Talking Brands: Can licensing save Tupperware?

From just-looks bland to must-have brand… Start Licensing’s Ian Downes, KI’s Gary Pope, Making Things’ Fi O’Malley and The Wyld Bunch’s Paul Brunton discuss the brand’s potential.

Spare a thought for Earl Silas Tupper. Paradoxically, his name has been quickly forgotten and endlessly preserved… For Earl Silas Tupper is the inventor who gave his name to Tupperware. And while that word is internationally known, it’s brand identity – like Tupper’s name – has all but faded away.

Arguably, this is partly because the name Tupperware quickly became very familiar… So much so that consumers began using it to describe ANY product of that kind. That, combined with the rapid decline in popularity of its once innovative sales model, means the company now faces challenging times.

In this Talking Brands Special, Ian Downes, Gary Pope, Fi O’Malley and Paul Brunton share their thoughts on a single question: Could licensing help save tupperware?

Talking Brands, Ian Downes, Gary Pope, Fi O’Malley, Deej JohnsonIan Downes, Director, Start Licensing
I’m not sure what approach Tupperware have taken to licensing over the years, but I would think that there’d be a role for licensing to play for the brand – both licensing in and out. In terms of licensing in a carefully selected portfolio of brands, targeting children and adults could give the brand new energy and fresh routes to market. I think partnerships with chefs, influencers and even food brands could work well in particular.

In terms of licensing out, I have seen Tupperware featuring on items like bread makers – and I could see more developments in this sector. I’ve also heard a radio interview with a Tupperware collector and party organiser… Tupperware parties used to be a big route to market for the brand, with local organisers acting as sales agents. The parties were social events, but also a try-before-you-buy opportunity. The Tupperware fan mentioned this doesn’t really happen now, but I think there could be a hybrid version of this delivered at retail maybe via a coffee shop chain or within local department stores.

This could maybe also be linked to a charity that’s looking to promote well being. I also think Tupperware could work with people like house builders. A key strength of Tupperware is its efficency in storage and helping people make the most of cupboard space – thinking of its stacking qualities in particular. A housebuilding firm could deliver Tupperware storage solutions as an in-built benefit. Tupperware could also work well promotionally, I think, with on pack promotions with FMCG brands, and also for seasonal gifting thinking of composite gifts.

Of course, there are lots of challenges for the brand – including competition from newer players like Joseph Joseph and own brand. There are also concerns about plastic, but I believe Tupperware have moved into new materials like bamboo. I guess there is also a strength in the fact that Tupperware is so long lasting and enduring. Hopefully the brand finds a way to fight back – the level of chatter around the brand news suggests there is still a future for Tupperware.

Talking Brands, Ian Downes, Gary Pope, Fi O’Malley, Deej JohnsonGary Pope, CEO and Co-Founder, Kids Industries
Up until a few days ago, I had a vague notion that Tupperware was a brand – but, like Hoover or Velux, it’s become a catch-all generic moniker for a product category. What was once a blessing is now perhaps a curse.

Done right, licensing adds value – it’s the very core of the model. But locking in the freshness to this particular issue isn’t so simple. Clearly, the rise and rise of TikTok influencers such as Poppy Cooks or Deliciously Ella offer opportunities to build a range with a ready-to-go audience of tastemakers. However, we care about sustainability these days – and no GenZ, new-age nutritional guru is going to even open a conversation right now.

A perennial problem for parents is ensuring the good stuff in the school lunchbox gets eaten and not swapped. Of course, characters are among the very best of influencers for children – and I can’t help but think that innovation through real IP/Product interaction sounds very doable for the clever people in the PD departments out there. Here’s a thought – what if you could customise your Tupperware – like the way you can for crocs? Maybe a set of character collectibles that only affix to Tupperware somehow? And what if you could earn them via a retail promotion? They’d have their own value, and I’m sure a new army of parents would embrace a rejuvenated Tupperware if it meant more of the good stuff was eaten.

Can licensing save Tupperware? The horse might have bolted but there’s a big gap being left – and lessons learned might mean that gap is filled by a licensee… One that understands what the buyers and users of the category need, and how the right licence with the right creative spark can keep them coming back for more.

Talking Brands, Ian Downes, Gary Pope, Fi O’Malley, Deej JohnsonFi O’Malley, Director, Making Things Studio
Reimaging, reinvigorating and redefining Tupperware would have been a dream brief for anyone in the business of innovation. Innovation could have saved the brand during its crisis junctions – mostly product innovation, but brand innovation too.

It’s true that licensing could have formed part of their strategy. It’s a relatively simple way for portfolio diversification, both inbound and even outbound ­­­– if Tupperware amped up their brand appeal and nostalgia power.

With an array of licences ­– applied to a strategic, design-led, product innovation range; not label slapped! ­– they could have captured both the new generation of young kids and the Gen Z trend-setter consumers who love a packed lunch for school, college through to their first day in their professional careers! #lunchenvy

Not every brand can be saved as tech, materials and consumers evolve, but perhaps it can still be alive in some capacity… After all, look at Blockbuster. It’s no longer a bricks and mortar rental chain but a licensor, beloved movie lifestyle brand and the star of its own bestselling party game… Tupperware may well be able to walk a similar path.

Paul Brunton, Founder, The Wyld Bunch and Clout
We all know Tupperware is a brand one can trust – aligning the brand with equally inspirational brands with heritage could heighten the aesthetic of the core product to consumers?

Look at LEGO for example. Could Tupperware produce food storage solutions based on the famous colourful LEGO brick? Each colour in the range could represent a solution for different food types? Pushing the collaboration further, could the unique building system of LEGO be applied to food storage systems to create an aesthetically pleasing, practical product range?

Heritage food brand collaborations could also be an opportunity to showcase Tupperware’s reliable storage solutions with brand styling too good to hide away in a cupboard… SPAM, Kelloggs, Marmite and classic sweet treats, for example. Why hide the Tupperware when you can show it off with beautifully considered designs?

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