A raft of activity is planned throughout 2014 building up to the 20th anniversary.

Walker’s Anna Hewitt tells us how Guess How Much I Love You is hitting its licensing stride

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

Guess How Much I Love You originates from a globally successful picture book, published by the Walker Books Group, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram. This heart-warming picture book was first published in 1994 and has gone on to sell over 28 million copies worldwide and translated into 53 languages. The iconic phrases and beautiful illustrations have enabled this publishing property to move seamlessly into a highly marketable brand and expand into a wide range of product categories. Guess How Much I Love You lends us the words that we often have such difficulty finding ourselves. Within its story and powerful sentiment is an expression of love so perfectly presented that we can share it with those we love.

How did the brand perform in 2013?

2013 was a strong year for Guess How Much I Love You with the launch of several new products to build on and strengthen our infant and baby strategy and market presence. The beginning of the year saw an exclusive range of toys and gifts in M&S and the first range of infant apparel launching in Sainsbury’s. As the year progressed a new nursery and gift range was launched by Rainbow Designs which went on to be their best sales launch ever. The publishing range also saw a 25 per cent uplift in sales in 2013 vs 2012 and we have high expectations for 2014 with increased attention on the brand as the beginning of the 20th anniversary marketing and promotional push begins.

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

In the UK we have ten licensees covering apparel, footwear, accessories, nursery toys and gifts, bedding and greeting cards.

What are some of the best performing products?

The apparel range by Dennicci, Rainbow Designs’ nursery range and Suncrest’s bedding range all have great distribution in retailers including Sainsbury’s, BHS, Boots, Mothercare, Waitrose, Waterstones, Debenhams, Mamas and Papas and Tesco. As well as presence in almost all major retailers, Guess has an incredibly strong base with independent stores.

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

The focus for 2014 is building up to the 20th anniversary. Promotional activities and new releases will commence this autumn with the release of the anniversary edition of the hardcover book, followed by a yearlong programme of celebrations including trade and consumer advertising campaigns, a major PR campaign, a new dedicated website, social media promotions and special author appearances by Sam McBratney.

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – if so which categories are you targeting?

This year is about expanding the base of infant and nursery partners into categories like footwear, feeding items, and party goods, but also securing partners for adult gifting including homewares, confectionery and social stationery. International territories are also a big focus for us with licensing programmes growing and new agents being secured for exploration and development of new markets.

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

We’ve had a great reaction from retail which reflects in product listings secured by all our partners. Initially toes were put in the water and on almost every occasion the number of listings and volume have increased. Our desire is for the brand to grow organically and gradually, establishing Guess How Much I Love You as a top infant brand which will endure for another 20-plus years.

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

Our goal for 2014 is to have greater industry awareness and recognition of the brand and to have increased presence at retail with proven sales success.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We once asked author Sam McBratney what advice he would give to our licensing partners and we feel it’s an inspiring response to share again:
“When I wrote Guess How Much I Love You, I had been writing children’s fiction for more than 20 years, so the worldwide success of the book was an unexpected thing. I didn’t see plush toys, merchandise and 28 million copies marching over the horizon. My advice to product developers is to concentrate on producing useful, interesting and lovely things for very young children. I say that because you would be amazed at the uses people make of this book. It seems to be able to convey emotions of all sorts (including deep sadness) among and between people of all ages. And yet, at its most basic and most simple level, Guess How Much I Love You is simply a light-hearted story for a ‘big one’ and a ‘wee one’ to share and have fun with.”

How many ways can you say ‘I Love You’? Do you have examples of elaborate or extreme ways that you have tried to prove to someone how much you love them? Email licensing@walker.co.uk. The best story will receive a special 20th anniversary edition of the book signed by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram when it is published later this year.

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