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Supermarket sweep… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes gets confirmation this week that licensing, collaborations and partnerships are an increasingly important part of the product mix in supermarkets.

I popped into my local Tesco for a pint of milk and ended up spotting a number of products for my Licensing Lookout.

Granted my eye is very much in when it comes to looking out for licensing, but I think this haul is confirmation that licensing, collaborations and partnerships are increasingly an important part of the product mix in supermarkets. It is also confirmation that, as one of my teachers once observed, I am too easily distracted.

My first spot was one that LicensingSource.net had marked my card on. I spotted the ‘Barbiecue’ sauce from Heinz. Given it was in a pink branded FSDU it was difficult to miss it. I guess this is the point of a partnership like this – it is about Heinz being noticed and disrupting a category. Bearing in mind it recently launched a pasta sauce in tandem with The Godfather film, Heinz seems to be embracing a strategy that uses licensing to help it with its NPD and to create a buzz around the products.

LL3The sauce category is a crowded and competitive one. Products like the Barbie one stand out and bring new consumers into the category. While launched as a limited edition, I am guessing if the product proves popular and sells through well there is a chance it may become a more permanent product. But in the meantime it has done its job of shining a light on the category and piquing consumer interest in it.

Furthermore, early reports suggest that the product has also generated significant interest on social media channels. This gives a further clue to the role of product launches like this one for FMCG companies – they create marketing and media moments that can’t be found elsewhere which help them fill a gap that exists in their promotional campaigns. They also help to position brands in fresh ways.

LL2My second spot in Tesco was a partnership between Krispy Kreme and two chocolate brands, Aero and Kit Kat. These brands are no stranger to partnerships. In their case the motivation for a partnership like this is in part not too dissimilar to Heinz’s in that these collaborations will create interest in the brands, but of course there is also the focus on taste and flavour that products like these can deliver.

Kit Kat has a history of working collaboratively with other brands; a recent example being a partnership with Costa Coffee. Krispy Kreme has worked with biscuit brand Biscoff, as well and the Biscoff doughnut seems to be a permanent part of the line-up. Krispy Kreme is probably attracted to this sort of partnership because it helps it in settings like Tesco – it grabs consumer attention, but I imagine it is also useful in the trading relationship with Tesco as well. It is also a shortcut in product development terms. Both Kit Kat and Aero have been used creatively by Krispy Kreme with a heavy emphasis on the product attributes from the partner brands – for example the Aero doughnut is billed as ‘Bubbly’ clearly dialling up Aero’s brand equity.

LL1The alcohol category is another that isn’t a stranger to licensing or collaborations. This was borne out on this visit when I spotted a limited edition Budweiser can designed by artist Sir Peter Blake. Budweiser described this partnership as one where ‘… two icons of culture unite’. Sir Peter Blake has been in the vanguard of pop art and pop culture over many years. Describing this partnership he gave some insight into his motivation for participating in it: “I have always believed in the power of art to transcend boundaries… We are bringing Pop Art back to its roots and putting it in the hands of the masses through this limited edition can”.

As with the earlier examples, this partnership will undoubtedly drive consumer purchase and also create engaging social media content for Budweiser. The cans stood out in-store which is probably another motivator behind the partnership – they stood out in a busy fixture. It is also an original promotion for Budweiser to work with Tesco on. Retailers seem to want to find new and original ways of leveraging their relationships with suppliers, particularly to create products that consumers can’t find elsewhere.

LL4A fourth and final spot on my milk round was an on-pack promotional partnership involving Walkers brands Wotsits and Monster Munch. They have partnered with the latest Ghostbusters film, Frozen Empire. I caught sight of this promotion via banners decorating the snack aisle. A reminder that in-store communication is an important part of the retail mix these days. Brands are aware that they have to get their brands at the forefront of shoppers minds when they are shopping. The on-pack activity is further supported by a competition and digital marketing activity. This promotion is a follow up to one that ran in 2021 with Ghostbusters Afterlife. Presumably both sides felt this was a success and merited a repeat run. Running on-pack promotions can be complex and challenging, but when well managed they can be very effective. For film companies promotions like this can be an invaluable way of signposting the release of a film helping them reach their target audience in a media marketplace that is more fragmented.

Despite being distracted by pop art, doughnuts, film promotions and sauces I did manage to remember that pint of milk. Although with the increase in licensing activity in the FMCG world it is becoming more of a challenge to pop in for a quick shop these days.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His X handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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