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Supermarket shoppers, Blue Monday cheese and Morph spotting… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights some licensing related stories to hit the press this week.

It is always interesting when licensing related stories make the news.

Of course, recently, Barbie has been a favourite feature in the media. Generally, the coverage has, I think, been positive and is a good case study to point to in regards to the licensing model. Interestingly, Barbie has been the catalyst for a range of licences and partnerships beyond the more usual ones.

Retailer Lush has developed a Barbie inspired range of toiletries which are currently being promoted in-store and prominently in Lush’s windows.


I also read this week that the Old Vic theatre has reported that its musical adaptation of the film Groundhog Day has broken box office records for the theatre. It has been reported that over 90,000 people have seen the musical since it opened on 8 June. Of these, about 60% were reported to be first time visitors to the Old Vic.

This should give encouragement to other theatres and producers looking at adapting films and TV shows for the stage, while it also shows how entertainment brands can be built across various platforms these days.

LL3Another licensing related story in the press this week involved chef, Jamie Oliver. It was reported that he received nearly £7 million in dividends from his companies. This includes the Jamie Oliver ‘licensing business’ which generated a dividend of £1.8 million. This encompasses revenues from his licensed product portfolio and other activities such as restaurant franchises. It underpins the enduring appeal of the Jamie Oliver brand and the distribution it has achieved. Of course, a few years ago the Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain closed which undoubtedly caused some damage to the overall brand, but what these recent results show is that not only does Jamie Oliver have a very durable brand, but also the way that his business dealt with the demise of Jamie’s Italian was effective. The licensing success of the Jamie Oliver brand provides a good case study for the industry and is an effective one to help explain the licensing model.

Personality driven brand licensing is a well established licensing genre and one that frequently throws up interesting partnerships. I noticed that retailer Waitrose will be selling limited edition shopping bags designed by Lulu Guinness in selected stores from 30 August. The limited edition shopper is black and white striped with Lulu Guinness’ signature lips motif on the bag. The bag is eco friendly in that it is made from post-consumer waste plastic bottles. It is encouraging to see retailers like Waitrose engage with designers like Lulu Guinness in this way and to use design like this in an everyday category like shopping bags. Again, it is a good case study to point to and will hopefully inspire other retailers to think how licensing can help them add value to their businesses.

LL4It is never easy to work out the commercial aspect of deals from the outside, but one can only assume that this represents a good opportunity for Lulu Guinness, not least as it is a proactive way of showcasing the brand within a high street retailer. It could be a stepping stone to other partnerships like this for the brand. Interestingly Anya Hindmarch, famous for her handbags, has a presence in the shopper market with her Universal Bag. These sorts of partnerships can become very visible ones for designers and, with a fair wind, can also help them to connect with new consumers. They also generate good PR – I first read about Anya Hindmarch’s Universal Bag in the Sunday Times Style magazine where it was highlighted as a ‘summer beach’ hit.

Another interesting example of celebrities being involved in product is Blur bassist Alex James’ recent success in getting his Blue Monday cheese listed in Morrisons. The cheese is named after James’ favourite song, Blue Monday by New Order, and is one of a number of cheeses he has developed. The listing was announced earlier in the summer and coincided with Blur’s Summer Tour. It is an interesting example of how ‘celebrity’ can have a role to play in the FMCG market and how retailers are looking at new ways of creating a point of difference in the market. This is also an example of a development which is an authentic one and on a very firm footing. The world of FMCG, and supermarkets in particular, is a very competitive one – products must compete with a range of brands many of which are market leaders with deep marketing pockets. Products that aren’t well thought through and robust will generally flounder. Even ones with celebrity backing.

LL1Finally, this weekend was the closing weekend for Morph’s Epic Art Adventure. The Wild in Art public art trail, developed as a fundraiser for charity Whizz-Kidz, has proved to be a great success and driven a high degree of consumer engagement for the charity. This is a key point for them as they wanted to raise awareness of their charity and its purpose. The trail has been a step-free one, dovetailing with the charity’s aim of promoting equal access for disabled people.

Start Licensing sponsored the Tiger Morph statue on the trail and it has been a really worthwhile exercise for us, not least because it has given us an opportunity to present Morph and Aardman in a unique way. It is not often that you can present a brand with a backdrop of locations like St Paul’s, Tower Bridge and the Tate Modern. It has also been a very visible example of the potential for licensing in live and experiential spaces. Another great case study to point those interested in licensing towards.

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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