The British public has spent more than £32m on Bagpuss merchandise since 1999, so with a new Glitterpuss cuddly toy set to launch later this year, Bagpuss's merchandise and brand licensing agent Licensing By Design (LBD) decided to use the occasion of Bagpuss's 30th birthday to stir up interest in the famous cat. The firm drafted in the Marketing Communications Company (MCC) to boost the character's profile with a trade and consumer campaign that would ensure demand for the licence remained high with merchandise clients.
To raise awareness of Bagpuss with the character's core merchandise consumers: nostalgic adults, parents and students. To generate confidence with licensees and retailers that there is still interest in Bagpuss.
Strategy and Plan
To demonstrate Bagpuss's popularity with consumers to LBD clients, the PR team offered the BBC News website exclusive interviews with Bagpuss's creators. This would, in turn, enable the team to use the article's URL to publicise the success of the campaign to LBD's clients in newsletters and campaign case studies.
Furthermore, to ensure high-impact national coverage was achieved on Bagpuss's birthday (12 February), MCC also gave the Daily Mirror an exclusive interview with Emily, the actress who starred in the original TV show. The team organised for the interview to be conducted at the actress's parents house, where all the original Bagpuss scenes were shot.
An exclusive competition was then sold in to Blue Peter to ensure a new generation of children would hear about Bagpuss. MCC was aware that journalists might not have been as keen to write about Bagpuss's 30th birthday if the toy's merchandise was heavily plugged in the press releases and interviews.
Therefore the team used Bagpuss creators and actors as media spokespeople to distance the campaign from its commercial aspect, while using merchandise as competition prizes and in pictures to generate product awareness.
By capitalising on Bagpuss's famous yawn, radio audiences were targeted via competitions and interviews with the voice of Bagpuss, Oliver Postgate.
Student newspapers were sent a press release in the form of an article that could be copied and pasted verbatim into their publications. In addition, they were sent a free Bagpuss doll, which students could use to enter a competition by posing with it in photographs.
Measurement and Evaluation
Nationally, coverage included a front page and double-page spread in the Mirror, a news piece on Blue Peter, an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, and articles on the BBC News website and in The Daily Telegraph.
Regionally, 14 local radio stations and seven local newspapers covered the story. Trade press coverage included Licensing Today Worldwide and License Europe, as well as three other trade titles. Articles appeared on nostalgia internet sites and in consumer magazines and student newspapers.
Merchandise sold on the Bagpuss online shop tripled following the PR campaign, as did hits to the website.
'The MCC team is always professional and helpful,' says BBC Cornwall website producer Matthew Shepherd. 'The press release enabled us to make up an original quiz and was tailored to fit the BBC News website.'
'MCC gave us exactly what we needed to know,' says Solent news agency reporter Virginia Wheeler. 'The PR team did an excellent job.'