The Brand Radar: Transport for London, Kirkby Designs and the power of heritage licensing

One of the fastest growing and dynamic sectors of licensing is the heritage category: licensing inspired by the collections housed in museums and galleries.

A leading player in this category has been the V&A Museum London. They have been a pathfinder for heritage licensing, developing a broad licensing programme that has been a commercial success.

Other institutions are actively using licensing – both as a source of revenue and as a way of connecting to the public and bringing the collections to a wider audience.

One of the more unexpected successes in the sector is Transport for London and the London Transport Museum’s use of fabric design patterns seen on London buses and the Underground.

London’s Tube lines and buses all have distinctive fabrics used on the seating with different colourways – on the Tube particularly these help travellers identify the individual lines. They are part of the fabric of London life.

TfL recognised their iconic status and used the fabric to create a broad range of products that are sold through their retail network. They even sell the fabric by the yard!

Further to this, they have engaged with a select band of licensees to create a range of distinctive products; a particularly noteworthy range comes from Kirkby Designs.

The Brand Radar
Kirkby has developed two collections of home furnishings – including sofas that are designed in a contemporary style and are made from the same fabric used on the transport network. The fabric is robust and hard wearing, and their products have attracted a lot of positive publicity – and appear to sell well.

Kirkby used contemporary designs, but also explored the full history of the brand using some older patters. This helps TfL underpin and reinforce their unique position in London’s history.

The Brand Radar
This is a great example of a brand owner exploring their brand to the full and utilising all their assets.

It is often easy to overlook the more everyday utilitarian aspects of a brand or archive of assets. Here, TfL and Kirkby recognised the value and appeal of this set of iconic designs and have helped consumers view things in a new light. It’s a great example of forward-thinking brand licensing.

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