It’s a varied week of Looking Out for Start Licensing’s Ian Downes, taking in street art, pop art, coronation activity and the aisles of Iceland.
One of my great passions is street art. Looking out for it and photographing it rather than painting it. So my eye is always drawn to companies using street art in the licensing sphere.
This week on a trip to Manchester I noticed that fashion brand Pretty Green is working with the Keith Haring estate and has developed a very striking clothing collection using Haring’s distinctive artwork. It is well suited to apparel not least because of the colours, shapes and patterns he used. Pretty Green showcases the collection well in-store and also on its website. It is obviously very proud of the partnership giving this background to it on the website ‘Given Keith Haring’s powerful connection to music and fashion, Pretty Green have joined forces with the Keith Haring Studio to create a unique collaborative project’.
It is a great collaboration and one that I am very tempted to buy into.
As an aside the Northern Quarter in Manchester and a few other locations in the city are hubs for street art. There was some fabulous work on show in Manchester and who knows there could be an artist out there that could progress from creating Manchester murals to inspiring a licensing programme one day. Rather touchingly there was a lovely portrait of the late Paul O’Grady in his alter ego of Lily Savage. A lovely tribute to him and also a reminder what a quick medium street art is.
I have also noticed how retailers are preparing for the forthcoming Coronation. Lots of shops are stocking Coronation related merchandise such as bunting, partyware and souvenirs. These seem to largely be based on non-licensed designs featuring King Charles III and other classic design elements such as Union Jacks.
There doesn’t seem to be an official programme as such but I did notice a special edition Peppa Pig book in WH Smith – Peppa Pig and the Coronation. This book seems like a very enterprising way of tapping into a national event. There may be a few more examples out there, but it is good to see an IP owner like Hasbro along with its publishing partner Penguin reacting proactively to an opportunity like the Coronation. It will be an event that will see families coming together to celebrate and in this context the book makes perfect sense. It must have been a book that was turned round quickly by both companies. Working quickly and recognising that time sensitive deadlines need to be met is a good skill to add to a rights owner’s armoury. It opens up new opportunities.
A retailer that is tapping into licensing regularly these days is Iceland. The buying team is very proactive on LinkedIn and highlight the brand licensing activity regularly. They are obviously very proud of their work in the category and one can assume that licensing is proving to be a rewarding strategy for them. One element of Iceland’s strategy is securing exclusives. In a competitive sector this makes good sense. Another benefit of licensing to Iceland is access to proven brands that it can use creatively to develop innovative product lines that bring freshness to the offer. It also de-risks new product development and launches.
I visited one of Iceland’s Food Warehouse stores recently and licensed ranges featured prominently in-store, underpinning how important licensing is to the retailer. Featured brands include Gregg’s, TGI Fridays and Del Monte. These and a number of other brands have been in-store over the long term, but Iceland refreshes them regularly with NPD. These brand names appeal to consumers while the commitment to NPD ensures consumers re-shop ranges. New exclusive brands are introduced regularly – for example Twisted was recently added to the roster. This is an interesting new departure for Iceland as Twisted is a social media brand rather than an established food or drink brand, but this partnership allows Iceland to engage with Twisted’s social media audience. It is a recognition that retailers need to find new ways of engaging and motivating consumers. This is particularly important when thinking about younger consumers.
Other exclusive brands for Iceland and The Food Warehouse include cheese brand Cathedral City and restaurant brand Chiquito. As well as developing multi product ranges Iceland also uses licensing and exclusives to deliver single product offers such as Terry’s Chocolate Orange Ice Cream. Licences like Terry’s help Iceland to innovate, create a point of difference and also access brands that have a premium quality whilst maintaining their competitiveness price wise.
Iceland and The Food Warehouse also work with licensees to top up the licensed offering. For example it currently stocks Chupa Chups freeze at home ice pops and a number of SLUSH PUPPiE licensed product lines. It also ‘buys in’ licensed lines in categories such as ice lollies with brands such as Tango currently featuring in-store.
Iceland is a very good example of a retailer which uses licensing in a proactive way to create a point of difference in a competitive marketplace and also seems to be a retailer that doesn’t rest on its licensing laurels. Brand owners obviously have to weigh up the consequences of working exclusively with one retailer, but from the outside it seems to be a way of working that is bringing benefits to all concerned including the consumer who is getting access to some well known and much loved brands in new but relevant product categories.
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.