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‘Licensed product will have to work harder to capture the consumer’s attention’

Louise Hinds and Louise Nixon, co-founders of Blue Chalk Design, on why an effective style guide is more vital than ever.

Unlocking the potential in licensed product

The last few years have seen a big change in how consumers buy. Now, with the current situation, comes an even bigger challenge.

Today more than ever, licensed product will have to work harder to capture the consumer’s attention. With generic product looking so strong and being offered at such a competitive price, licensed product needs to offer more than just value in order to get the consumer buying.

The benefits of an effective style guide

The market has become saturated with licensed product that looks too similar. Retailers have become risk-averse preferring to stick to core graphics and colours they know sell well, instead of exploring different routes.

When looking at the difference in styling on products from a low price to a high-end retailer, there simply isn’t much between them.

But with direct-to-consumer, high street and online all fighting for consumer spend, the market is more saturated than ever before. That’s why it’s so important for retailers to set themselves apart. They need to have their own unique selling point, whether that’s through price, styling, innovation, collaborations or product category.

When a retailer takes a risk it can really pay off, offering the consumer something they cannot get anywhere else. This can be through the styling and colour palette of the product, or the graphics, such as using secondary characters from a licence.

Take designer collaborations, for example. The product that comes out of these often inspires retail designs in the following season. However, if retailers instead create their own exclusive look, they can offer aspirational product that competes directly with the big name designers.

What’s the secret to creating these winning designs and products? Effective style guides. When potentialised by licensees and retailers in product creation, a fit-for-purpose style guide acts as a key to unlocking exceptional design work.

Creating style guides that work

The current global situation is leading to smaller teams, which means time is tight. As such, creative assets will be lifted from style guides and not worked in to enough, so designs lack originality and customers are uninspired.

Retailers and licensees need to potentialise product categories and the opportunities these could bring, from gifting through to homeware, rather than just focusing on apparel. For this to happen, the tools that the licensor provides in style guides need to be fit for purpose.

In a world where no one has time, the style guide needs to deliver creative assets and product mock ups that ignite imagination. Ensuring that trends and graphics are relevant to the age and region to create commercial product.

Licensors shouldn’t create new style guides for the sake of it. Why not refresh core guides and work into existing trends and themes that have worked well?

Product mock up pages are key to showing how graphics can be interpreted to different looks, across multiple product categories.

These are testing times for everyone in our industry, but with the right tools and a focus on great product we’ll be better equipped for the future ahead.

Blue Chalk Design is an agency offering creative services for licensors, licensees and retailers, offering a flexible service at any part of the design process. You can contact Louise Hinds by clicking here.

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