Riot Director Adele Minchin on heritage brands – five tips for creating new audiences and staying relevant

25 Oct 2021 -

For an established brand, staying relevant to the ever-shifting needs and expectations of the consumer is a major priority and has been a big focus of the work we have done with Moomin Characters over the past five years here in the UK. Moomin Characters exists to safeguard author and artist Tove Jansson’s body of work for generations to come. Today, Moomin is an international brand with global appeal and over 800 licensees creating products and events ranging from publishing to theme parks, apps to animations. In celebration of our continued partnership with Moomin Characters, we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned along the way about working with a heritage brand.

Identify your brand assets

What is it about your brand that makes it so special and has helped it endure thus far? In the case of Moomins it is the great storytelling, the unique and beautiful artwork and strong brand values. The success of the Moomin brand is due to the respect with which the source materials, Tove’s texts and artwork, have always been treated. Once you know what the strengths are, do all you can to bring all your brand activity back to these assets. In this way your heritage brand will remain true and consistent to its origins.

Maximise the potential that big moments present

Heritage brands often have a moment in the calendar / existing activity / partnerships in place. Scrutinise them and see if you can leverage them for further reach. We used a sell out exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London that recreated the magic of the Moomins in a brand new immersive experience:  Adventures in Moominland, to see how we could connect our various target audiences to what was already happening. Part of this activity included working with fashion brand Chinti and Parker to launch their new Moomin line with fashion influencers at the exhibition.

Have a clear overview of all your brand activity

Every year is a busy year for Moomin. In 2021 alone, we launched The Woman Who Fell in Love With an Island, an exhibition about Tove Jansson’s island home in the Finnish archipelago, at the Walthamstow Wetlands in collaboration with the William Morris Gallery. The release of the multi award-winning biopic, Tove took place in summer ‘21 and there were new product launches including the Cath Kidston X Moomin range. As brand managers, make sure you have a clear oversight of all the activity taking place and ensure there’s something different / unique for everyone in the mix (licensees, media, stakeholders) with no clashes. Creating distinct offerings for the consumer and different target audiences is key.

Choose the right partners and spokespeople

Aligning yourself with the right partners and spokespeople is a key way to increase your brand reach and find new audiences. Moomin Characters continues to work closely with its UK charity partner, Oxfam, on various initiatives including, The Invisible Child campaign. The two organisations’ shared values ensure a powerful partnership that has gone on to raise over £1million to help women and girls around the world fight inequality and escape poverty for good. Whoever you work with must be aligned with your brand values so the credibility of your brand is never compromised.

Engage authentically with contemporary issues 

Avoid token gestures and go to the brand’s values to ensure you are investing in initiatives that run deep through the brand. Tove Jansson spent her summers in the Finnish archipelago, the latter part of her life at Klovharun island in the Baltic Sea. The influence of the sea can be seen in her work from the start of her creative endeavours. Launching the #OurSea campaign that raised over 1 million euros to clean up and protect the Baltic sea was therefore of enormous relevance. Equally, Moomin Characters’ involvement in Pride speaks to a core brand value – tolerance. In her private life, Tove Jansson fell in love with both women and men, even though homosexuality was illegal in Finland until 1971. National reading for pleasure initiative, Read Hour, sponsored by Moomin Characters in support of their mission to spread the love of reading and writing as a roadmap to happiness is another example. Deep, authentic knowledge and engagement is key.