Lifestyle & Culture

Matthew Reynolds in Frankfurt: How we revitalised German heritage brand Clemens Bears

(Editor’s note: This post on the revival of the Clemens Bears brand is part of the Globalists series covering business, technology and global management in Europe and Asia.)

It always interests me how classic, heritage brand that begin life through the passion of the founder suddenly find themselves adrift, without strategic direction and rudderless. This often happens once the founder has left the business. Then, without the initial passion, the reason for the company’s being and its DNA is lost.

© COPYRIGHT. 2017. Dragon Papillon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

My background is as an accountant and management consultant. However in 2013 I decided to take on another business that was very different (and way outside my comfort zone) -teddy bears and collectibles.

For years I have been advising clients on the importance of developing strategic vision, listening to customers and having a laser-like-focus on delivering quality. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and see if I could practice what I preach, so to speak.

My partner’s grandmother was from Germany and was an avid collector of German teddy bears. I often marveled at the intricate detail, the stitching and the fine mohair coats of many of her collection.

I thought if we were going to take on a “hobby business” it had to be something that brought joy and love to people. I’m fascinated about how products can emotionally connect through their ability to resonate and strike a chord with our deeper feelings and desires.

My partner and I eventually decided to work with Clemens-Spieltiere GmbH, a heritage teddy maker since 1948 and we secured the Australian, United States and Canadian distributorships. The business was in the hands of new owners and the sense of purpose and passion that had once driven the values and mission of the company was missing.

The sales in our countries were quite dismal when we took over the brand and we had a lot of work in front of us.

In Australia (my home country) imports from Asia dominated the teddy bear and collectible market. So, the question was why would anyone pay a premium for an item from a heritage German company that was largely unknown in Australia?

We began by talking to retailers and customers and performing a classic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities) analysis. Our research indicated customers would pay a premium if they considered the quality warranted the price difference.

For buyers of children’s toys, safety and quality were paramount. For collectors, uniqueness and heritage were important.

Putting Clemens Bears in front of ‘influencer’ mothers

We crafted a two-pronged strategy.

The children’s and soft toys collections would be reborn as “Children’s classic collection” with accompanying images which highlighted safety, love, tenderness and the premium quality of the range. This campaign was designed to attract astute buyers with deeper wallets: the “influencer” mothers.

The premium collectible mohair collection would be marketed towards those for whom a hand-crafted, limited edition-designer item would prove irresistible. We understood that for collectors, finding a creation that could be cherished, loved, discussed and personalised was vital.

We created a marketing campaign that attended to these needs of the customer. It is vital when developing a marketing strategy to find out what the needs of the customer are. What problem do they need solving? How can we help them in today’s busy world?

We worked with some terrific photographers who really understood the collection and some of their amazing images are shown here. Having images that connect and resonate with customers is vital, but especially so for toys and collectibles.

In three years, we increased Clemens Bears sales by more than 500 percent in all regions and the brand was stocked in premium department stores such as David Jones in Australia. More importantly, Clemens Bears were connecting and resonating with customers again.

Iconic teddy bears

German teddy bears have now become such an intrinsic part of German culture and gift-giving.

The history began with Steiff in 1892 when a teddy bear with jointed arms and legs was first sold. Sales were slow until a cartoon appeared in America depicting then President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot what become known as a “teddy bear.”

This resulted in a surge in demand for teddy bears. Steiff and other teddy bear manufacturers have never looked back. Steiff alone posted sales of more than one million teddy bears in 2018 and is now a truly iconic German brand.

As for out teddy bears, we sold our distributorship back to Clemens-Spieltiere this year to concentrate on other projects.

Even with the plethora of new toys and collectibles hitting the market every year, there will always be a place in the home and heart for a classic German teddy bear.

About the author:

Matthew Reynolds is an accountant, management consultant and Virtual CFO living in Frankfurt.

Matthew is available to work with expat companies and businesses requiring assistance in Frankfurt or global companies seeking to expand operations to Australia.

His website is www.austlinx.net and he can be contacted at: info@capstonegroup.net.au

More from Frankfurt by Matthew Reynolds

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