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Feeling the love… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes checks out some examples of romantic licensing from the industry this week.

As someone approaching the veteran stage in my licensing career, I often get asked what has changed since you started. And no, colour TV isn’t the answer.

There are, of course, lots of changes that have happened and most of them are welcome changes. One key thing I have noticed is that the industry is better at preparing for and focusing on specific opportunities, whether this is an annual seasonal event or a trend driven opportunity. There is a more focused and planned approach to licensing campaigns and the support materials such as design. This includes very specific events like Valentine’s Day.

I remember about 20 years ago being in New York on Valentine’s Day and visiting some stores the day after. It was a bit of an ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ moment. There were heart shaped boxes of chocolates on deep discount and within the discounted ranges were some Elvis licensed chocolates – they too were in heart shaped boxes, but these boxes played Love Me Tender! Probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t hit the mark in the store I visited and the chocolates were being sold off at $1 a box.

While it may not have been the best selling line in the store I visited, what did stick in my mind was that it was a creative example of companies using licensing to create a focused offer for Valentine’s Day. Thinking of those singing chocolate boxes has always encouraged me to seek out contemporary examples.

Krispy Kreme has developed a limited edition range of doughnuts.
Krispy Kreme has developed a limited edition range of doughnuts.

I have spotted a couple in the food category this year which show licensing in a great light.

The first of these is a limited edition range from Krispy Kreme. It has developed a range of Love Hearts doughnuts for Valentines. This is a great use of the iconic Love Hearts brand and a really strong piece of NPD. I imagine a lot of doughnut shopping is carried out online at the moment and this range looks good on screen – it is an easy to understand idea and fits the tone of Valentine’s Day well. I imagine Krispy Kreme will be promoting this heavily through social media and it will be creating good connections for it beyond Valentine’s Day.

Consumers can choose to buy a Valentine’s Dozen featuring Love Hearts messages. The slogans include BFF, Sweet Heart and Happy. There is also the option to buy three Love Hearts decorated ring doughnuts in a pack. These packs will be available in Krispy Kreme cabinets or can be bought online. For Love Hearts it is a great way of the brand being active outside of the confectionery aisles, reinforces the fact it is a fun brand and also confirms its Valentine’s credentials. It is great exposure for Love Hearts and I am sure it will provoke other discussions with other food companies and licensees from other categories. It is a great partnership to point to for it.

Baileys is reprising its Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Hearts.
Baileys is reprising its Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Hearts.

The other example I spotted features Baileys, a brand that is very proactive in the licensing market particularly in the food aisles. It has seized upon the opportunity that Valentines provides for treat and indulgent products.

It is marketing a range of ‘indulgent treat’ chocolate cupcakes and also reprising Baileys Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Hearts. These are milk chocolate shells encasing strawberries and cream filling presented in heart shaped foils. The chocolates are available in Asda and other retailers.

Again, this is a great example of a brand and a licensee using a brand in a strategic way to take advantage of a particular theme and using it to dial up its brand credentials. The products are really well presented and sell themselves well.

Personalisation is an increasing move by brand owners seeking to engage consumers with unique opportunities.
Personalisation is an increasing move by brand owners seeking to engage consumers with unique opportunities.

I also noticed that Cadbury’s is offering a range of personalised chocolate gift boxes for Valentines.

While this is not an example of licensing, it is a really good example of the increasing move to personalisation by brand owners seeking to engage consumers with unique opportunities. Examples in the range include a box of Crunchies and a giant personalised Dairy Milk bar. There is a range of personalisation options available with these products and this is a significant part of their appeal. It is a great way of well known brands leveraging their brand equity and playing a role in the Valentines’ occasion.

I think it always worthwhile looking outside the licensing bubble at what brands are doing in their world.

Moonpig features licensed cards tailored especially for Valentine's Day.
Moonpig features licensed cards tailored especially for Valentine's Day.

Of course, a core part of the Valentines’ experience is sending and (hopefully) receiving cards. Unsurprisingly card companies like Moonpig and Danilo are active in the market.

I would imagine Valentines is a massive retail moment for Moonpig. It is well placed to offer consumers a range of gift, card and personalisation options and is also expert at upselling and cross selling. Among the licensed Valentine’s cards on the site were good examples of design being tailored to the occasion including Wonder Woman, Dumbo and Super Mario.

Danilo's ranges shows how popular brands can be adapted to suit the occasion.
Danilo's ranges shows how popular brands can be adapted to suit the occasion.

Danilo’s range includes Wallace from Wallace & Gromit – a great example of adapting a design to suit the occasion – here there is a bespoke slogan ‘I think you’re absolutely crackin’ – while the licensee’s use of Peaky Blinders in this category shows how popular brands can be adapted to suit the occasion, even if at first glance you wouldn’t think them Valentine’s friendly. Danilo has also included Valentine’s cards from children to Mummy and Daddy. Within this category licensing provides a great creative push with characters such as PAW Patrol featuring.

In both the case of Moonpig and Danilo, it is clear that there have been proactive conversations at the NPD stage about developing products and designs that are fit for purpose and, I am guessing in some cases, rights holders have shown some flexibility to accommodate the opportunity. It is a great example of licensor and licensee being practical and seizing on an opportunity in a proactive way.

It seems a long time ago that I was mulling over buying a Love Me Tender box of chocolates for Mrs Downes – I wisely decided not to buy a box and hand it over after the big day. Discounted musical chocolates don’t send out the right signal (nor sound). I think I sent flowers on the day. At least I hope I did. Anyway there is no excuse this year not to do your bit for romance and licensing!

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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