John Lewis and Waitrose “SuperBear” Challenge enthuses kids – but raises creative concerns

Reaction to a John LewisFeel Good Friday” challenge asking kids to design a SuperBear for Christmas may have proved a bit mixed in some quarters, but it hasn’t dampened kids’ enthusiasm to take part.

John Lewis "Superbear" Competition 2020

Utilising the hashtag DesignYourSuperBear, John Lewis announced the launch of a competition to find a superhero teddy bear, and that they needed kids help designing it. The winning teddy will be sold in John Lewis and Waitrose shops later this year, with 100 per cent of the profits going to the NHS.

“In honour of our incredible carers at the NHS, we need designs for superhero-themed bears,” the company briefed aspiring artists. “Don’t feel like you have to stick to the traditional brown bear – we want to see all kinds of super teddies.

“Try and incorporate unique elements through colours, patterns, capes, masks – whatever feels exciting for you, but please avoid using any recognisable icons in your designs, such as the ‘NHS’ lettering or Superman logos.”

Pointing to the estimated £7 million cost of last year’s “Excitable Edgar” campaign, while welcoming the creative challenge for kids, some on social media suggested this might be a pretty inexpensive way to find a new mascot for the companies involved. Not least because John Lewis and Waitrose have not even hinted at a prize of any kind for the winning entry.

John Lewis will have begun the campaign now – despite prevailing concerns about the Coronavirus Pandemic – in order to ensure “SuperBear” can be manufactured in time for Christmas.

Sam Morgan Moore, owner of FrameDogs, for example, felt the “money could be used to pay a designer”.

“A lovely idea, but the NHS is not a charity and we have to stop looking at it as though it were,” said Twitter user Katie, responding to the company’s promotion for the SuperBear project. Her concerns were shared by a number of Twitter users.

Excitable Edgar, star of last year’s John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas campaign
Excitable Edgar, star of last year’s John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas campaign

The very thought that Excitable Edgar the dragon, the star of John Lewis and Waitrose’s festive fairytale last year, might not be back dominated responses from many.

“Can’t we keep Edgar,” pleaded The Happy Farmers” from deepest Somerset, “as we have loads of chocolate ones we brought after Christmas last year in the sale, everyone we knew had them for Easter as locked in and loved them.”

YouGov research last year revealed that “Excitable Edgar’ drove more awareness than its retail rivals. The Drum reported the fiery dragon mascot also fought off stiff competition from Kevin the Carrot to take the crown for the most beloved brand mascot of 2019.

There’s no official word on whether he’ll be back.

SuperBear by Martha Ennis, age 4
SuperBear by Martha Ennis, age 4
“Super Danger Bear”, a SuperBear design by Caitlyn, age 11
This bear by Luca Deakin is an endangered white spirit bear. When you give the bear a hug it uses the power of words to help build resilience in children of all ages, around the world! Its superpower is its voice!
This bear by Luca Deakin is an endangered white spirit bear. When you give the bear a hug it uses the power of words to help build resilience in children of all ages, around the world! Its superpower is its voice!

Many felt the Challenge should be seen as a bit of fun for kids caught up in the current lockdown, however, and teachers and others were quickly encouraging children to take part.

“Good on you Waitrose to try to brighten a child’s life and get them motivated instead of moping around,” enthused Christina Mac, from Yorkshire. “That’s not being crass or taking this situation lightly of course not, but we all need a bit of light in our lives and hopefully a better future in all of this sadness and gloom.”

You can read the Twitter discussion here – and see some early entries

• The full details and a downloadable Teddy Bear template are here: jland.partners/FeelGoodFriday | Share your designs through a public Instagram or Twitter account using the hashtag #DesignYourSuperBear by 8th May 2020

Excitable Edgar still has his own official Facebook Page

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



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1 reply

  1. “Sam Morgan Moore, owner of FrameDogs, for example, felt the “money could be used to pay a designer”.”

    Reading through this, what came across was that the last thing needed was a ‘professional’ designer. But I suppose there are money-starved designers in their wretched sink-estates garrets, surviving on cabbage water and stale bread; people for whom John Lewis is a world away. Did no one asks the People’s Designer: Banksy?

    I should add, throughout the CV19 crisis (yes, it is a crisis), whatever anyone has done or tried to do, there are legions of those who claim to know better than the people those gainsayers put into office to deal with day-to-day governmnent, or the professionals whose job it is to work through the pandemic.

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