Sam Butcher’s message of honoring the goodness in others isn’t lost even after 30 years due to a focused licensing approach. We recognize his figurines instantly: those teardrop eyes, cute little faces, and inspirational messages that fit the character’s actions all too well. It’s been more than 30 years since Sam Butcher began drawing these Precious Moments for family and friends, but the sentiment he hoped to convey with his creations then remains the same today.
“Precious Moments aren’t just figurines or artwork,” said Susan Meek, vice president licensing. “We are a celebration of all the moments that create a lifetime. It’s about uplifting one another and honoring the goodness we can find in each other.”
When it comes to licensing such a message, the Illinois-based company developed many style guides that include inspirational messages and artwork to its licensees so they can choose from a wide variety when developing a new product. As a result, Precious Moments has added 19 new licensees within the past few months and has seen growth in its gift wear division despite the current economic climate.
“Our brand has a strong inspirational message, and we’ve found people continue to turn to Precious Moments to experience the emotional connection,” said Meek. In the coming months, the company is focused on reminding consumers what Precious Moments is all about, whether through new items for sale or social media portals.
For example, Meek and her team talk with a variety of manufacturers about the opportunities at Precious Moments. She said because she and her team know the brand so well and live it every day, it’s easier for them to explain to potential partners what they’re looking for and what will work.
“We’ve had so many successes with our current product that people get excited about the possibilities,” she said. “They’ve seen the growth potential they might have for their products as well.”
Precious Moments Bibles have been on two bestseller’s lists and are sold at nearly every Walmart across the country. And that’s only one example.
AD Sutton, a fourth-generation family-owned business originally founded in 1909, is one of the company’s newer licensees. With an extensive history and current presence with baby accessories, the partnership was a perfect match for Precious Moments’ burgeoning baby program.
The baby licensing program includes clothing for ages zero to 20 months, plush banks, baby bedding, crib toys, and infant feeding products. AD Sutton produces gift items for babies such as packaged layettes, photo albums, photo frames, banks, booties, and mittens.
Prestige, another new licensee, complements the AD Sutton partnership with its own line of crib toys, such as animal-themed musical toys. Meek said the criteria for bringing on new licensees is simple: they must make a quality product, share the cultural values of Precious Moments, and have a strong distribution chain.
“AD Sutton does a beautiful job, and its products are high quality,” said Meek. “Prestige also has wonderful quality, sweet toys that fall into place with our messaging. They’re both perfect fits.”
Getting the message out
Getting the Precious Moments message out to the consuming public requires more than innovative product development, however. To take advantage of the new age of consumer engagement, the company stays active through social media portals such as its website, blog, and Twitter page.
PreciousMoments.com has more than 2 million visits a year, which means Meek and her team keep a constant look out for new content to keep it fresh and current. In line with its product focus, an online baby boutique is in the works. “When you go into the site, you can see the entire offering of all of our licensees’ baby products as well as the baby products we make on the gift wear side,” said Meek.
Precious Moments launched the baby boutique in June this year. “We’re excited because we feel it’s a wonderful way to let people know the breadth of the offering,” Meek continued.
Building on its baby product focus, Precious Moments began working with Maria Bailey, whose marketing company, Blue Suit Mom, specializes in the active world of mommy bloggers. “Those are moms that really get into looking at various different products and utilize them and comment on what they like about the product for their baby or their child,” said Meek. “We get a lot of blogs about our baby products from moms.”
Opened in 1987, the Precious Moments Chapel plays a role in connecting with fans, and the company holds events through St. Jude’s to gain support for charitable contributions to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Print also helps connect Precious Moments to its target audience. The company’s large collector’s club, which comprises individuals who have been involved with the company for a number of years, receives the Precious Moments Collector’s Magazine four times a year. The full-color magazine includes articles that pertain to gatherings such as reunion events, signings, and cruises.
“They all get together and spend quality time, which makes the Precious Moments experience enjoyable, ” said Meek. “We also have a direct-mail catalogue, which goes out seven times a year, that includes our figurines, gift wear, and licensees’ products.”
Top of mind
Precious Moments operates with what Meek calls a small but mighty team. “The people we have here are experts in their area,” she explained. “We have a strong creative side, but we also have a strong paralegal who is good with copyrights, trademarks, and contracts.”
Meek herself has spent 27 years in the licensing industry, managing the business and selling the brand. Even before she came to Precious Moments, she worked with Hallmark and the Hedstrom Corporation as a licensee of Precious Moments. “I feel like I’ve been with this brand for a long time,” she said.
On the creative side, Precious Moments keeps itself in check by including members of Sam Butcher’s family in the design process. His daughter Debbie is the vice president of creative, his son Don is president, and his son Jon is chairman of the board. Having family at the top of the company not only keeps it true to its roots and the original message Sam wanted to send, it also opens the door to new opportunities.
“We’re working on a partnership between Sam and his daughter Debbie,” said Meek. “It’s our Classic Signature Series, and it’s a nod to some of the earliest figurines Sam did.”
First on the list is a reinterpretation of a figure Sam made 30 years ago called Make a Joyful Noise featuring a little girl with a goose. Debbie has modernized the figure, putting the little girl in a pair of Welly boots, a sweater dress, and a headband.
“One of our greatest challenges is just making sure we keep in front of the consumer on a regular basis,” said Meek. “Through a lot of the social media and some of the PR and marketing we’re doing, we’ll remain top of mind.”