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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes unearths a new food collab and visits The Stationery Show.

Collabarations or ‘collabs’ seem to be all the rage in licensing these days, especially in the apparel category. It is never totally clear on what basis these partnerships are founded – whether they are royalty generating, PR-based arrangements or indeed if money flows from IP owner to designer, but they do certainly seem to be populating the market more and more. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops and ultimately it’s lasting value for brands.


However in the meantime, ‘collabs’ are not confined to the fashion aisles. The food sector seems quite fond of them as well. Here I suspect the motivation is that food producers are looking to create ‘breakthrough’ products that interest consumers and are centred on interesting flavours and recipes.

One such example is Freshfield Farm Crisps collab with brewer Adnams. The crisp company has created Ghost Ship crisps flavoured with the Suffolk brewer’s well known Pale Ale. The packaging uses the ale iconic ship logo prominently and the product is authentically flavoured. As the packaging calls out ‘A pint of beer and a packet of crisps – what a winning combination’. It is likely that this is a long-term partnership rather than a short term deal, but either way this is an interesting example of two brands coming together to create an original product.

I was also pleased to see a good example of a retailer loyalty scheme with licensing at its core. The East of England Co-Op (you might start to guess where I was last week) is running an in-store promotion featuring star chef Gordon Ramsey and his cookware range. Consumers can buy the cookware product at discount prices in conjunction with loyalty points/stickers earned based on purchasing.

The promotion is prominently displayed in-store and communicated in window displays. It is a compelling offer and it is hard to miss a grinning Gordon! The promotion was set up by The Continuity Company and is a reminder of a time when licensing-based loyalty schemes were quite common in retail – remember things like World Cup coin collections.

I think these sort of schemes are a great way for licensing to add value and to give retailers an edge. A well thought through collectable programme can make a great difference at retail. This promotion is targeting adults but similar schemes can be developed for other audiences. Indeed the same retailer is currently running a generic character based promotion for children focussed on gardening with ‘free’ seed kits and so on.


I visited the London Stationery Show this week. A really well focused show that manages to collect together a range of very interesting companies. While it is hard to gauge the true value of a trade show as a non-exhibitor, I think the strength of this show is it’s focus and the fact it is very well curated with a good mix of exhibitors.

Over the years there has been a growing presence of licensed products at the show – reflecting a slight shift in the exhibitors who attend and perhaps the fact that stationery seems to be going through a positive period of growth at the moment.

Key highlights for me were Maped Helix’s Star Wars range – it has gone back to its own archive and reintroduced a range using Star Wars designs from 40 years ago. The design is as you would expect, classic with a real ‘retro’ feel – it is a very clever idea and I think genuinely brings something fresh to the Star Wars programme. I believe it has been well received.


It was also good to see the Matt Sewell’s Birds stationery range from Go Stationery ‘go’ from strength to strength. The range is growing and seems to be gaining more momentum art retail. This is a really good example of how licensing rights can be developed from the publishing sector, not least as book retailers offer a fantastic starting point for a programme to be built from – book retailers are increasingly looking to sell non-book items, but want to sell product that fits in their stores and broadly speaking offers something different to mass retail’s offerings.

A point here is that licensing needs to be aware that there could be retailer and consumer fatigue if the same items, designs and ranges appear everywhere.


With this in mind it is always good to see how the V&A Museum tackles licensing. It seems to be on point in terms of blending in new designs and working with licensing partners who can create good quality product at competitive price points that reaches a good range of retailers.

It is a really well managed programme. Quadrille’s V&A range of notebooks and address books caught my eye at the show and I thought represented a really good use of a heritage licence.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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