Supersizing licensing… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes finds some supersized examples of a growing trend for brands in their promotional programmes this week.

Given the success and well deserved profile for all things Barbie over the last week, it would be easy to overlook other licensing activity in the market at the moment.

I was tempted to go with a Barbie Lookout this week, but I am pleased to report that my Looking Out has shown that there is a lot going on beyond Barbie. That said I think the buzz that Barbie has generated is a good thing for Licensing Plc and hopefully has shown companies what potential there is for them in the licensing world. Hopefully it will provoke a few new conversations and maybe encourage some companies to attend BLE to investigate the market further.

If they do visit BLE they will probably see that one licensing trend in evidence at the moment is the increasing use of well known personalities to drive licensing and promotional programmes. This ranges from influencers through to TV personalities. In my own work with Nadiya Hussain I have seen how personality driven licensing can be effective and has a place in the market. Personalities are also being used by brands to advertise and promote their products.

LL3I spotted a great example this week. Given the scale of the advertisement I spotted it was difficult to miss this partnership. Musician Stormzy is working with Rockstar Energy drinks to promote its products at the moment. I spotted the ad on the outside of the IMAX Cinema in Waterloo. It was a supersized ad for a musical superstar. The nature of the promotion gives a clue to the choice of an artist like Stormzy and how promotions have moved on in recent years. This promotion fully embraces digital media being linked to a concert premiered on Spotify which showcased hits from Stormzy’s latest album. The concert was accompanied by an additional content which allowed consumers to explore four distinct worlds in addition to the concert experience.

Stormzy commented on the partnership from his point of view: “Collaborating with Rockstar to bring this performance to life has been an incredible journey. From wearing the motion-capture suit to witnessing my avatar command the stage in five worlds, it has been a project that has pushed boundaries since the start. I hope it ignites the same energy and excitement in my fans as it did in me”.  The brand also organised outdoor viewing events for the concert as well.

There is also a further layer to the promotion, with purchasers able to enter a draw to win concert tickets to see Stormzy later in the year. Well established artists like Stormzy are looking for new ways to engage with their fans particularly to drive ticket and download sales. Brands can be part of this as they offer different platforms for promotion and unique reach.

Of course, for Rockstar Energy this integrated promotion with a Category A personality allows it to deliver its brand messaging at scale and also to engage with its consumer audience in a way that grabs their attention. It is also an example of a promotion that is pushing the boundaries and making the most of the digital marketplace. But at the heart of it is good content and this should encourage the licensing community that there are good opportunities to work in the promotional space making the most of new ways of delivering engaging content. Promotional partnerships could also be a way of content creators finding new and innovative ways of funding content development.

LL4It has been a week of supersized advertising for me. I also spotted two large digital billboard ads on Waterloo Station linked to the Women’s World Cup which is currently taking place in Australia and New Zealand.

Marks & Spencer has linked with the England Women’s football team as the Official Tailor to the England football teams. There is an England Collection currently in-store. M&S was promoting the collection in a big way and at a similar level to how it has promoted its link with the England men’s team before. This is good to see and further evidence of the growing impact of women’s football and the marketing parity it is achieving.

This was reinforced further by the fact that deodorant brand Sure was using the same digital billboard to promote its position as an official sponsor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It is clear that brands are embracing this opportunity in a significant way and also shows that events are still trusted drivers for commercial partnerships.

LL2Another thing I noticed when I was at Waterloo was that card retailer Scribbler has a small boutique style shop on the ground floor concourse of the station. Scribbler sells some licensed ranges, but the majority of its offering is non-licensed. It also has interactive kiosks in its stores which allow consumers to print and personalise cards in-store. I thought the size and location of the shop coupled with the interactive kiosk were good insights into how retailing is changing and how retailers are thinking carefully about the style of shops they have in their retail estate. In this case, the store format reflects the passenger flow of the station and provides an easy to use solution for time pressed consumers.

Retailers like Scribbler are probably thinking harder about store locations and their potential to engage with consumers. It has also embraced new technology in the store reflecting the fact that consumers are looking for different types of products and are digitally savvy. I think in the context of these kind of stores and locations licensed brands can have a role to play.

I also find it interesting to see how FMCG brands work together and how certain brands are being used collaboratively.

Krispy Kreme is currently promoting a Lotus Biscoff Doughnut collaboration in-store. I believe this is the second summer that this limited edition doughnut has been available. Rather like brands using personalities to create excitement, engagement and a point of difference, FMCG brands are being used by other food companies to create unique products. In turn these products are a foundation stone for campaigns to drive people into store and build a brand story. Brands like Lotus Biscoff have a unique profile and position which often includes a unique taste or flavour. Other brands recognise this and appreciate how working with these sort of brands in partnership can unlock some interesting NPD. It prompts fresh thinking and is also a spur to try something new for operators like Krispy Kreme.

LL5I was also impressed by a set of greeting cards I spotted in Sainsbury’s this week. In their own way the cards provided another practical example of how different product categories are embracing new technology to enhance their products.

Card company Say It With Songs has developed a line of cards that feature lyrics from popular songs like “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. These cards are being sold in support of music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins and also include a QR code that allows purchasers or the card recipient to download the music track. A very effective way of bringing the product alive and making the most of the music link. The range was part of an end cap display at Sainsbury’s which brought together a number of cards themed around well-being – it was a bright, colourful and positive display. The Say It With Songs cards were certainly playing their part in making it an eye-catching display.

LL1Finally, I continue to spot well known characters being used in street art locations. This week I saw Homer Simpson at the South Bank’s Undercroft – an area popular with skateboarders which I guess shows that The Simpsons still resonate with the skater community. There was also a pink Garfield in the same space – maybe this was a tip of the hat to Barbie!

I think generally it is a nice boost for a brand to feature in street art. But it can stray into territory that would most likely concern the IP owner and I imagine would not be approved in the ‘real world’.  To reinforce this point this week I spotted a Smurf clutching a bottle of Smirnoff – the artwork was labelled Smurfnoff… thinking about the world of collabs and mash ups, maybe this was part of a campaign to announce a new ‘collab’ after all…

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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