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The growing importance of personalisation

How print on demand and personalisation became key to the licensing industry.

One of the key emerging sectors to really come to the fore in 2017 was that of print on demand and personalisation.

A host of brand owners were attracted by the flexibility of the business model, which means they can provide a diverse range of products and design options from across their portfolio, while also being able to react quickly to key market trends.

Two of the latest licensors to reveal personalised ranges are Coolabi – which has teamed with Getting Personal for Clangers and Purple Ronnie – and Cartoon Network, which joined forces with Watermelon to launch online site, Cartoon Network By Me.

Help for Heroes and a number of Disney brands have also proved successful on Tesco Direct, with the retailer offering a vast choice of personalised items.


The Evode Group’s Merchmaker platform integrates with retailers’ and publishers’ websites, enabling them to sell products on demand with zero stock risk. It has made a series of high profile licence acquisitions over the past 12 months – including the Nickelodeon and Mattel portfolios, plus Manchester City, Liverpool FC and West Ham.

It has also teamed with The Entertainer to launch the Create Your Own website and will be launching a number of partnerships with key retailers and publishers in the UK, US and Asia in 2018. Recent POD product successes include a JoJo Siwa Chocolate Advent Calendar, with The Entertainer being the only place in the UK where fans could buy it.

Charlotte Clisby, chief commercial officer at Evode, says: “The response from brand holders has been incredibly positive and increasingly we have found that POD and personalisation has been flagged as a key focus for licensors to explore in 2018.

“Our print on demand model means that licensors can trial new and emerging brands or test artwork and then potentially roll out to the rest of the licensing programme,” Charlotte continues. “We can also open up new retail channels for brands as retailers are able to trial as many products as they like without having to give up shelf space or incur warehouse costs.”


Olivia Schusser, senior licensing manager for Europe at Spreadshirt, agrees that print on demand makes selling merchandise almost risk free for the licence holder. The company enjoys a long-term partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products in Germany, while it has also developed a wide range of products with Animal Planet and SmileyWorld.

In the UK, it has recently launched with The Little Prince, while it is also working with the European Space Agency and hosting Thelwell. Licence holders can set up their own shop using the Spreadshirt platform, also making designs available in its marketplace. It also sells on external marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

Olivia comments: “Brands and retailers are beginning to wake up to the possibilities that print on demand offers. Within the licensing business, I believe that print on demand serves the market needs best. We can offer the right style, the right design to the right time for any target group in any country in the world.

“Also for small and growing licences it is very easy to expand their merchandise internationally without any risk and high investments.”


From a retailer’s point of view, the added value of creating a special card or gift and the convenience factor of personalisation are both key points. Sarah-Jane Porter, head of licensing at Moonpig, says: “From a licensor/brand owner perspective, the business model means speed to market – so not waiting a year for a revenue stream – and additional online marketing. From a Moonpig perspective, we market every brand we work with and make sure there is always some kind of consumer engagement with the brands.”

Moonpig works with some of the biggest names in the business – including Disney, Universal, Nickelodeon, Hasbro and Mattel among others, while recent signings include The Happy News and SmileyWorld. Sarah-Jane believes the personalisation trend is one which is set to continue.

“There are a number of retailers who have come on board in recent years, mainly over Christmas, such as personalisation at Selfridges,” she continues. “Last year, Primark and M&S both launched t-shirt shops in-store which gives them a bit of theatre at Christmas. I would think the trend would continue with the growing consumer appetite for co-creation.”

“Personalised gifts stand out from the crowd”

Signature Gifts describes 2017 as being a ‘progressive’ year for the company. It currently works with the likes of Penguin, Egmont, Haynes and Scholastic, and has recently secured a deal with Disney and Marvel, releasing personalised books featuring major Disney animated titles.

According to the company’s David Morris, the personalisation model is a win-win for everyone involved.

“For the retailer, it means increased business,” he says. “Personalised gifts are unique and stand out from the crowd. To the brand holder, personalisation adds another dimension of value to their already established product. For the consumer, it is a win-win. Chances are they would already be looking to purchase a product from a certain brand due to its popularity, but knowing that they can also personalise it increases the sentiment of the product as a gift.”

David says that Signature Gifts has seen a surge in interest from companies looking to add their brands to the ranks of personalised gifts. A key aim for the company in 2018 is to strengthen and enhance the position of personalised licensed books within the gift market.

“Companies have started to tap into the personalised market as this fulfils consumers’ needs for a more unique gift, while at the same time opening a completely new avenue for their brands,” David says. “This is a trend that is not likely to stop any time soon.”

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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