Coming off a 2001 acquisitions binge that saw the media conglom pick up such diverse properties and exploitable assets as Guinness World Records, David and Charles Children’s Books and a 50% stake in Brit classic character Fireman Sam, Gullane Entertainment is taking a bit of a breather in order to map out its consumer products strategies for the new brands. Playing a key role in this strategic planning phase is Christina Miller, who was recently promoted from head of brand and licensing development to VP of licensing for the Americas.
Primarily responsible for the development of unique, brand-appropriate products, Miller already has an extremely challenging hurdle to overcome as she steps into her new role. Gullane has its preschool licensing game plan down to a fine art, with character-based evergreens Thomas the Tank Engine and Sooty both sporting impressive global deal rosters. But the tween-skewing Guinness World Records brand is a whole different kettle of fish. ‘Guinness targets a totally new age group for us, and it’s a content-based property, rather than a character-based one,’ explains Miller. ‘But it also has a 95% unaided awareness level, so if we can figure out what the right product categories and partners are for the brand, Guinness could be a major hit for us.’
Miller says Gullane will eschew the quick-burn approach, whereby the Guinness World Records logo would be slapped onto as many products as possible, to instead create new entrance points to the brand beyond the books. She feels some categories are a natural fit for the Guinness content. These include trivia games and calendars, though she is also exploring activities that go beyond product, including events and trademark licensing.
The Guinness brand extension that Miller is most excited about, however, is video games. ‘Gullane’s preschool properties just aren’t appropriate for today’s hot consoles like PS2 and GameCube, and the passing-down of older consoles to younger siblings hasn’t been as big an opportunity as some companies were anticipating,’ she says. Given that annual sales for the video game industry topped out at a record-breaking US$9.4 billion last year (up US$2.8 billion from 2000, according to the NPD Group), Miller says the category represents a major new profit opportunity for Gullane.
New Guinness product is 18 to 24 months away from hitting shelves, but Miller is already giving careful thought to the property’s retail strategy. She expects that consumers’ high awareness level of the brand will open the doors to a more mass-oriented approach than the specialty-focused tack that Gullane takes with Thomas.