Emma Scott, founder and CEO, Beano Studios | M&M Global

Emma Scott, founder and CEO, Beano Studios

80 is an impressive landmark and this week M&M Global sat down with Beano Studios CEO and founder Emma Scott to find out what has ensured the brand has not only survived, but thrived over the last eight decades. 

80 years is a pretty impressive feat, what do you think is the key to a comic surviving that long?

Our mission is to make the world ‘Think More Kid’. That’s what Beano still does and has always done; empowering kids and making them laugh, being inspired by them and helping them develop, which is even more relevant now than ever.

Beano has an irresistible, rebellious spirit – making kids laugh (and parents secretly snigger) for four generations.  The introduction of Dennis the Menace in 1951 made Beano one of the first publishers to really show children behaving like children in popular culture, a version that was anything but the beautifully behaved, seen-but-not-heard childhood portrayed in the post war years.

Beano embraces that wholeheartedly today in our TV and digital developments on beano.com  – our characters are still joyously, riotously imperfect and we think that’s both timeless and particularly pertinent for today’s kids who are often subject to pressure and anxiety at school, online and even geo-politically (Trump is the famous figure our Trendspotter kids panel mention most, ahead of the likes of Taylor Swift or Cristiano Ronaldo.

The reality is, the media industry doesn’t Think Kid enough, so children aren’t always getting the entertainment experiences they deserve in both broadcast and digital environments, not to mention the tremendously exciting blurred space in between.

And the digital world where older kids (6-12) now spend most of their time isn’t made for them. Gaming, YouTube and social media are largely designed for 13 and over and yet children now spend more time online than on TV.

Why aren’t there more places made for them, with content they love and environments that are safe?

What have been the biggest challenges to ensuring the success of The Beano?

Beano Studios was set up to figure out how to take a loved heritage children’s print title and make it relevant for today’s switched on, charged up and logged on kids – and bring the original fanbase – their parents – along for the ride.

We have created and continue to build a new entertainment entity focused on taking the 80-year-old weekly comic and reimagining it as a mischievous multichannel force for 6-12 year olds, led by the cheeky digital network beano.com and reboots of its characters in video form across digital and TV, alongside a refreshed comic of course.

And it’s worked. We’re hugely proud to have good news stories developing in every part of our business:

Beano is also going global. At this point, Dennis and Gnasher; Unleashed has sold in over 15 international markets including major European PSBs like Super RTL, and there are plenty more to come. We’re also co-producing our live action re-imagination of Minnie with the Emmy award winning Lime Pictures (producers of Netflix’s Free Rein)

And we’re also seeing a dramatic uptick in traffic to beano.com in the USA in particular, driven by our ever more sophisticated content creation processes, and we expect to see much more throughout the year and beyond.

We’ve also recently collaborated with global British brands like Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, V&A, as well as Apple and Amazon. We’ve got major partnerships with the UK Libraries  Summer Reading Challenge, and YoungMinds – the UKs leading young people’s mental health charity – initiatives which empower kids which we simply want to grow and grow.

To last for such a long time you must have been doing something quite special, but there must have been one or two concepts that didn’t take off and what lessons did you learn from such failures?

Beano celebrates imperfection, so I’m proud to announce that we fail every single day. We’re creating new things that seek to break and remake industry conventions and outdated engagement model and to strike out on our own in the wild west of the digital landscape to make brilliant, safe content and experiences for kids where none currently exist.

We’ve changed the design and UX of beano.com several times since the launch in September 2016, We’ve similarly changed the mix, tone and balance of content on the site several times.

How do we know we get things wrong? Our readers and viewers tell us. We FaceTime with our panel of Trendspotters (26 kids around the UK) every single week and they don’t hold back when we’re off the mark.

We also constantly battle TV ideas which feel too conventional or too familiar – people’s perception of Beano is sometimes as something old-fashioned and creative ideas can often go in that direction, which is absolutely the opposite of our mission, so we have to fight that every day.

How does a comic like The Beano compete with the likes of Marvel and DC Comics who have stepped successfully into movies and Hollywood and created a new fanbase?

We are not really in competition with them, we co-exist very happily and are very proud to be part of the global comic-inspired entertainment community.

We’re really inspired by many of the things they are doing, and of course there are similarities as we have a universe of characters too, who are equally funny looking and oddly dressed as theirs.

So of course we look at what they are doing and think how we might learn from their successes and the way they have captured the imagination of kids (and big kids) all over the globe.

How do you continue to generate a new audience?

Everything I’ve described so far builds our audiences, our awareness and our digital reach. It’s underpinned by a clear red thread of Beano that runs through everything – big laughs, unlimited creativity and everyday rebellion.

Specifically, in the digital space our growth is made by synthesising daily contact with our audience with the digital smarts of the team. Our insight and analytics loop, what we call the Beano Brain, allows us to create daily content which drives growth. Unlike with adults where trends spread like wildfire online and are immediately visible and trackable, with kids they often travel offline, through the playground, before they get manifested online – so we’ve build a unique blend of offline ethnography, digital analytics (and lots in between!) and use it to fire our content machine, which is reaping serious rewards in the UK and in the US.

What are you most proud of in your time at the company?

There are so many things that I’m proud of, it’s hard to pick one.

We’re really proud to have won a bucket load of awards this year, and particularly relevant is that we’ve won in different industries which shows the unique offer that is Beano today.  Beating BBC Three and Channel 4 to win Best Original Web Channel last month was a big moment for the whole team.

Something which I think makes me especially proud is the fact that, whilst the brand awareness in general has shot from 50% in our target audience to 75% since the launch of Beano Studios in 2016, awareness amongst girls specifically has risen from 43%-70%, which is fantastic for a supposedly “boy” brand.

This is being encouraged even more with a lot of focus being placed on strong female characters, such as Minnie’s new live action show and the creation of Mandi – a character that we have developed with YoungMinds who, whenever she appears, will experience the everyday issues that affect kids today, to help kids understand and deal with the stresses and anxieties than can be caused by them. She had her debut in our 80th birthday issue, which was guest edited by David Walliams, where she was given her first mobile phone – something a lot of children will be experiencing this summer.

As the media landscape evolves are you finding you are now going direct to clients more, or do you still go primarily through media agencies?

It can work either way. Obviously direct relations with clients are excellent, but we love working with agencies too.

We work with a range of clients – many of whom are obviously in the kids space, gaming, film, music, publishing, toy, electronics and so on – all seeking content-led ways to engage digitally with their audience.

We are also working with a number of more family driven brands in sectors like banking, retail, travel and telecoms – who are all interested in how Beano can bring families together and/or how to light the imagination of their future consumers today with digitally led content that is 100% plugged into their world.

What is the key to success as a media owner in today’s media landscape? How does an established brand like The Beano compete against new digital players?

By being a new digital player and one that, unlike others, is 100% committed to supercharging the power of kids wherever we go.

The reality is, the media industry doesn’t Think Kid enough, so children aren’t always getting the entertainment experiences they deserve in both broadcast and digital environments, not to mention the tremendously exciting blurred space in between.

The digital world where older kids (6-12s) now spend most of their time isn’t made for them. Gaming, YouTube and social media are largely designed for 13 and over – and yet children now spend more time online than on TV.

We have deliberately set up with the freedom to follow kids behaviour, and as such, we’re not trying to crowbar old business models in today’s media landscape, we work across many platforms, and even our characters are not subject to the straight-jacket that is applied by other IP owners, something which can really work for brands who work in partnership with us.


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