The Brand Radar: Kimm & Miller, Only Fools and Horses and keeping classic brands alive through creative design

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at how gifting licensee Kimm & Miller is breathing new life into the classic BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses with a creative Father’s Day range.

Kimm & Miller are a specialist licensee in the composite gifting market, with their core focus being on food gifting. They are most often active in Q4 in the run up to Christmas and are one of the leading suppliers of composite gifts to the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury and Boots.

They work with a range of licences but naturally are heavily focused on brands from the food and drink category. Properties in their portfolio include Costa, Nando’s, Coca Cola, Reese’s and Kelloggs.

Classically Kimm & Miller will develop products that combine a food or drink element with a gift component. A good example is their range of Kellogg’s breakfast bowls sold with mini cereal boxes – or Costa coffee cups sold with coffee packs.

Ian Downes, Brands Radar
Food and drink brands like this opportunity as it gives them additional retail presence outwith their normal aisle or context, encourages product trial and helps build a rapport with consumers.

In the run up to Christmas, retailers will turn over space to composite gifting and will promote ranges in Christmas gift guides; it’s a significant category.

Licensees like Kimm & Miller look beyond the food and drink category for brands to work with. Other licensing partners for Kimm & Miller include the Royal Horticultural Society and greetings card brand Me To You. In both of these cases, these brands allow Kimm & Miller to create well targeted ranges that explore strong sales themes, like gardening. There is a natural logic in extending a brand like Me To You into composite gifting.

Ian Downes, Brands Radar
A challenge for Kimm & Miller and their competitors is to sell their products outside of Q4. This period is obviously potentially a high reward selling period, but it is also one that comes with high risk. One of the biggest risks is that it is time sensitive… Beyond Christmas Day your selling opportunity diminishes, and retailers are re-working their shelves.

A further risk is that it’s so competitive within the category and beyond. Even with strong licences, it can be hard to achieve cut through. There have also been other challenges to combat, such as the closure of key retailers such as Debenhams, a big supporter of the composite gifting category. Against this background Kimm & Miller have been looking at other selling opportunities and occasions – one of these is Father’s Day.

I noticed a range of composite gifting products featuring comedy classic Only Fools & Horses that Kimm & Miller had put together for Tesco, Tesco online and Amazon. The range included Del Boy’s car with chilli sauces, a chocolate telephone and a toast stamper.

Ian Downes, Brands Radar

Only Fools & Horses has become established in licensing and is becoming an evergreen in brand terms. The original television series and the associated Christmas specials were enormously successful and created a number of iconic TV moments, including Del Boy falling through the bar, the Chandelier cleaning caper and the time Del Boy and Rodney became millionaires.

It has become part of UK pop culture, with many of the series’ catchphrases and key words still used today. It is now a core part of UK Gold’s broadcast schedule, which has helped recruit new fans and keep the series in the public eye. There has also been a very successful West End show which was a musical version of the series.

Ian Downes, Brands Radar
From a gifting point of view, Only Fools and Horses is a solid choice for Father’s Day but it also works around the Christmas period, and Kimm & Miller have developed more products for Christmas. For a range like this to work, there has to be an authenticity about it and it’s important that the products reflect the key points of the series well.

Kimm & Miller’s Rob Kimm told me that they spend a lot of time watching old episodes looking for ideas for new products. A key for them is that the ideas they spot can be translated into food and gifting formats. Key issues here will include design and development, but also practical points like costs, sourcing and retail price points. Given the volume of episodes made, there is a lot of source material to reference and to use as a creative springboard.

The BBC, who are managing the licensing programme for Only Fools and Horse, have recognised they need to invest in design to help licensees and there is a comprehensive style guide to support the licensing programme. This is a key point, as classic properties are often let-down by a lack of investment in design materials.

Licensees like Kimm & Miller need to be able to access more than just a logo to create a commercial licensing programme. Design-wise, it’s important to include some of the programme’s iconic moments, visuals and catchphrases. Kimm & Miller’s products are gifts bought for someone and the purchaser needs to recognise the brand instantly, so a strong packaging identity is important. Only Fools and Horses stands out on shelf and has a distinctive look.

Kimm & Miller’s Only Fools and Horses Father’s Day range is a great example of choosing a licence well and developing a range of products that really suit it. Composite gifting is an area of licensing that really shows the value of brands, the importance of design and how crucial NPD is. I am sure Kimm & Miller’s NPD team had quite a lot of laughs developing this range.

It is also a great example of a proactive licensee seeking out new retail opportunities, in this case Father’s Day. It is easy to stick to the normal routine and rhythm of retail but it’s good to see a licensee looking to leverage other buying occasions. More broadly in licensing, this is something that should be encouraged as licensed properties lend themselves well to a range of retail occasions.

It’s also a good example of a licensing working for more mature consumers. It is a common misconception that licensing and licensed products are ‘just for kids’. I think a real growth area for licensing will be developing properties and products that resonate with older consumers. Other comedy classics – such as Dad’s Army – have had some success in licensing, so it will be interesting to see if this range inspires other IP owners to think about the licensing potential for other comedy shows.

It will also be interesting to see what other products emerge from Kimm & Miller for this classic brand. There is a certain irony that the Trotter family are now fronting a very successful licensing programme in spite of their own rather chequered history in product sourcing and selling. Just watch out for that Peckham Spring Water!

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