“Keep looking forward:” Hasbro’s Gemma Rees talks design, creativity and PEPPA PIG

“The children of 2004 are not the children of 2024”: Gemma Rees – Global Creative & Product Development Director for Licensed Consumer Products at Hasbro – on the evolution of PEPPA PIG.

Gemma, it’s great to catch up.
Lovely to be speaking with you, Billy!

To kick us off, what set you on the path to a career in creative? Was it always on the cards?
Not always… It started with wanting to be a sports biomechanic!

That’s what my degree was in, and I never actually realised I had a creative talent until my late teens when I got a job window dressing for Ralph Lauren while at university. I was passionate about creating the most beautiful displays, and soon decided to teach myself design so I could create from scratch. I managed to forge a career working with some of the most amazing fashion houses.

At some point on that path, I was tempted over to the world of licensing and toy design, which is where my passion was really ignited. As they say, the rest is history!

“Be brave in your decision making.”

Your title is Global Creative & Product Development Director for Licensed Consumer Products at Hasbro. What does a typical day look like in your role? If there is one!
It’s a bit of a cliche when you say there is no typical day and every day is different, but it really is! My days now are mostly spent eyeballing over creative and product, looking at trend forecasting and making sure we are keeping ahead of consumer needs! I also have the pleasure of meeting with our wonderful partners and, of course, catching up with our fantastic creative agencies that support us day in day out.

I’m lucky my role covers such a large and diverse part of the globe, so quite often I feel a bit like I’m always on the move. From mornings with my China team to lunch time in the UK and evenings with the USA, there’s always something going on.

And some of that will focus on PEPPA PIG – a brand celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What makes Peppa a fun brand to work on as a creative?
PEPPA PIG has been so socially relevant these past two decades, and I feel lucky to get to work on such an iconic brand with global power and reach. With the success of the show, accompanying toy line and wide-ranging licensed goods and location-based entertainment, we have seemingly endless categories we can bring PEPPA PIG into or expand upon.

From television to theme parks, in stores and much more, there’s never a dull moment for the brand. Additionally, with colourful, fan-favourite characters to tap for inspiration, PEPPA PIG has a wealth of storytelling opportunities for us creatives to lean into.

Gemma Rees, Hasbro, Peppa Pig

20 years is impressive for any brand. Why do you think Peppa has endured for so long?
There’s so many reasons PEPPA PIG has been a toddler and family favourite for 20 plus years. Chief among them is the fact that Peppa has endeared herself to millions of toddlers around the world through her relatability and care to be alongside preschoolers as they “Jump In” to life and all its adventures. The brand has been consistent in delivering content that families can connect with – all while remaining cute, colourful and humorous as always.

Additionally, when you consider how the brand has been able to launch into a never-ending number of formats, it keeps the brand feeling fresh, while also staying relevant. It seems to constantly be a part of the cultural zeitgeist. That fact is due in large part to our analytics and measurement team, which performs hours upon hours of research into our audience to identify what they are interested in and want to see Peppa in next.

On that, how do you keep Peppa fresh creatively, without losing what made her popular in the first place?
The children of 2004 are not the children of 2024 in so many ways. Accordingly, PEPPA PIG has had to continuously evolve to better suit the communication styles and current events that kids and parents can connect to. As a result, PEPPA PIG does not feel stale, nor go out-of-style, as the show and characters always feel as part of our world, facing the same challenges preschoolers are going up against themselves.

That relatability is a hallmark of what makes Peppa popular to begin with, so by continuing to ensure Peppa is relatable, she remains popular as well. It’s a neat little loop of positive brand feedback.

Great answer. And what ranges highlight how creative partners are being with the brand?
One does not become the “Queen of Preschool” without quite a few creative partnerships. It’s been fascinating to see all the ways PEPPA PIG has branched out and been utilised, whether it’s in the form of a product, live experience or even for the greater good.

One of the first recent examples that comes to mind is our LEGO DUPLO and Merlin Entertainments deal which led to the creation of LEGO DUPLO PEPPA PIG building sets, as well as the building of PEPPA PIG theme parks in Germany, Florida and Texas. Particularly in the theme park space, it’s incredible to see the world of PEPPA come to life – allowing fans to step into Peppa’s world in ways that are both fun and educational.

Gemma Rees, Hasbro, Peppa Pig

For example, PEPPA PIG Park Günzburg has Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster – a family-friendly thrill ride which also serves as the first real roller coaster for toddlers and preschoolers, allowing them a safe way to “Jump In” to thrill rides at amusement parks. In addition to helping build kids’ confidence and self-esteem, the roller coaster gets families into the Pig family’s red car to zoom into an adventure with their best friend Peppa by their side!

On another note, I’ve always been impressed by our sustainability program with Cleaner Seas, a non-profit whose mission is to clean the oceans through the collection of “seas treasure” as Peppa and George call them – plastic and litter to you and me.

Our collaboration tied into the show as well, as PEPPA PIG has an episode dedicated to Peppa and George collecting litter off the beach. Sustainability is very important to Hasbro and PEPPA, and as a result there are many episodes and songs that relate to keeping the Earth healthy, such as “The Peppa Pig Recycle Song.”

Gemma Rees, Hasbro, Peppa Pig

Gemma, this has been great. One last question: How do you fuel your own creativity?
I am a strong believer in that people and environment feed your creativity, and I am lucky enough to have a great team and surroundings to support that.

Being creative comes in so many different guises. That’s why it is so important to listen and observe what’s around you always be open. As creatives, we must be tactile, but its vitally important not to be swayed and be brave in your decision making. If you look too much to the left or the right, you hinder your own process. So, keep looking forward.

Good advice. Let’s tie-in again soon!

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