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’emoji can be an evergreen lifestyle brand’

It’s World Emoji Day, so we chat to ceo and founder Marco Hüsges about his ambitious plans.

While emoticons have been around for some time, in licensing terms the emoji brand was created in the year 2013.

“Our vision was to transport the communicative power of using icons in digital communication within the field of merchandising and licensing under one umbrella brand,” explains Marco Hüsges, ceo and founder of emoji. “It took us almost two years to make our vision come true. The emoji brand was launched during Las Vegas Licensing Show in 2015.”

With a staggering 560 core licensees under its belt globally since launch, the power of the brand is undeniable.

For Marco the emoji brand perfectly unites the most fundamental aspects of a lifestyle brand; it stands for variety, creativity, fun and quality. He comments: “There is no better way to express your feelings and emotions than saying it with emoji. There are no boundaries in communication and the message gets spread in a simple, clean and understandable way which gives the brand its universal power.”

Key licensing partnerships globally include programmes with Nestle for shaped water bottles, a global deal with Ferrero (Kinder Joy), fashion collaborations with Zara, DeFacto, Cotton On and C&A, as well as DTR arrangements with retailers such as Walmart.

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The licensing activity is managed by 21 agents all around the world and the emoji company has offices in Germany and North America and will soon expand into Asia to give more local support to its partners in the region. Bravado became the licensing agent for the emoji brand for the UK and the Nordics in January 2017.

The UK licensing business has really grown in the last year with the licensee count now reaching some 35 partners. “Most recently we have signed some great licences with Lazerbuilt (audio and travel equipment), Zimpli Kids (baff products), GA Global (collectable pins and charms) and even for a hot air balloon with Lindstrandtech,” Marco explains. Bravado has also teamed with high-end fashion designer Edward Crutchley for a new contemporary collection featuring the emoji brand.

The collaboration – which debuted on the London Fashion Week Men catwalk – is the second for the emoji brand in the luxury market. Selecting icons from the official library of more than 7,000 icons that support the narrative and storytelling around this season’s theme, Edward contrasts what appears to be a classically inspired print story with flashes from the present day.

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Marco outlines that the focus in the UK next year is to continue to grow the emoji licensed programme across core categories and also more fun and innovative product categories. “We are especially looking to expand into health and beauty and toy industries as emoji lends itself perfectly to these categories as a fun, expressive way to connect to consumers,” he says.

While the emoji may have spawned from our evolving technology and the changing landscape of communication, Marco is confident that the brand can withstand any seismic shifts in the world of mobile technology. “Even though the mobile landscape does change we are confident that communication by using icons will remain part of our lives,” he assures. “In fact, we are sure that the usage of icons within digital communication will increase even more. In today´s world where all of us are overloaded by information and have less and less time, the usage of icons is convenient, fast and has simply become a habit of mankind.”

He also points out that while technology limits the amount of icons that are available on your smartphone, the emoji company has no limits when it comes down to variety. Currently there are more than 10,000 icons, characters and patterns all protected under applicable copyright laws and available for legitimate licensing, which is more than three times more than what is available on people´s smartphones. And the demand for new content is high. “We constantly listen to the requests from end users and continuously build new icons and style guides,” says Marco.

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At present the company is working on some strategic partnerships and it is focusing on opening up its own emoji mono-brand stores. Moving even further ahead Marco has more ambitious plans to establish emoji as an evergreen lifestyle brand in the market.

“Together with our licensees we aim to offer quality product and to create a sustainable business which is all that matters,” he promises. “The variety with regard to our content is the foundation to develop highly diversified product which will lead to fun and excitement for the consumer. For this we aim to build a whole lifestyle experience that includes games, music, apps etc. We want to connect people to the brand and make them happy whenever they connect with emoji.”

Content too will be a driver for the future success of the brand and Marco reveals that they are analysing their options for coming up with an animated series and to develop a musical.

“Such projects do take its time as it is vital to come up with the right content strategy and to create a meaningful statement,” he says.

emoji stateside

The emoji brand is going down a storm in the US, with Global Merchandising Services – which manages the property in the territory – brokering over 42 deals to date.

Deals have been struck across categories including apparel, backpacks, accessories, back to school, cosmetics, sleepwear and party goods.
Most recently, Global has secured a worldwide partnership with Leng Universal for an extensive line of kids, junior and young men’s denim and knit apparel, due to launch in the summer.

In addition, this year will see the arrival of a range of emoji products in Cotton On’s 1,500+ stores. The line will include apparel and accessories, as well as novelty and stationery items.

On top of this, World Tech Toys has recently introduced its line of remote control toys.

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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