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Ten Mins With... Maxine Lister, Natural History Museum

Heritage brands and museums play a crucial role in the licensing industry.

As licensors, organizations such as the Natural History Museum provide a vast collection of historical items that can be licensed for a variety of product categories. From dinosaur fossils to historical art, the NHM has found success by offering licensees authentic properties that speak to consumers’ deep connection with history and the world around them.

To get more insight into NHM’s licensing program, License Global spoke with Maxine Lister, head, licensing, NHM. Lister shared what the organization looks for in a partner and how sustainability looks to play a key part in the museum’s licensing plans moving into the future.

License Global: What do you look for in a licensing partner?

Lister: We always strive to find partners that understand the breadth of the NHM brand and can appreciate its true potential. It is crucial that any partner understands our core values, but equally, we look for partners who are willing to be creative with our assets to offer something different to the market. More than ever, we are looking closely at sustainability not just on packaging but with a view to moving all future apparel development to sustainable fabrics, so any apparel partners who include sustainability as part of their remit could be a natural fit for our brand.

With the heritage market changing so quickly, how is this a genuinely exciting option for licensees?

The sheer breadth of our assets is a very strong pull. Our collections span everything from dinosaurs, fossils, botanicals, minerals, insects, mammals and so much more. We have an abundance of materials to work with, both photographic and illustrated. Our libraries contain more than one million items, the Museum itself contains over 80 million specimens, and that’s without even mentioning our multiple style guides, all of which have been created with retail trends in mind. A wealth of assets means that we are able to offer exclusive materials to retailers, and with an endless supply of inspiration at our fingertips, we are able to offer an appealing program with longevity.

How do tradeshows play a role in your outreach strategy to licensees?

I’m a huge fan of [Brand Licensing Europe]; not only does it give the licensing department an opportunity to show our recent successes, it is the perfect opportunity to meet licensees, agents and retailers to discuss new opportunities. Our diaries are fully booked by the start of the show, and having had over 100 walk-ons last year, many of which translated into business opportunities, either for ourselves or other parts of the Museum, we are really excited to see what new connections we might make this year. It also gives us the chance to meet and catch up with other licensors which is always good fun.

How do you see licensing as a whole changing over the next five years?

I think it will continue to grow, and I believe that retailers are widening their scope and are more actively looking for something different. Museums such as ours have a real connection to consumers, whether it stems from nostalgic memories from their own childhoods or from visiting more recently with their own children or even grandchildren. Heritage brands such as ours have a cultural identity and an authenticity that resonates with visitors, and we feel that this can translate to consumer products, particularly in a market where the consumer is becoming increasingly more ethically conscious.

What are some of the key collaborations that have defined the NHM approach to licensing?

The work we have produced with FatFace has demonstrated how children’s products can be educational but also fun and engaging. Our continued working relationship with FatFace is evidence of this, and we are very excited about upcoming ranges and future opportunities across the next year. Our co-brand with Roald Dahl is another great example of how to create engaging and inspirational content, so watch out for that in early 2020. We have a lot of new launches over the coming months, which I think will truly show the depth of the NHM licensing program and what we are able to achieve.

What’s next for NHM, and what can we expect for 2020?

Within the first six months of 2020, we have a number of launches, which I believe will help our program to flourish as well as show the breadth of our brand from a retail perspective, and you never know who you may meet at BLE and what the outcome of that meeting will be

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