Educational Properties with a Human Touch

Several educational brands based on individual people or personas have recently signed licensing deals for products that help children learn at home or in school. Some of the properties are based on real people, some are characters created and performed by real people, and some are wholly fictional, educator-created brands. But all have positionings that are akin to a favorite and fun teacher.

Properties that have entered into product partnerships in the last few years—all in a limited way via closely aligned categories—have established their names in different ways, whether through YouTube, live events, streamed entertainment, and/or digital or physical products:

  • Ms. Rachel is a YouTube educator known for her music-based language-development series for infants and toddlers, Songs for Littles. She was a music teacher in New York City public schools before launching her YouTube channel in 2019 and seeing it take off in popularity during the pandemic. In November 2023, Ms. Rachel announced a deal with Spin Master, brokered by CAA, for a line of developmental and early learning toys, including puzzles, plush, learning aids, roleplay toys, playsets, and vehicles.
  • Flay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé are drag educators and entertainers (played by JP Kane and Kaleb Robertson, respectively) who have hosted popular drag story times in Toronto since 2016 and debuted as the stars of Sinking Ship Entertainment’s and Lopii Productions’ The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy in 2022. The series, which airs on Family Jr. in Canada and features a variety-show format that educates and entertains, all with a focus on inclusivity and acceptance, has been picked up for a second season. In early 2023, Sinking Ship licensed Mango Publishing to release children’s books, starting with The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy Presents: The Fabulous Book About Family.
  • Blippi, created and originally played by Stevin John, was introduced in a YouTube series in 2014 and quickly grew in popularity, eventually joining the Moonbug Entertainment family in 2020. The series helps preschoolers explore the world around them. In 2021 the franchise began adding other hosts, including Clayton Grimm, who joins John in playing Blippi, and Blippi Buddies (Meekah and Juca to date), who interact with Blippi and host their own content. The core YouTube episodes have been joined by spin-off series, stage shows, and more. The licensing program is well-developed; deals in 2023 included a line of merchandise in collaboration with Liverpool FC in England, Evite for digital invitations, and a new master licensee in Spin Master, which replaces Jazwares in that role.
  • Mrs. Wordsmith is an educational content brand, co-founded by entrepreneur and writer Sofia Fenichell in 2015. It consists of humorous books, games, and apps designed to help kids aged 4-11 learn reading and writing, used at school and at home in the U.K. and U.S. The creative team includes both educators and people with experience in Hollywood productions, with a goal of creating literacy resources that are high quality not only in education content but also entertainment value. In 2022, the Mrs. Wordsmith brand partnered with Penguin Random House imprint DK to create a publishing program for North American and U.K. consumers, encompassing workbooks, vocabulary and story-writing books, word-a-day pads, and card games.
  • Steve Spangler is a teacher, educational science book author, TV science host, and head of the Sick Science! YouTube channel. He gained fame when his Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, televised in 2002, went viral in 2005, leading to a licensing deal with Mentos-maker Perfetti Van Melle and the launch of Steve Spangler Science, a line of science toys. Spangler led the company until selling it to Excelligence Learning Corporation’s Really Good Stuff in 2018; the brand is still ongoing and is sold in teacher stores, at consumer retail, and as subscription science kits. In 2021, Steve Spangler Science partnered with Kahoot! Academy to develop a collection of 40 online STEM games aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards for use in school curricula and at home.
  • Bill Nye is a mechanical engineer who gained fame as the host of Bill Nye the Science Guy on public television in the 1990s and continues to promote science through books, streaming TV series, and TV appearances. His small licensing program has included products ranging from virtual-reality science kits with Abacus Brands, which launched in 2020 as Abacus’ first licensed products and are still going strong, to bow ties with Nick Graham in 2015, inspired by Nye’s signature look.

Educational personas like these and others are not new, of course. Mr. Wizard (a.k.a. Don Herbert) was the star of Watch Mr. Wizard in the 1950s, when products such as science kits were on the market. Fred Rogers starred in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS from 1968 to 2001 and has had a number of licensed products through the years, with items such as Papersalt’s inspirational journals and Running Press’ mini kits among the items (mostly for nostalgic adults) still sold today.

The difference between classics like these and the current crop of educational personas and brands is that, thanks to the internet, the latter have lower barriers to entry and more avenues to gain enough fame to extend into licensed products such as those listed here.

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