Stuart Grant on what makes a brand appealing to The Entertainer

Stuart Grant, The Entertainer, Peppa Pig, Hasbro

Stuart, it’s great to tie-in as part of our PEPPA PIG 20th anniversary month. To kick us off, what makes a licensed toy range attractive for The Entertainer? What does a brand need to have?
One of the big shifting sands we’ve seen over the last eight years or so is the siloing when it comes to accessing content. Long gone are the days when you can make a judgement call on the popularity of a show based on where it’s aired. In today’s world, everything needs to be everywhere to get a wide viewing audience. You’ve got Netflix, Amazon Prime… Disney has a platform, Paramount has a platform… And then of course, YouTube. When we’re looking at any new brand, we’re making a judgement call based on the width of the ability to view it.

And when it comes to pre-school, we’ve huge amounts of content aimed at pre-schoolers over the years, but aside from PEPPA PIG and a select few others in the space, none of it has resonated in consumer products. I think that’s because of the paywalls behind each of the different platforms – you can’t subscribe to all of them. It feels like we’re almost back to the Sky days!

But yes, for us, the main factors for us when looking to embrace a new brand are where is it airing? And how wide will that airing be? It’s tough to launch content on one platform and expect sustained success in consumer products.

Great answer. And when do you know if the time is right to embrace a brand? Are there benefits to being an early champion?
It’s a good question and it depends on the category. With collectibles, it’s critically important to be in there at the beginning. If someone starts their collection with you, they’ll typically come back to you to complete it. That keeps us relevant in the collectibles space, which is very fast and trend-driven.

We need to be a credible retailer in each of the categories we trade in, but we can’t stock everything. We typically support a master toy out of the gate, because that’s important to maintaining great relationships with our suppliers. When you start to look at secondary categories, we’ve look to expand into that 12 months later. Unless we feel in our gut that a brand is going to be a hit. Or if a toy suddenly goes bananas, we’d chase it.

We want to be relevant to our customers. Sometimes that means taking a risk earlier to have the latest and greatest. Sometimes it means waiting and following.

Stuart Grant, The Entertainer, Peppa Pig, Hasbro

You mentioned Peppa earlier and this year marks the brand’s 20th anniversary. Why do you feel that IP has resonated so strongly for so long?
First and foremost, it’s everywhere. The audience is very broad. That’s helped PEPPA maintain success over the years. When you look at the actual content, it’s relevant for the target child, but there’s also humour laced in for the parents. I remember when our kids were growing up, they watched things like In the Night Garden and Teletubbies – not gripping stuff for parents! But with PEPPA, it’s a fun watch for kids and parents alike, especially the stuff with Daddy Pig. It’s hard to do but it really captures the consumer when it’s done right.

The other aspect is that in the early days, eOne were very good at keeping the licensing focused. They didn’t over-license and were very loyal to their key partners. When things are over-licensed, you tend to find that suppliers are less motivated to invest, and you get more pricing activity. Things then start to unravel. PEPPA has maintained a level of demand because suppliers feel they control ‘their’ area of the brand. It also means there hasn’t been any crazy discounts which can devalue an IP in the minds of consumers. PEPPA has remained top of the list for suppliers when they’re renewing their licenses – and that’s tough to do for so many years.

Stuart Grant, The Entertainer, Peppa Pig, Hasbro

Are there any PEPPA launches you would point to that resonated particularly strongly with your consumers over the years?
Character did a really good job marrying product to the core themes of the show. The toys were always developed in collaboration with the creators of the show. That was key to building the success of the brand in toys. Hats off to Character for that.

Stuart, this has been great. Before I let you go, we have a large audience of toy and game inventors reading. Are there any insights you could give to that community about what’s doing well at The Entertainer currently? Where would you suggest they focus their efforts?
Children have grown up in a world with iPads and the ability to stream anything whenever they want. There’s instant gratification and an ability to do incredible things on an iPad. With slightly older children – who are making the purchasing decision – there needs to be some magic to a product.

L.O.L. takes that pass-the-parcel play and provides continual surprises and magic moments. Hatchimals back in the day did that wonderfully too. It was mind-blowing. We are moving towards a world where kids want experiences and to be surprised. I see so much product in the early stage of development and the first thing I ask – if it’s not tied to an IP – is: “Where is the magic? Where’s the TikTok reveal? Where’s the marketing hook?”

Like most industries, the toy industry is really struggling. And innovation in the industry has been really poor this year. We’re seeing licensing as a percentage of sales grow in a heavily declining market. It’s not due to content being better, because the movie slate isn’t great. Instead, it tells me that there isn’t much that’s exciting consumers within the core toy brands.

So that would be my advice to the inventing community – think about the magic. And also, we’re in a market right now where value is hugely important to the consumer. I’m sure a lot of wishlists are mentioning items at lower end price points. It won’t be forever, but it is the situation right now.

I have one final question. You arguably see more product that anyone else. How do you keep enthusiastic and look at things through a fresh lens when you review so many lines?
I love toys. I love product. It’s not just a job; it’s something I want to do. And I love the creative process too. I love helping people create better product because everyone wins – I’ll sell more product if it’s a better toy. So I don’t have any issues maintaining enthusiasm because I truly love what I do.

Stuart, a big thanks again for taking time out to chat.

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