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The joys of looking forward… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes ‘looks out’ to some early 2021 highlights this week.

Sometimes looking out can be substituted by looking forward.

I am looking forward to the January 2021 release of a range of Spitting Image cards from Emotional Rescue. I saw the range advertised in Progressive Greetings magazine this week and thought it was a really strong range that was making great use of the licence. A really good example of licensing in the greeting cards category.

The Spitting Image range from Emotional Rescue is due to launch in January 2021.
The Spitting Image range from Emotional Rescue is due to launch in January 2021.

Spitting Image pokes fun at public figures be they politicians, Royals or celebrities in a witty, topical and pointed way. It is a series that has always put a smile on my face and it seems its new incarnation is also hitting the mark. Emotional Rescue obviously agrees and moved swiftly to capitalise on the series relaunch. Spitting Image is a recognised brand and has a distinct visual identity. This is an IP that can ‘own’ a space and place in the card market. It will be interesting to see whatever licensed products might be in the Spitting Image pipeline.

I have vivid memories of my mum and dad’s whippets charging round their garden with a squealing Margaret Thatcher in their mouths – Spitting Image made great pet toys back in the day. At least that’s what I remember. I hope my imagination isn’t playing tricks on me.

IP owners and licensees have cultivated Halloween as a core seasonal opportunity for licensing in recent times. Dress-up and confectionery companies are at the forefront of this. It will be interesting to see how Halloween plays out this year with restrictions on socialising and lockdowns being announced.

Early signs are that people will still be Trick or Treating while Track and Tracing. I am sure some suppliers are quite anxious around sell through but there are suggestions that people will be holding Halloween parties at home. Anything for a laugh in dark times.

Mr Kipling and Roald Dahl have created some specific Halloween products and promotions.
Mr Kipling and Roald Dahl have created some specific Halloween products and promotions.

Against this backdrop it was interesting to see Mr Kipling and Roald Dahl creating some specific Halloween products and promotions as part of their ongoing partnership. Mr Kipling has created two special edition products using Roald Dahl’s The Witches – one is a pack of Fiendish Fancies and the other Terrifying Toffee Whirls.

This is a good example of adapting a long-term partnership to take advantage of a seasonal opportunity. It is also a controlled way for The Roald Dahl Company to feature The Witches’ IP and maybe investigate the market further with a view to rolling out more products in the future.

The Christmas selling season is in full swing and retailers are rolling out their seasonal ranges. Superdrug has some interesting seasonal product offerings in-store at the moment and has tapped into a variety of licences for the ranges.

As noted earlier in the week by LicensingSource.net, Mad Beauty is running a programme featuring Minnie Mouse. This is a good use of a classic character and works well in-store. It is interesting to reflect on the appeal of Minnie Mouse. I wonder if she has an appeal and familiarity with older consumers who are buying the gift lines for younger consumers and in a sense licensing is helping to re-populate the fan base?

Minnie Mouse and Mulan ranges from Mad Beauty have prominent displays in Superdrug.
Minnie Mouse and Mulan ranges from Mad Beauty have prominent displays in Superdrug.

One thing that I thought was really good in this range was the design work, the character image and the use of die cutting on the packaging. All these elements helped the product stand out in a crowded fixture.

Mad Beauty and Superdrug are also running a FSDU programme for Disney’s Mulan property. This is badged as an exclusive range and has dedicated space via the FSDU which was placed at the end of an aisle in the store I visited, but very much part of the fixture. I suspect that we will see more use of licensed ranges like this in the next year as they seek exclusivity and to maximise retail space. Licensed brands are well suited to FSDUs as graphically a really impactful design can be created.

3D bubble baths have evolved over time becoming high-spec, like this Avengers example in Superdrug.
3D bubble baths have evolved over time becoming high-spec, like this Avengers example in Superdrug.

Superdrug has also bought into the Friends licence with products such as Caramel Toffee Bath Crumble and Lip Balms. It is also featuring characters such as Avengers with fairly high spec 3D bubble baths – this is certainly a category that has evolved over time.

Personal care is also a category that sees brands making an appearance and having a relevance in the gifting category. A good example is a range featuring sportswear brand Umbro – Superdrug was carrying gift sets of Body Spray and Body Wash. Classic extra presents. In a similar vein, it featured brands such as Superdry with a travel washbag gift set. In this category and at this time of year there are some fresh licensing faces on show and in some cases it is a stepping stone into a wider programme.

The Vine Lab has launched a Kickstarter campaign with Aardman.
The Vine Lab has launched a Kickstarter campaign with Aardman.

Finally I am very pleased to say I backed one of my own deals this week. Licensee The Vine Lab has launched a Kickstarter campaign in concert with Aardman. It is looking to manufacture and launch a Limited Edition model of the aeroplane from the Wallace & Gromit film, A Close Shave. The film first aired in 1995 and The Vine Lab is looking to produce a limited edition of 1995 units to help celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary.

This has been a fascinating project to be involved in and to see it come to fruition. It has got off to a flying start and the fan reaction has generally been positive to the product. I have backed the project as I want to see it happen and I want to secure one of the 1995 models. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms are another route to market for licensees and licensors. I can see more opportunities in this sector, but like many aspects of licensing it is important that the platforms are used responsibly, in a focused way and with a compelling offer. They create a great way of being in touch with fans and activating their interest, but it is essential the fan community is respected and understood.

I think Aardman and The Vine Lab have created a really worked offer that is focused on a product that reflects the film and its heritage well. I am looking forward to owning a bit of film history.

You can see the Kickstarter offer by clicking on this link.

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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