Our regular column shining a light on retail trends takes a look at some of the brand licensing trends in the US market.
Last month saw us attend Licensing Expo in Las Vegas to stay in the know about the hottest trends in retail. And, while we were at it, we may have indulged in a shopping spree or two nearby. Needless to say, we discovered some exciting brand licensing trends in the US market.
One of the most prominent trends we observed at the Expo and in US stores was the collaboration between brands and social media influencers. These collaborations spanned across various categories including Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, a home & lifestyle brand by TV home renovators Chip & Joanna Gaines, and several lines with American TikTok influencer and actress Tabitha Brown. Collaborations with influencers have become increasingly popular, as they offer a unique way for brands to connect with their target audience, and with the rise of influencer marketing showing no sign of stopping, we think brand licensing will continue to capitalise on it.
Another trend that caught our attention was the abundance of licensed food and drink products. From cereal to soda, there was no shortage of items on display – not surprising given that food brand licensing can be a great way of giving fans an affordable way to enjoy their favourite brand. While the UK does okay for food and drink licensing and often stocks lots of choice, the US is way ahead in both variety and volume, particularly with grocers Walmart and Target which threw their support behind certain brands. Will the UK catch up here? We think not. US retailers can merchandise stores with a stack ‘em high, impactful approach that gets attention and ensures a plentiful supply. Few UK stores have the space to do this.
As we mentioned in this column a few months back, consumers are now looking for sustainable and environmentally friendly options, and brands are responding brilliantly.
Take the biodegradable reusable drinks cooler as one very smart example.
For example, many retailers are now offering kids’ pyjamas with books – a great way for a store and/or brand to ‘own’ bedtime.
The timing of our visit meant that Pride products were very prominent. Front of store, cross-category campaigns showcasing rainbow-coloured items in support of the LGBTQ+ community were noticeable and much more prevalent than what we have seen in the UK. This trend is part of a broader shift towards inclusive branding, where brands are striving to create a more diverse and accepting image.
There was also a lot of positive messaging across products targeting children. With an increasing focus on mental health and self-esteem, many brands are creating products that offer children a sense of empowerment and confidence.
Open the Joy had a large range of products in Target including anxiety management tool kits and a Gratitude in a box kit. We also spotted children’s clothing with slogans such as ‘I will do so much, because I believe I can’ and ‘Naturally Legendary’. We love these kinds of products offering children a positive message that can help them build self-confidence and self-esteem and hope to see them in the UK very soon.
And let’s not forget Barbie. With the recent movie release, there were huge partnerships everywhere including Xbox and Barbie, GAP and Barbie, and Air BNB and Barbie for the Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu.
Our observations show that the US market is full of opportunities for brands who want to spread their wings with licensing partnerships. From teaming up with social media influencers and cross-category product bundles, to positive messaging that’s aimed at kids, all these latest trends are getting more and more popular, and they can help brands and retailers build a closer connection with their target audience.
As the licensing industry continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see what new trends emerge and how brands continue to push the boundaries of brand licensing. The US market is ripe with potential, and we look forward to seeing how brands leverage licensing partnerships to create unique and innovative products that resonate with their customers.
Spotlight.1888 was created in November 2021 to help brands and licensees with retail services, and retailers with licensing strategy.
Based on an extension of The Point.1888’s retail-first model, whereby new products are created based on the gaps seen at retail as well as what it thinks the brand’s target demographic might like, Spotlight.1888 works directly with retailers and brands to help them fill the gaps themselves using the agency’s retail team expertise.