When Rachel Bader joined Random House Children’s Books as its director of licensing this past February, she was charged with developing consumer products licensing programs for four of the company’s book-based brands. Her efforts are starting to come to fruition with the announcement of the first licensing agreements.
Bader was hired after president and publisher Barbara Marcus, to whom Bader reports, had secured product-licensing rights to the four-book series Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow; R.J. Palacio’s Wonder; Emily Winfield Martin’s book titles, including Dream Animals and Day Dreamers; and Tad Hills’ Duck & Goose and his other picture book series. Among Bader’s objectives are introducing these brands to new markets and retail channels, generating revenue, and selling more books.
“We want to extend the equity to new consumers and build a deeper connection with existing fans,” Bader says. “People want more of a connection to the brand, and we can give them that with the products. Revenue is a key part of it, but you have to stay true to the brand.”
Licensed products will allow Random House to assume more space at retailers where its books do well, as well as boost sales in alternative, product-led channels such as Hot Topic. “It’s a support for the brand and for the author and illustrator,” Bader explains. “It’s another service we can provide our authors.”
Once Random House had the rights to create products for the four properties, Bader’s first step was “to find the essence of each brand,” which in turn dictated the strategy, audience, marketing plans, and licensing partners.
A complete style guide was developed for each property, serving as a blueprint for licensees. “When Galison Mudpuppy creates products for Everything I Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, it already has a logo, hangtags, graphic treatments, colors, fonts, and all the other elements it needs to create product,” Bader says. Manufacturers also have flexibility to create new art within the rules set forth in the style guide. “The licensees can start with the style guide and grow it from there,” she explains.
Bader, who has handled licensing for publishing-based properties for Condé Nast, Guinness World Records, Chorion Silver Lining, Scholastic, and Prometheus Global, works closely with Random House’s sales teams. “I can go on sales calls to the retailers and say, here are our books and here are our brands,” she says. “We can figure out what we can offer them, such as developing an endcap of product and books that would work within their footprint.”
For Wonder, the publisher and an outside agency created a style guide for a lifestyle brand inspired by the cover and themes of the book, featuring doodle art, thick black lines, precepts, and quotes. “The fans want to feel part of this movement about kindness,” Bader says. The publisher has rights to produce book-based products for kids ages 8–12 in five key categories. (This is unusual for a property with a movie coming out, where the studio typically has a monopoly on licensing.) It has signed licensees for apparel (Changes), jewelry (SG@NYC), stationery (Clarkson Potter), and school supplies (Raymond Geddes). A backpack licensee will be forthcoming. Products will debut with the release of the Wonder film, likely sometime in 2017.
For Emily Martin’s books, the focus is on infant products, under a new brand, Dream World. The first licensee is Finn + Emma for a range that includes organic apparel, bibs, blankets, toys, and rattles. Future plans include giftware, wall décor and growth charts, stationery, greeting cards, and journals. Meanwhile, licensees on board for Tad Hills’ Duck & Goose, for ages 2–5, include Books to Bed for pajama-and-book sets, Merrymakers for plush, and Lakeshore Learning for felt boards.
Everything I Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book is following a different path. “It’s a unique opportunity to create a lifestyle brand for adults,” Bader says. In addition to Galison Mudpuppy’s products, a line of vintage dresses is planned, among other lifestyle goods.
Bader is also exploring opportunities for backlist titles beyond the four key brands. She recently signed a kids’ meal deal with Popeye’s that will feature reformatted editions of the first four Puppy Pirates books by Erin Soderberg. Other opportunities could include libraries of Random House backlist books accompanied by licensed bookends.
Random House plans to promote its outbound licensing initiative at Licensing Expo in May 2017.