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“Licensing is finding a way of succeeding and being relevant”… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights how licensing is playing a significant role in parts of the market like destination stores, specialist retail, theatre shows and theme parks.

Last week, my Lookout focused on the different types of licences and licensing coming into play in the market these days. My Lookout observations this week have further reinforced that view, while also demonstrating how licensing and brand partnerships are making an impact in business sectors like the FMCG sector.

It is always good to see that partnerships have worked and that there is repeat business happening in the market. Being able to point to success stories always helps when selling the licensing model to companies.

The Diet Coke and Kate Moss partnership continues from last year's successful collaboration.
The Diet Coke and Kate Moss partnership continues from last year's successful collaboration.

One success seems to be the partnership forged between Diet Coke and Kate Moss. Diet Coke is working with Kate Moss to create and curate a ‘Love What You Love’ Season 2 campaign following on from last year’s successful collaboration.

It is good to see campaigns like this being extended. Indeed, from a practical level it is worth noting that it can be much more efficient to renew and extend deals than constantly look for new partners. As an industry we need to value the benefits of nurturing relationships.

The campaign is a good example of how FMCG brands are harnessing the power of celebrity.
The campaign is a good example of how FMCG brands are harnessing the power of celebrity.

Sticking with the drinks category – it has been hot this week after all – I  saw that Monster Energy is working with Lewis Hamilton on a Lewis Hamilton Zero Sugar Monster Energy product. The partnership was promoted prominently in the trade magazine The Grocer and is a high profile partnership. Rather like the Kate Moss partnership, it is a really good example of how FMCG brands are harnessing the power of celebrity to help sell their products.

In the case of the Lewis Hamilton partnership, it is easy to imagine it developing further and featuring in other categories such as apparel. Celebrities can achieve real cut through in crowded marketplaces and immediately instil credibility to a product.

The energy drinks market is an ultra competitive one and pricing within it can be a key issue. Working with Lewis Hamilton has helped Monster Energy create a clear point of difference, build brand value and trade beyond price. Lewis Hamilton is a high achiever and a trend setter – a great combination in this context.

LL2Sticking with celebrities and endorsements, I saw that Marks & Spencer is still working with TV personality and sommelier Fred Sirieix. I first noticed Fred’s Wine List in M&S some time ago. Fred selects and recommends wines which are promoted in-store in combination with branded FSDUs. The partnership is also promoted online and in other ways by the retailer. It has seemingly been a success.

I imagine a key part of its success is Fred’s hands on involvement in the collaboration, his knowledge of the subject and the fact that it is a great fit. A buzz word in licensing these days seems to be ‘authenticity’ and the partnership is one that is very authentic. It is credible and progressive. It is also one that gives M&S scope to talk about its products in a range of ways and engage with consumers in a new ways taking advantage of opportunities such as online.

The partnership is a useful one to point to as a model that could be replicated in different product categories and retail settings. Indeed, examples like WH Smith’s Richard & Judy Book Club reinforce this point and show how celebrities can be used to help build a relationship with consumers giving them confidence when making purchasing choices in crowded or confusing market sectors.

LL1One of the benefits of being a long-term Lookout is that you do get a sense of what seems to be succeeding in the market – often a judgement based on a product’s longevity in the market. Using longevity as the benchmark, I think the Happy Socks partnership with The Beatles seems to be working. I noticed the range again this week prominently displayed in the window of a branch of Happy Socks. It is a great example of how a range can be developed and worked over the long-term. Clearly a band with such a rich history as The Beatles delivers a lot of creative depth and inspiration to licensing.

Having watched a few of the acts at Glastonbury this week it is clear that there is an ongoing consumer appetite for music which is translating well into licensing. This seems to be especially the case among artists regarded as ‘legends’. Indeed, I spotted that the Glastonbury headliner Elton John has a pop-up shop in Soho selling his Elton John eyewear range. As always it is difficult to know the business set up behind this shop, but what it does show is how music ‘brands’ like Elton can inspire product ranges and product development. They are also good ‘brands’ to work with at retail – creating the opportunity for retail operators to deliver a shopping experience and create destination stores.

I would imagine Elton’s eyewear shop was very busy this week with people’s interest piqued by his Glasto performance. Based on their Glastonbury performances and social media response to them my other two acts to ‘lookout’ for are Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Rick Astley. Both seemed to have good Glastonburys and it will be interesting to see if this leads onto any licensing activity.

LL4Another licensing sector that seems to be delivering a lot of new business to the market, while also pushing licensing in new creative directions is ‘live’ licensing.

This week I noticed two very interesting examples of licensing being used in the sector. I should emphasise I am yet to experience them myself. I noticed that The Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo is presenting a production of Mog – The Forgetful Cat in July.

This is a production based on Judith Kerr’s books and is licensed by Harper Collins. 2023 marks 100 years since the birth of Judith Kerr and the production seems to be a noteworthy way of marking the anniversary.

LL3Emphasising the diversity of opportunities in the ‘live’ licensing space, I also noticed that Chessington World of Adventures has just launched the world’s first Jumanji rollercoaster alongside a fully themed Jumanji world at Chessington. I picked up on this via a poster I spotted at my local railway station. The power of advertising. Checking online, this appears to be a really in depth partnership and activation including elements such as themed Jumanji bedrooms in Chessington’s on site hotel. Chessington is a theme park operator which has long-term experience of licensing and knows the value it can bring it. Committing to this kind of partnership is a major initiative and would have been well thought through. It is a great example of what is possible in this space and how licensing can be used creatively to deliver a unique proposition in another market that is fiercely competitive.

In a week when there were press reports that Boots the retailer may be closing stores, I took some encouragement from seeing examples of licensing partnerships that appear to be working and also seeing licensing playing a significant role in parts of the market like destination stores, specialist retail sectors, theatre shows and theme parks.

The traditional retail market may be challenging, but licensing is finding a way of succeeding and being relevant beyond this in other ways. It is also showing what value it can bring to a partnership. It is probably a good time to point to success stories and celebrate those as an industry.

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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