The Science Museum Group talks new toy deals and the success of the past year

Can you talk us through the Science Museum Group licensing portfolio?

Science Museum Group handles the licensing programme for the Science Museum brand, the National Railway Museum and Flying Scotsman. We also have a beautiful new brand, Little Flying Scotsman, which we are launching at this year’s BLE.

The brand is based on the National Railway Museum’s star locomotive, Flying Scotsman, which was the first steam locomotive to achieve an authenticated 100mph in the UK. Little Flying Scotsman is a really beautiful guide created to inspire a new generation with the story of this iconic locomotive. We already work with licensee Big Jigs on a Flying Scotsman wooden railway set, and this has been extremely popular, so we know there is a market for branded product for the younger age groups.

For the Science Museum, our biggest category is toys and gadgets, the National Railway Museum it’s homewares and gift, and for Flying Scotsman the focus is on collectibles. Each brand has a different product strength, target and look. What surprises consumers and licensees is the breadth of our collections, with more licensees now choosing to combine images from our vast picture library with our curatorial expertise and brand power to create really exciting, design-led products. Both Fashion UK’s apparel ranges and the Peter Black’s Flying Scotsman gifting range for M&S really show this off to great effect.

How have you seen the portfolio grow over the last 12 months and how has this positioned the Science Museum brand?

We have seen several new signings for the Science Museum brand, including apparel with Fashion UK and space-themed notebooks and diaries with Frances Lincoln. Our core successes for the range have always been toy and gadget based, which is the logical brand fit.

We have very good retailer coverage with these products, with a presence in most big names and many independents. We’re trying to take advantage of this brand recognition to expand into other categories. I think we have always been seen as a unique and trustworthy brand in the marketplace, consumers instantly recognise our packaging and know they are supporting the museum’s important work with their purchase.

The Flying Scotsman brand also had an incredible year! In February 2016, the locomotive made an eagerly-anticipated return to the tracks and is currently on a two-year tour of the UK. To coincide with this, we signed several new agreements including calendars and diaries, puzzles, limited edition pocket watches, and a special-edition whiskey.

Additionally, we have a fantastic contemporary men’s gifting range launching this month in Marks & Spencer – just in time for Christmas. The Flying Scotsman programme has been evergreen for us, but this year has really seen a remarkable level of interest.

What are some of the biggest partnerships under the portfolio?

For Science Museum, our biggest partnerships are through our toy and gift licensees: Wow Stuff, Clementoni, and Great Gizmos. These ranges have been going strong for many years. There are such a huge amount of themes and innovation to work from that the ranges can continuously be refreshed. We love working with partners who really understand how to translate our brand values, curatorial knowledge and inspiration from objects in the galleries into great product.

For Flying Scotsman, our biggest category is collectibles, recently enhanced by some really spectacular limited edition gold-plated pocket watches from Historic Times, as well as wrist watches by cult watch manufacturer Mr. Jones Watches. These products are very high quality, high priced, limited edition pieces which will be treasured by fans of the locomotive for years.

What has consumer reaction been like to the Science Museum brand name?

It always gets a brilliant reaction from licensees, retailers and consumers. The museum has the biggest outreach programme of any in the UK, and as such many consumers are already familiar with our brand and values. This really helps when they are looking for a toy or gift to buy. In some ways, the licensing programme is a further extension of our outreach work and needs to serve that same purpose, which is to get people interested in all things scientific.

What do you look for in a licensing partner and how do you protect the Science Museum ethos when taking it into the licensing space?

Every product under the Science Museum license is carefully considered to make sure it aligns with our brand values. We aim to create exciting, innovative and fun products with a root in scientific principles and supporting the National Curriculum and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

We love working with partners who are very innovative and whose products allow for the consumer to take part in hands-on science. Our Science Museum Inventor Kit from licensee SAM Labs is a perfect example. The kit allows you to create 5 STEM activities and seamlessly connect them to the internet with no previous coding or electronics skills required.

What categories are you looking to take the brand in to?

For Science Museum, we would like to look at crafting, kids stationery and bedding. Food and drink is also one that I think we could do a lot with considering how much has recently been in the press about the science of food and cooking. With Little Flying Scotsman we are just staring this programme and are looking to appoint partners in apparel, children’s gifting and toys.

What kind of global presence does the Science Museum have, what are your key territories and how are you looking to grow this?

As we are UK-based, this is obviously a key territory for the Science Museum brand. Without consciously targeting the international market, we have seen interest slowly developing in Australia, the US and the Far East. As 50% of our visitors are from overseas and we have a fantastic touring exhibition programme, the brand really does have recognit

ion in other territories. We are working with our gifting partner to start pushing this brand internationally, particularly in English speaking territories from 2017 onwards.

Flying Scotsman also has great international recognition. The locomotive extensively toured several countries in the 60s, 70s and 80s, including the US, Canada and Australia. In Australia it broke the record for longest non-stop journey for a steam locomotive. We see many of our Flying Scotsman products selling well in those territories.

What can we expect to see from you at BLE this year?

Mostly we are looking to showcase Little Flying Scotsman, as this is a new brand and new direction for us. It’s a unique offering; an authentic railway brand for children presented in a very beautiful and inspired way. The guide is full of lovely elements which can be used alone or together to help create a story on every product; we have the Scotsman of course, the landscapes of its journey, train stations, a delightful cast of passengers, a train driver, and a very cute dog. Our proven success with the brand for adults should ensure lots of interest from licensees and retailers alike.

For the Science Museum brand, we will be showing new products for 2016 and beyond, including our new gifting and toy ranges from Wow Stuff and Clementoni. This includes the Cyber Robot from Clementoni which is already proving very popular, as well as Wow’s Stuff’s VR Viewer, a really exciting product recently nominated for a Licensing Award in the Innovation category.

We also have brand-new product for the Flying Scotsman such as the M&S gifting range and limited edition whiskey. You can also drop off your business card for a chance to win a signed copy of our beautiful Flying Scotsman book The Flying Scotsman: Speed, Style and Service.

What does 2017 have in store for the brand?

So far, we have some great new products from our key toy and gifting licensees, which are already being developed and shown to retailers. We will also have a larger apparel range, and some new stationery and hopefully we’ll also sign some different categories as well. There are several new galleries in the museum opening in the coming weeks, which are always a good inspiration for new Science Museum branded products and innovation from licensees.

Galleries include the amazing Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery and the re-designed Mathematics Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Additionally 2017 sees Robots, our next blockbuster exhibition which explores the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human.

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