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Mr Bright Side: Patrik Wilkens, vp of operations at TheSoul Publishing, on the company’s expansion into licensing

Established in 2016, global media publisher TheSoul Publishing has achieved phenomenal success in the online space, reaching over two billion subscribers around the world through its channels 5-Minute Crafts, Bright Side, 123 GO! and more.

Patrik Wilkens, the company’s vice president of operations, speaks to about TheSoul Publishing’s licensing programme, which launched last year, and explained how an emphasis on “promoting positivity” makes for “organic and effective” partnerships.

Can you start by telling us about TheSoul Publishing – who are you and what do you do?

We’re an award-winning digital media publisher dedicated to creating and distributing engaging, positive content for a worldwide audience. Currently, our portfolio of brands spans over two billion subscribers across various platforms, including YouTube, TikTok and Facebook, as well as distribution on various music, podcast, and streaming platforms.

At our core, we’re content creators. Our original offerings encompass a variety of videos tailored to diverse interests, from practical DIYs and life hacks to music videos to engaging family-focused animation.

We’re dedicated to sharing content driven by innovation and creativity, all facilitated by our highly efficient global production process across 70 countries and at our European studio facilities. Through proprietary technologies, state-of-the-art studios and talented teams, we consistently deliver content that resonates with audiences worldwide.

As the space has evolved, so has TheSoul. Our newly developed creative agency is growing at breakneck speed, using our content creation and dissemination expertise in both brand partnerships and brand management. Our creator services offering is now guiding individual creators to new heights. Those new practices, in addition to our acquisition of the next-generation talent management company Underscore Talent, places TheSoul firmly in the centre and at the forefront of the creator economy.

5MinuteCrafts500x500Can you give us a brief overview of what’s happened since you launched into licensing? Where does licensing fit into your overall company strategy?

Our journey into licensing began in 2022. Since then, we’ve made significant strides in forming partnerships and exploring the potential of our expansive digital presence via branded partnerships and consumer products.

We’ve entered agreements with respected licensing agents in the industry, such as J&M Brands, Caravanserai, Rocket Licensing, Burda Brand Licensing and Retail Monster. These partnerships have paved the way for key deals across Europe and the US, most notably our 5-Minute Crafts line of activity kits available at Walmart, currently rolling out across 2,400 stores in North America.

But also noteworthy are our digital licensing ventures. Collaborations with companies like QubicGames and Rovio (Angry Birds) have ushered in a new era of digital content for our audience, ranging from games on mobile devices and consoles like Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Playstation to co-branded digital initiatives.

In terms of our overall strategy, licensing plays an integral role. It provides a tangible extension to our digital content, allowing our global audience to engage with our brands in new and meaningful ways. Additionally, it strengthens our digital content’s interactivity and reach, delivering an opportunity for sustainable growth by diversifying our offerings and deepening our brand’s impact.

The Crayola collaboration has seen "incredible" results, says Patrik.
The Crayola collaboration has seen "incredible" results, says Patrik.

Do you want to talk in more detail about any particular partnerships, how they came about and what they’ve achieved?

Absolutely. There are a few recent collaborations that I’d like to point out. What’s exciting is not only do we have a portfolio of well-known IP to offer partners, but given our tremendous global reach, we simultaneously can deliver enhanced marketing support when teaming with us.

Our continued collaboration with Crayola was born out of a mutual appreciation for creativity and the potential of digital platforms. We recognised Crayola’s rich legacy in promoting creative expression, while Crayola acknowledged our expertise in creating engaging digital content. Together, we embarked on a mission to amplify Crayola’s presence on social platforms, namely YouTube, and later expanded to TikTok and Pinterest.

The results of this collaboration have been incredible. Organic views on Crayola’s YouTube channel experienced a more than 40-fold increase compared to its average monthly performance in Q4 2022, relative to April 2023. Other metrics like total watch hours and the number of published videos followed suit, showing significant growth. Additionally, our partnership fuelled a surge in new subscribers to Crayola’s YouTube channel. The collaboration has not only broadened Crayola’s digital reach but has also resonated with a broader audience keen on crafting and DIY projects.

PWilkens500x500As mentioned earlier, we have partnered with Emson and introduced a new line of DIY craft kits, based on our hugely popular 5-Minute Crafts brand. The sets, including slimy “ice cream” making, hand plaster design, glow-in-the-dark rock painting and bracelet-making kits, are available in time for the holiday season both online and across 2,400 Walmart stores in the United States and Canada.

