The art of a good promotion… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes casts his expert eyes over some of the most recent promotions helping to bring licensing to the fore.

Promotions have always been part of the licensing landscape. When I first started working in licensing at Copyright Promotions in the 1990s we had a dedicated team that managed promotions and worked closely with sales promotion agencies, brands directly and other firms like PR companies. They had a lot of success and secured a range of promotions.

These included Mr Happy being used by Glasgow City Council to front its promotional campaign under the banner Glasgow Smiles Better (if you need a detailed case study on this one ask Simon Gresswell from SGLP who managed this deal), PGL Holidays used Indiana Jones to create themed ‘adventure holidays’ for children (not sure they quite matched the action of the films) and a whole raft of Monopoly-themed promotions.

We also used to create a lot of ideas to take to agencies and brands. One of my favourite ones was when we suggested a Valentine’s campaign to WD-40 – our idea was to feature WD-40 alongside C-3P0 from Star Wars in a C-3P0 Loves WD-40 visual. This never happened as far as I know. But there is still time!

The Love Your Garden magazine was featured prominently by the Daily Mirror.
The Love Your Garden magazine was featured prominently by the Daily Mirror.

One of the promotions team spent a lot of team pitching ideas for promotions to national newspapers and had quite a lot of success. I think a number of these may have been related to token collecting schemes to redeem for items like DVDs. Working with newspapers promotionally seems to have slowed down as an opportunity area for licensing, but it is interesting to see that papers of course still use promotional ideas to push sales.

Last weekend I spotted the Daily Mirror was promoting a free Love Your Garden magazine in partnership with Alan Titchmarsh. Love Your Garden is Alan’s current ITV show. The magazine, the promotion and Alan were featured prominently on the front cover of the paper. I know that newspapers have been running over promotions recently such as LEGO toy promotions, but it strikes me that there might be more opportunities for licensed lead newspaper promotions.

The Oreo/Lady Gaga promotion could inspire other FMCG brands to contemplate licensing.
The Oreo/Lady Gaga promotion could inspire other FMCG brands to contemplate licensing.

Another promotion that caught my eye this week was Sing It with Oreo. The promotion links to Lady Gaga’s Chromatica album with a promotion that allows consumers to win music prizes and access downloads. Lady Gaga spoke about the promotion herself: “this collaboration is inspired by the world of Chromatica, where kindness rules all things,” she said.

Oreo’s website states that Oreo and Lady Gaga ‘share values of inspiring and spreading kindness’ and go on to to outline the promotion. On special packs shoppers can scan a QR code to get access to ‘Gagagrams’, which are uplifting messages from the singer, to share with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones.

This is an example of a superscale global promotion and how a brand like Oreo approaches promotions, but it also shows how music and music acts are consumer influencers. Given a brand like Oreo is running a promotion like this, it will be interesting to see if this inspires other FMCG brands to contemplate tapping into licensing.

The Change Please products have grown out of a social enterprise project from The Big Issue.
The Change Please products have grown out of a social enterprise project from The Big Issue.

I also noticed a cause-related product this week. While I spotted it this week I believe it has been in the market since 2017. Need to re-focus up my Looking Out!

Coffee brand, Change Please has a range of coffee beans such as Tom’s Blend – Good Coffee Doing Good. The products have grown out of a social enterprise project from The Big Issue to fundraise for the charity and shine a light on The Big Issue’s work around homelessness. In addition, the coffee company provides a route to training and employment for homeless people. Tom, who I understand was homeless, has now trained as a barista. The product was on sale in Sainsbury’s alongside two other variants featuring two other success stories from the programme. The products are also sold directly by The Big Issue through the website. This is a great example of how a social welfare scheme can be linked into product and promotion. In this context, The Big Issue is a very noteworthy brand.

I also noticed a couple of other examples where licensing and characters are being used in retail to promote products, but also add to the retail experience. Given the news about retail closures and challenges, I think these examples give us a clue to how licensing can help in retail and has great potential promotionally.

The Peter Rabbit arch-shaped display greeted customers to Sainsbury's.
The Peter Rabbit arch-shaped display greeted customers to Sainsbury's.

The first example featured Peter Rabbit and Cadbury’s. As I entered my local Sainsbury’s store there was a fantastic Peter Rabbit display shaped like an arch that you had to pass under promoting Cadbury’s Peter Rabbit Easter eggs.

It was very effective, well designed and a great piece of cardboard engineering. It added some retail theatre to the store and was a great feature.

A simple, but effective use of well-known characters adds some entertainment to a routine shopping trip.
A simple, but effective use of well-known characters adds some entertainment to a routine shopping trip.

While there were less shoppers about and, of course, no family groups you could see that it was making an impact on shoppers and was adding to the shopping experience.

Likewise in the toy department there was a LEGO model featuring Luke Skywalker and Yoda. It was placed on an end cap near the LEGO products. It was a great piece of visual merchandising and again in ordinary times you can imagine it being very popular with children. A simple, but effective use of well-known characters adding some entertainment to a routine shopping trip.

There is probably scope for licensing to be used more often like these two examples. To work effectively and for retailers to get the most out of these sort of opportunities, I think that they have to operate as partnerships developed with a long-term outlook and strategically. There should also be an equality in the partnership in regards to funding.

The tie-up with Mr Filbert's extends Ghost Ship's reach even further.
The tie-up with Mr Filbert's extends Ghost Ship's reach even further.

I have also been interested to see how alcohol brands are using licensing and licensing partnerships to extend their reach. Guinness is a prime example of this. Maybe other brands have seen its success and are looking to emulate it. I noticed that brewer Adnams has linked up with snacking brand Mr Filbert’s to create Adnam’s Ghost Ship beer nuts. The nuts are flavoured with the distinctive citrus pale ale.

Ordinarily I guess you might be able to buy the product in pubs and bars, as well as shops. It extends Ghost Ship’s reach and gives consumers a chance to taste the ale in a new way. For Mr Filbert’s, it gives instant access to a new flavour profile and the opportunity to work with a brand that has a distinctive identity. It has captured the Ghost Ship brand well on pack.

I expect to see more licensing style partnerships like this emerging from the brewing category, as brewers seek new ways to engage with consumers and bolster brand engagement post-lockdown. Hopefully in a few weeks time I can undertake some research in pubs and report back what I see – all in the name of market research, of course!

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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