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Just keep swimming… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes is reminded of the intrepid Light Fund swimmers with one of his Licensing Lookout spots this week.

The intrepid Light Fund Channel swimmers were in my mind this week (who can be supported by clicking here).

As a veteran of the Maltese Islands Light Fund swim, I am full of admiration for Captain Gould’s swimming squad. It is a one hell of a challenge. At least the Maltese waters were tepid!

I was thinking of the swimmers when I popped into a leisure centre this week and spotted a merchandising display from swimming equipment specialist Zoggs. It has been involved in licensing for a while and I have spotted its products before. It is good to see it is still actively using licensing and has also stuck to the strategy of selling where the swimmers swim. There is much to admire about targeted distribution. Supplying individual leisure centres must be labour intensive, but I guess ultimately rewarding.

The current crop of Zoggs products includes Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Also rather charmingly it has a range of Aquaman products. The products include goggles, swim caps, buoyancy vests and pool toys. The products are well designed and make good use of the chosen characters. Relatively speaking, and including non-licensed product, there is a big range of product available and the product display includes a branded FSDU.

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Again the FSDU is a good example of a licensee working hard to make sure its product is seen and using a licence to the full. Zoggs and its range is a really good example of licensing being used in a smart way to make a difference in a category that has been a relatively traditional one. Returning to The Light Fund Swim, I can definitely see licensing’s very own Aquaman Stephen Gould sporting some Zoggs product as he ploughs a furrow across the Channel.

Talking of licensing and licences being used well in a focused way, it is interesting to see Sainsbury’s has returned to its character-themed loyalty scheme. It is currently running a promotion with Disney featuring Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar characters. The programme is based around a card collection and consumers receive four free cards for every £10 spent. It is heavily promoted around store with posters, shelf talkers and standees. It is certainly an in-store event. It is a promotion that Sainsbury’s has deployed before and is one that it has had success with. It is good to see it returning to it.

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It is a great example of how licensing can give a strong identity and theme to a loyalty promotion. Given the challenges faced by retailers at the moment, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more UK-based retailers deploying loyalty schemes like these. Such promotions are more common outside the UK, but it might be the time for UK retailers to consider them. It is, of course, a great showcase for licensing and I expect Disney will leverage this further. Indeed, I am sure it has tapped into its global experience to implement this promotion. I think it is important that in licensing we are prepared to gain knowledge and insight from licensing activity beyond the UK.

The food and FMCG category continues to be quite a dynamic one in regards to brand licensing and collaborations. Manufacturers are looking to create fresh and innovative products to keep ahead of competitors and to engage with consumers. A lot of food and drink companies are heavy users of social media and these platforms need a constant top up of engaging content. Brand partnerships can help here and are a relatively safe bet in terms of NPD.

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Two examples I spotted recently illustrate this kind of development well. Costa Coffee has introduced a Terry’s Chocolate Orange Brownie within its coffee shops. This deal gives Costa a premium style product featuring a well-known brand and creates a point of difference in a competitive market. I guess it needs to find ways of encouraging people back into store – free coffee loyalty schemes are one technique but introducing new products are another.

Krispy Kreme is no stranger to licensing and partnerships including licensing out the brand. It seems to use collaborations as a way into new flavours and to stay on trend in regards to food trends. It has recently introduced a Toffee Crisp flavoured and branded doughnut. Again, this is a safe bet in terms of brand awareness and the flavour profile – Toffee Crisp is a well established brand. It creates a strong point of difference and should bring in new consumers. For brands like Terry’s and Toffee Crisp, this sort of deal allows them to breakout of their core area and to feature in new categories that are in growth or on trend. It allows them to extend their brands in a controlled way but also learn more about their brand and how it works in other adjacent categories.

It is always good to see new developments in retail and new examples of themed retail offerings. This week I got to visit the Rolling Stones shop on Carnaby Street. Not sure if this is a pop-up store with a limited run or a more permanent store; it may even by something in between – the retail rules and norms are shifting at the moment.

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I am not a die hard Rolling Stones fan but I have a very good friend who is. He has also visited the shop and enjoyed his visit. I think his review was that it was on brand, had some great merchandise but he didn’t buy anything as he felt some items were a little top heavy price wise. Sample of one of course, but it does represent one of the challenges of this style of retailing striking the balance between it being a visitor experience and being a functioning shop.

My view was that the product mix was good especially the apparel, but arguably there could have been a few more mid-priced items. There were some great designs on t-shirts and I guess one other challenge is having enough new product that will interest fans but also be stuff they haven’t seen before. It is also important to remember that an activation like this one can act as a catalyst for a wider programme and also inspire other retailers. It has a real value in that regard.

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Interestingly it was a bit of a Rolling Stones takeover in Carnaby Street as there was a Ronnie Wood art show on as well. Ronnie, as noted before, is an accomplished artist and has forged a successful career in that field. Will be interesting to see if he takes this into licensing. I think it could work in certain categories.

I certainly expect to see more pop-up retailing ventures centred on well-known IP. I think this is a really strong opportunity for licensing at the moment.

Who knows, we may even see Mr Gould starring as Aquaman in a store near you one day. Thinking about it, he doesn’t need much encouragement so maybe I shouldn’t have made that suggestion…

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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