5-Minute Crafts is the most-watched DIY brand in the world, with over 850 million social media subscribers. So we are thrilled to expand the digital experience into offline family play. It’s also important to mention that to bolster the success of this product launch, we will launch a massive 360-degree marketing campaign on both social media and television using the familiar “As Seen on TV” slogan, as well as the updated “As Seen on Social” version.

In September, Rovio Entertainment introduced 5-Minute Crafts-branded levels within Angry Birds Friends. The special event provided fans with in-game prompts guiding them to inspiring videos on YouTube. But the excitement extends beyond the virtual landscape. TheSoul and Rovio introduced the #AngryCraftsChallenge, which encouraged fans to craft real-life Angry Birds levels using everyday household items. In a kickoff video featured on YouTube Shorts, TheSoul illustrated the challenge’s concept, paving the way for fans to imagine, create, and share their unique game levels.

The partnership between QubicGames and our Bright Side channel is an exemplary blend of edutainment and gaming. Recognising QubicGames’ notable reputation in the indie gaming sphere, we decided to integrate the vast, engaging, and positive content of Bright Side into a gaming format.

This gave birth to the Bright Side Riddles & Puzzles game, available on major gaming platforms. This game, marking TheSoul’s first venture into the video game domain, offers players an immersive experience that entertains while also providing enriching facts and general knowledge that Bright Side is known for.

5-Minute Crafts is the most watched DIY brand in the world, with over 850 million social media subscribers.
5-Minute Crafts is the most watched DIY brand in the world, with over 850 million social media subscribers.

Revenue aside, what benefits do licensing partnerships like these bring to TheSoul Publishing? And what do companies gain by partnering with TheSoul Publishing?

Licensing partnerships offer TheSoul Publishing more than just new ways of generating revenue. Primarily, they enhance the bond between our audience and our brands. Through these collaborations, fans can interact with our content in different ways, including beyond the screen, making our brands a more tangible part of their lives.

Additionally, these partnerships introduce multiple touchpoints, allowing consumers to engage with our brand in various ways, from toys to online gaming. By extending our reach from the digital to the physical world (and back to the digital), we can ensure a consistent and memorable brand experience. This approach reaffirms our commitment to staying relevant and accessible to our global audience.

When companies partner with TheSoul Publishing, they tap into a vast global audience, with over two billion subscribers across major platforms. Our extensive reach ensures amplified visibility for any collaborative venture.

Beyond the numbers, our partners benefit from our expertise in producing high-quality, positive, and original content. In addition, collaborating with us provides an enhanced digital footprint (25 billion monthly views!) and strong brand association, given our proficiency in optimising brand presence on social media and our market-leading position in the industry.

Furthermore, our focus on promoting positivity resonates with many brands, making collaborations organic and effective.

TheSoul is not only a great licensing partner that offers a wide range of much-loved digital IPs with billions of fans and subscribers. We also work hand in hand with brands to help them grow their own audiences on social and digital media using our own hugely successful experience and best practices, and our audience of billions.

This high level of support isn’t just limited to those we have licensing agreements with, it is available to all companies and brands.

We’re already working with a number of companies looking for the next phase of their own digital and social growth, and we expect this part of our business to grow exponentially in the coming months and years.

RockPainting500x500Going forward, what kind of partners/partnerships are you actively seeking? Are you looking for brands that emphasise ‘positivity’ as you do? Are you offering partnerships across your entire brand portfolio or focusing on core properties?

Going forward, TheSoul Publishing is actively seeking partnerships that align with our mission of producing entertaining, positive and original content for a global audience.

While we are always open to collaborations across our entire brand portfolio, including 5-Minute Crafts, Bright Side, 123 GO!, Avocado Couple, La La Life, Teen-Z, Baby Zoo, and Polar, we also recognise the importance of aligning specific partnerships with brands where there’s the most synergy.

You are a global company, but when it comes to licensing, do you consider the US and Europe to potentially be your strongest market(s)? Do you intend to concentrate on building the licensing programmes for your brands in these territories first?

Certainly, TheSoul Publishing is a global company with a team presence across 70 countries and six continents. However, when it comes to licensing, the US and Europe indeed stand out as potentially strong markets for us, primarily due to their mature licensing landscapes and the considerable traction our brands have gained there.

Recognising the potential these regions offer, our immediate strategy does prioritise building and solidifying our licensing programmes in the US and Europe. That said, we’re always assessing opportunities across the world and remain open to expanding our licensing endeavours in other promising territories as we continue to grow.

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