Start Licensing’s Ian Downes reflects on the changing face of Christmas traditions and how retail is using all its powers to cut through with consumers this festive season.
One of my Christmas traditions is to buy the Christmas Radio Times. I am sure I am not alone in this. In my case this stretches back many years and was fired up by a desire to go through it with a pen to mark with an asterix all the programmes and films I wanted to watch. It was a real sense of excitement and anticipation.
Remember that these were the days of fewer TV channels, no streaming services and one TV per household. Broadcasters held back blockbuster films to screen on Christmas Day and these became events. I spent time as a TV time buyer before plunging into licensing and I remember how much time we spent scrutinising the Christmas schedules to plan campaigns specifically to avoid our advertising clashing with BBC shows like Only Fools and Horses which hoovered up audiences.
Indeed one year myself and a colleague put our expert knowledge to good use and scooped quite a big bet on which show would get the highest ratings over Christmas. It was, of course, Only Fools and Horses. These days the broadcast landscape is different and how we consume TV is very different, but I still go through the Radio Times and make my programming picks. These days I also scan the pages with a Licensing Lookout outlook as well. It is always interesting to see what some of the TV highlights might be licensing wise.
Film highlights include Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon being shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day while shows like Call the Midwife, The Witcher and Strictly Come Dancing all make appearances. The BBC will also be screening the animation of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse. This is a good example of a programme that has event potential and it is encouraging to see the BBC supporting programming like this. It was also interesting to see broadcasters like Disney, Paramount and Netflix using the Radio Times to promote their channel and content. A reminder that channels have to work harder to attract and keep audiences these days. Not sure predicting ratings would be a good betting market these days.
It was also interesting to see licensing crop up in the Radio Times in other ways. It is a good time to influence people’s plans for 2023 so it is not unexpected to see events, shows and concerts being advertised in the Radio Times.
Ecover’s promotion with Mr Men and Little Miss was also being advertised in the magazine with a full page advertisement featuring Little Miss Waste Less. The advertisement included text written in Mr Men and Little Miss style and the page set up like a book page with the addition of a QR code which allows consumers to scan to read the Little Miss Waste book. A great blending of classic characters with new technology. There was also a promotion for Penguin’s Taskmaster tie in book. The Christmas Radio Times ‘free’ book offer seems to have become a tradition as well. Given the reach of the Christmas Radio Times it is a great platform for publishers to promote books on.
Of course, retailers are fully into the swing of Christmas and are engaging with consumers in a variety of ways.
Iceland has built a strong portfolio of licensed brands in recent times and in many cases developing exclusive ranges. Christmas is a key trading period for it with family dining, parties and entertaining creating increased demand (and opportunity). Iceland has leveraged its licences accordingly. Brands that feature in the ‘Exclusive to Iceland’ range include Harry Ramsden’s, TGI Fridays, Cathedral City Cheese and Branston. Iceland uses the brands it works with well, developing new product formats and tapping into the party market well with party ready products. It also supports the product well in-store with clear and bold signage coupled with building ranges in-depth. Its formats also show a lot of innovation and are refreshed quite regularly. Consumers are looking for new ideas and also variety – Iceland and its licensed products provide both.
It is a busy time for retailers and a challenging time. One category of retail that are working hard to stand out currently are ecommerce retailers. In general terms there seems to be more licensing activity in this sector, not least as well chosen licences can help the retailers cut through and create consumer connections.
This week Rampley & Co launched its range of Ashmolean Museum silk pocket squares. This is a deal I put together and it has been interesting to see the level of knowledge and insight Rampley has in regards to its customers, their interests and what motivates them to purchase. Rampley & Co uses techniques such as editorially rich e-newsletters and video content to promote the ranges and to educate consumers with style tips. This level of engagement with consumers and consumer insight is tailor made for licensing and heritage licensing in particular.
A real benefit of the rise of licensing uptake from ecommerce companies has been an increased opportunity to work in a bespoke way and to curate collections efficiently. It is also good to see how ecommerce operators like TruffleShuffle and Lost Universe use licensed products to showcase their product offering with ranges being highlighted in their newsletters, on social media and on their websites.
Having retailers like these two involved in licensing has helped IP owners build broader ranges and to also activate their back catalogues. The increase in TV channels and services has certainly helped in driving interest in a broader range of IP across different genres, but also given new life to a lot of classic content.
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.