“I like a good scare!”: Warner Bros’ Robert Oberschelp on bringing horror classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street to life in consumer products

We dive into recent horror-inspired launches from Vans, Kylie Cosmetics and Revolution with Robert Oberschelp, SVP, Franchise Management & Marketing, Global Brand Product at Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

With Halloween season in full swing, Warner Bros has embarked on a consumer products push around some of its iconic horror classics.

Vans debuted a collection of footwear, apparel and accessories inspired by the likes of IT, The Shining and Gremlins, while Kylie Cosmetics launched an inventive beauty range around A Nightmare on Elm Street.

To find out more about how Warner Bros looks at brand extensions for its horror portfolio, we spoke with Robert Oberschelp, SVP, Franchise Management & Marketing, Global Brand Product at Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Robert Oberschelp, Warner Bros

Hi Robert, it’s great to catch up. Before we dive into some of your horror brands, I wanted to find out a bit more about your route into this industry. Some people we speak to say they always wanted to work with brands, other say they fell into it. Which camp do you sit in?
I came from the branded world prior to “falling into licensing” in the entertainment industry. Having a strong brand background helped my success in licensing. Truly understanding the DNA of our IP and collaborating with brands that match-up to excite the fans – or by doing a mash-up that gives consumers a second-guess – is always fun.

We’re smack-bang in Halloween season, so talk us through some of your core focuses when it comes to Warner Bros’ horror properties?
Focus is they key word here! Working at Warner Bros. gives us so much when it comes to IP and it is easy to get lost as a kid in a candy store… where to start?!

“In today’s retail environment, we really need to bring disrupters and the unexpected.”

Listening to our fans, tracking trends, reviewing data and insights is what keeps us relevant in the marketplace and top of mind with retailers. We have our “core” horror properties and franchises that we consistently refresh with new graphics and art and continually look at our library for near vintage or retro titles. We also partner closely with our theatrical team on new titles that can be a hit with consumers.

Your ‘kid in a candy store’ analogy is right; The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, IT… The list goes on! Let’s dive into a few recent deals – Vans recently launched a great horror collection featuring the brands I just mentioned. How did this partnership come about?
We have a long-standing relationship with Vans and are continually looking at new ways to surprise and delight our fans. We work closely with their product and marketing teams, aligning priorities to develop collections that will not only excite our fans, but also drive relevancy in the marketplace. There is a great synergy with the Vans consumer and the horror fan that putting these two together we knew would be a homerun!

Robert Oberschelp, Warner Bros

Absolutely, and there are some really smart, playful designs in that range. Does this collection prove a great example of to how creative licensees can be you’re your horror properties?
I really feel the line speaks for itself. Each one of the shoes is instantly recognisable to the property – from the simple red balloon, Freddie’s classic striped sweater to the terrifying twins. I would say the same goes for the apparel and accessories.

Design-wise, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the execution. The one item that pops to mind is the IT mini-backpack… a simple shiny red bag with the classic Vans checkerboard straps and an embroidered reminder that “you’ll float too,” just like the balloon zipper pull.

Robert Oberschelp, Warner Bros

Yes, the quote on the strap is a lovely touch! Switching from Pennywise to Freddy Krueger, Kylie Cosmetics has just launched a beauty collection around A Nightmare on Elm Street. How did this partnership come about? And why A Nightmare on Elm Street?
Why not? This collaboration is a great example of working with creators that have a passion for the property. Kylie herself is a huge fan of horror and especially A Nightmare on Elm Street. Her passion and creativity really helped drive the WOW factor and reimagination of a classic.

Bringing that brand into beauty seems quite a left field move. Why did it make sense?
In today’s retail environment, we really need to bring disrupters and the unexpected. There is a cult following with the film and Kylie’s love of the film is what she wanted to bring to her consumers.

Robert Oberschelp, Warner Bros

So are these kinds of ‘unexpected’ collabs something Warner Bros is looking to do more of with its horror brands?
Absolutely! We are always looking for new ways to surprise and delight our fans. These brand collaborations help fuel the passion for horror fans around the world.

Some of these brands we’re discussing are decades old. What is it about them that ensured they endured?
It all comes down to great storytelling and the emotional connection to the fan. I myself am a horror fan and like a good scare. No matter how many times I watch The Exorcist, I jump! I remember where I was when I first saw the film as a teenager and it always makes me question if the devil can really enter a human soul before I fall asleep and see Freddy in my dreams.

“It all comes down to great storytelling and the emotional connection to the fan.”

Ha! Sweet dreams! On that, a study released just this week revealed that in the UK, homes on roads named Elm Street sell for up to 70% less than the local average due to “a superstitious market”… So you’re not alone in still feeling the fear decades later! Heading back to beauty for a moment, Corpse Bride also has cosmetics range out with Revolution. There are some great touches in that collection, like skulls being imprinted on the lipsticks!
Fun, right?

Absolutely – and it helps the range feel very authentic to Corpse Bride. How important is authenticity when it comes to these types of deals?
What is most important when working on collaborations is to ensure the brand we are working on stays true to itself and we are able to use our properties as inspiration. Some can be a direct lift from the film, while others are lifestyle-inspired programs with a nod to the title that only true fans will recognise.

Robert Oberschelp, Warner Bros

I also wanted to pick your brain on some recent launches from Warner Bros. This year, you’ve had The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and Malignant land. Are there any consumer product plans around these fresh releases?
We have a nice assortment in market as it relates to The Conjuring universe – inclusive of my favourite doll Annabelle – while we do not have anything specific to the last release nor Malignant… You may want to check back with me next year.

Will do – Malignant remains one of the craziest films I’ve seen this year, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled! Last question: how do you fuel your creativity?
My own creativity is fuelled by what I see and hear – and the people I am able to work with on all this great IP!

Great answer. Robert, this has been a treat. A huge thanks again and happy Halloween!

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