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A proactive approach… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights some examples of licensees using newspapers and magazines to proactively market their ranges.

When choosing licensing partners and striking deals, there are undoubtedly a range of things taken into consideration. While many will disagree, it is not always a Jerry Maguire Show Me The Money style conversation. Things can be more nuanced than that and other factors are weighed up.

These can range from a licensee’s distribution capabilities through to their design acumen. There are also wider reasons for developing a licensing programme – for example, brand owners may want consumers to see their brand differently or want to gain traction in new consumer markets. Another criteria is looking at how proactive a licensee is and what contribution they will make to the sales and marketing of a licensed brand.

I was reminded of this point when reading some newspapers and magazines this week. A range of licensing deals and products caught my eye as licensees were promoting their products. Sometimes a licence doesn’t sell itself and needs a marketing push from a licensee.

DFS has been busy promoting its partnership with Grand Designs.
DFS has been busy promoting its partnership with Grand Designs.

Furniture retailer DFS has embraced licensing and has developed a range of exclusive products over recent years. This week I noticed a new brand licensing partnership being advertised in the ES Magazine. DFS has developed a Grand Designs sofa under licence from Fremantle Media. Grand Designs is a well established TV show that focuses on housebuilding and design. It has spawned other commercial partnerships such as a live event. From DFS’ point of view it is a well defined and well established media brand.

The Grand Designs range is linked to DFS’ Planting Promise campaign whereby it plants a tree for every furniture order ( this campaign is underpinned by The Woodland Trust). The Grand Designs’ products are also made from recycled plastics and sustainable materials. All these selling points were well conveyed in the full page advertisement I saw. This sort of support and proactive approach to product development would I am sure resonated well with Fremantle.

It is not a great surprise to see newspaper advertising from direct marketing companies like Westminster Collection and Bradford Exchange. Both these companies are experts in selling directly to consumers. They utilise their own databases to develop direct mail offers to consumers. But they also need to top these databases up by recruiting new consumers and, of course, reminding ‘lapsed purchasers’ about new offers. They use national newspapers and magazines to present ‘off the page’ offers most often using full page advertisements. They work closely with media owners to take advantage of short-term offers when space is available at a good price coupled with planned campaigns in more specialist titles. For example, it is not uncommon to see motoring themed products being promoted in car magazines.

Mr Benn is marking his 50th anniversary with special coins from Westminster Collection.
Mr Benn is marking his 50th anniversary with special coins from Westminster Collection.

This week I saw Westminster Collection’s Mr Benn 50p coin set advertised in the Metro newspaper. This offer caught my eye in particular as I am a Mr Benn fan. Although I did shudder when I realised Mr Benn is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year. I think I might have seen the first episode broadcast!

The coin set has been developed with the Guernsey Treasury and features Mr Benn in a number of his adventures including the time he was The Clown and The Spaceman. Mr Benn is and was multi talented. Working with a company like Westminster Collection is a very efficient way for Mr Benn’s owners to connect with fans and the fact this offer features in a national newspaper gives the brand a boost.

Bradford Exchange is bringing Thomas Kinkade into the limelight via advertising.
Bradford Exchange is bringing Thomas Kinkade into the limelight via advertising.

I also saw a Bradford Exchange advertisement in the Daily Mirror for a Thomas Kinkade Christmas Express electric train. Thomas Kinkade is a well established art brand that is particularly successful in the United States. It would probably be tough for the brand to breakthrough into the UK market via ‘conventional’ licensing channels, but working with a specialist like Bradford Exchange ensures the brand has access to a national marketplace.

I suspect the product on offer has been tried and tested in the US giving Bradford Exchange confidence in it. It may be that a campaign like Bradford Exchange’s is a gateway to other licensing opportunities. It certainly gives brings Thomas Kinkade, aka the Painter of Light, into the limelight.

Teaming with a national newspaper is a well trodden promotional path for sticker companies and collections.
Teaming with a national newspaper is a well trodden promotional path for sticker companies and collections.

Another brand and licensee combination that caught my eye in the Daily Mirror was a Panini promotion for UEFA EURO 2000 stickers. The Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror have partnered with Panini to offer reader’s free stickers in this weekend’s papers to help consumers start their collection.

This is a well trodden promotional path for sticker companies and collections. Despite changes in newspaper readership, a promotion like this is still an effective way of getting product into people’s hands and encouraging them to start a collection.

In this instance I am sure UEFA was keen to know Panini’s promotional plans and it would have been important that activity such as this was part of those plans. An old school product using old school media, but still a great example of a proactive licensee creating a buzz for a licensed product range.

Albert Einstein's appearance in the Smart Meters ad is a reminder for the potential of licensing in advertising campaigns.
Albert Einstein's appearance in the Smart Meters ad is a reminder for the potential of licensing in advertising campaigns.

Finally I also noticed a press advertisement for Smart Meters. To show I have quite an eclectic taste in newspapers and magazines, this advert was in The Times. I think my newsagent finds my mixed bag approach to publications a curiosity. Even more so when I buy my mum’s My Weekly and People’s Friend.

Anyway the Smart Meters advertisement featured Albert Einstein (or to be more accurate a very good lookalike). Einstein was used under licence from The H.U.J/Greenlight. I believe there is also a TV commercial featuring Einstein for Smart Meters.

This was a good reminder of the potential for licensing in advertising campaigns in terms of creative themes. Albert’s appearance in this campaign should give encouragement to the custodians of other ‘personality estates’ to think creatively and explore creative licensing opportunities.

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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