# Hot words #

A Short History of Heritage Brand Product Collaborations

Georgina Heatley

Marketing and Branding are inextricably linked.

Product Licensing has been a growing industry in the past century. The likes of Disney, Mr Men and Little Miss, Paw Patrols and Harry Potter have product collections in most stores and have collaborations with many companies across product categories, from trainers to toothbrushes, cupcakes to candles. These brands have weaved their way into everyday consumer culture, starting as books or films, then growing into products on most shelves. 

The word 'brand' has its origins in the old Norse word 'brandr' meaning 'to burn', 'fire' or 'swordblade', which referred to the mark farmers and cowboys made on their livestock's skin to identify the owner. 'Brand' is also the old Saxon word for 'fire'.

Ironically, my maternal great-grandfather was a renowned sheep-dipper in Cumberland, branding farmers' sheep with their owners' colours and symbols. His most significant client was Beatrix Potter, the writer, and illustrator of the children's book series featuring Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck. She was a literary and artistic genius, as well as a businesswoman and pioneer. After the successes of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in 1903, Beatrix created a Peter Rabbit doll herself, and quickly patented the design, registering the plush toy and in-turn becoming the first literary character to be a licensed product. A year later, she invented a Peter Rabbit Board Game, paving the way for brands to follow suit in-licensing and marketing their assets, over a century later. She was passionate that all her merchandise should be of the highest quality and should remain faithful to the original books.

In her later life, Beatrix Potter was an early supporter of the National Trust. She invested in her, and my, beloved Lake District, eventually leaving over 4,000 acres of land and 15 farms, including her home, Hill Top Farm to the Heritage and conservation charity. Her legacy lives on through her stories; of which 2 million copies are sold each year. My Heritage comes from this land, and Beatrix Potter always inspires me, as a trail-blazing woman in the world of marketing, branding, and licensing.

The Peter Rabbit toy inspired Walt Disney to create a watch with Mickey Mouse on (his arms were the clock hands) in 1933. 11,000 were sold in its first day at Macy’s Department Store. This saved Ingersoll-Waterbury Clock Company, who created this licensed product, from bankruptcy! This watch even found its way into the time capsule buried at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1939, to depict American life in the 20th century. Character watches are still popular today! Did you have one growing up??

Beatrix Potter’s Certificate of Registration for a Peter Rabbit doll – a first product licensing agreement!

So, what does this have to do with Museums? 

Is visiting the gift shop and café an exciting part of your museum/gallery/science centre/ library visit? Do you buy a magnet, postcard, tea and scone, larger gifts?

Well, all these products help fund the heritage centre you’re visiting. Many sites globally engage in the licensing industry. They see the benefits of getting their names out to local and international audiences through products and commercial endeavours (this can include immersive experiences, travelling exhibitions with travelling products on sale, pop-up museum stores in other countries, and digital content also). 

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, museums, retail, catering, and many institutions were closed, losing a huge amount of footfall, with a decline of over 77% of visitor numbers in worlds top 100 museums. This led to loses of $100 million for the Louvre, and $150 million for the Metropolitan Museum of Art – imagine how much your local museums have lost in potential revenue over the last few years? Could this figure be greater as a percentage comparing it to the larger institutions? 

Licensing brings a portion of the sales profit back to the Museums, occasionally specifically for the artefact that has inspired the product, or in general for the whole institution. This much needed and appreciated funding goes towards care and conservation, research, curation, and many other avenues including overall cleaning and museum upkeep. 

Georgina outside the National Gallery, a Museum partner of ARTiSTORY’s. June 2021.

When thinking about Christmas presents and giving gifts to family, friends and loved ones, this year and forever, vote with your money. Each pound, euro, dollar you spend, is a vote for that company, that designer, that industry. Is your money for notebooks, coffee, clothes, days out and experiences going to who and what you love and support? 

This Christmas, if we all bought just one more present from a small business, local museum, or heritage product, this could generate over £2.7billion to these companies that so need our help to survive into 2022, after so many months with locked doors. 

What inspired me about this industry is how far our modern creativity can take these historic artefacts and artworks to bring them to life again in the modern world. There are many immersive exhibitions travelling across global cities, and the revenue from this will feed back to the home museum and art conservation; along with being such a different, exciting day out. Have you ever eaten a Renaissance painting on a cake, or worn make up inspired by Cleopatra, kept in your Bayeux Tapestry pencil case? This is a growing aspect of consumer experiences, in retail and through heritage sites. 

We turn ‘Artefacts to Merchandise’ through creating patterns, prints, icons, digital and physical marketing and more. Licensing partners (brands and retailers) partner with us to transform these designs into products for global markets, which you’ll see online and instore. This brings the museums to new audiences, to discover and visit themselves. 

Georgina Heatley is Research and Product Development Executive at ARTiSTORY.
museum, ARTiSTORY, licensing, brand licensing, culture, Collaborations
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