Fred Rogers Productions’ Katie Huber on crafting product plans for message-driven brands

Katie Huber – Senior Director of Licensing at Fred Rogers Productions – on creativity, inspiration and plans for IP like Donkey Hodie and Alma’s Way.

Katie, it’s great to connect. To kick us off, how did you find your way into licensing? Was it always part of the plan?
I found my way into the world of licensing by way of my career in retail. Out of college I entered the executive training program at GAP, which led to various positions in merchandising. A few years later I was presented with an opportunity to be “part of the magic” at Disney. I had the chance to work in various product and strategy roles within Disney Consumer Products across the stores, parks, and licensing. I worked across all the brands within the Disney portfolio and alongside some amazing, smart, talented, and fun people.

I wish I could say it was a strategic plan to be in licensing, but honestly, it was the happenstance of working alongside some great individuals throughout my career that led me to work with some terrific brands and licensees that ultimately brought me to the amazing opportunity with Fred Rogers Productions.

“Categories within the CPG area are where I see the most untapped potential to explore.”

What are some key areas of focus for Fred Rogers Productions right now? What brands are enjoying a busy time licensing wise?
I have three key areas of focus right now. First, to develop a brand strategy for our legacy show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. So many people are nostalgic and fond of the show and all the memories and good feelings it conjures up. I see a lot of opportunities to develop a brand strategy that brings a fresh look and feel while still staying true to the show and its legacy.

Second, I am focused on further developing the licensing portfolio for the newest shows in the Fred Rogers Productions portfolio, Donkey Hodie and Alma’s Way.

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

And third, to continue to build the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood retail footprint, which continues to enjoy a busy time in licensing. The team is very excited that the Macy’s TRU partnership is continuing this holiday, allowing for a broader retail reach for our Daniel Tiger fans. And we are continuing to enhance and build out the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Amazon shopping experience to allow parents, fans and gift givers a means to find all products, shows, and apps related to Daniel Tiger in one place.

“My inspiration comes from listening and observing.”

A great slate of IP there. Why do you feel these brands fuel creativity in licensees? What makes them exciting to develop product for?
Our brands are fun and engaging but also have a thoughtful message for kids and adults. Each of our shows is not just entertaining, but also helpful to children, their parents and caregivers so they can learn and grow together. Our brands fuel creativity by tapping into those messages that are so important for children and allow for some unique products to be created.

One I am excited for is the Gifts of Joy Daniel’s Calming Corner Kit, which is designed to help kids discover the magic of calm with Daniel Tiger. The kit is designed for children ages two to four, but the tools and techniques can even be helpful for us adults!

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

I bet! Now, are there any other examples you can point to of how licensees have put creativity at the heart of their work with your brands? Any products we should shine a spotlight on?
We have so many great products and partners it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few… There are a few that pop to mind first. One is our partnership with carter joey and the adorable sling bag and patches that tie thoughtfully into the theme of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The bag is designed with kids in mind and encourages children to get outside and explore and earn patches that feature Daniel and his friends.

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

The Gifts of Joy Daniel’s Calming Corner Kit is another favourite because it helps kids with calming techniques and is so thoughtful in how it ties into the song: “When you feel so mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four!”

Both carter joey and Gifts of Joy take the time to understand the lessons and messages from the show to create product that is tangible for a child to interact with and bring a little Daniel Tiger into their everyday life.

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

My other favourite is the plush that our partners at Jada Toys created for Donkey Hodie. Being that the characters on the show are puppets, the standard for recreating the characters as plush is a hard one and the team did an amazing job! I especially love the small plush with the character phrases, which just makes everyone smile when they get their hands on set of samples around the office.

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

Are there any categories that feel are especially untapped for some of your brands?
There are several categories I have on my radar to expand for the various brands, but categories within the CPG area are where I see the most untapped potential to explore. We have some great partners for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with Good2Grow and Ready Set Food, but I see additional CPG categories as opportunities for all our brands.

Katie Huber, Fred Rogers Productions, Toys & Games, Food & Drink

How do you fuel your own creativity? What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from listening and observing. I like to listen to podcasts about different businesses and learn from their stories. I also love to wander around and be inspired, whether in my everyday shopping or walking around and observing people. There is always something interesting to spark my creativity to take a picture or jot down a note of something to recall later.

I also gain inspiration from going on adventures big and small, trying new things, taking in new scenery, meeting new people, and documenting it all through pictures to recall the memories and be inspired by the new ideas they stir.

Great answer. Huge thanks again Katie.

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