnasher a strong covermount programme which helps them stand out on shelf. DC Thomson have engaged PR agency License to PR to help build further PR activity for the characters. We are fortunate that Dennis & Gnasher are very popular with the media and we receive great coverage in national media. One point here is that Dennis & Gnasher are part of British popular culture and are often used in quizzes on TV as subjects for questions and in newspaper cartoons. We will be announcing some new partnerships shortly. Dennis & Gnasher have been used in promotions by brands such as the National Trust and Wembley Stadium recently. Licensed products such as the Raleigh Chopper bike recently produced attract a lot of attention and we will be looking to capitalise on opportunities like this in future.

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

Good. There is great awareness amongst retailers and I think we can build on this further. We are able to work with retailers proactively. Recently we have had activities such as costume visits to shops and also Beano artists visiting retailers to run comic masterclasses - working with children to create Beano illustrations and caricatures. We can also work with retailers to promote activity in the comics and through PR.

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

We would like to add new licensees in the categories we have highlighted and to work more closely with retailers. We would like to keep the momentum developed to date going and to deliver on the promise of 'linked' licensing linking licensees with The Beano and Dennis & Gnasher comics in a proactive fashion. Dennis & Gnasher are characters that are well known, well established and popular - we hope to build on this popularity by growing the programme in 2014.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

DC Thomson are a proactive licensor and are keen to work with retailers and licensees in genuine partnership. We are also able to work on bespoke artwork with licensees - this can help in creating licensed products that stand out on shelf and have genuine originality - this is an important added value in the licensing market. Dennis & Gnasher are stars of TV - many children get to know them first through the TV series but can then immediately buy into a universe that includes comics , books and toys. The characters are known by parents and parents seem to respond well to them as well. The characters have fun running through their DNA. This fun translates well to product with an emphasis on pranking and jokes. Dennis & Gnasher are characters children respond positively to because they are fast moving , funny and mischief making heroes. With a proactive licensor and agent, a great group of licensees and a media friendly property Dennis & Gnasher is set to grow even more in licensing in 2014.

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