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The Licensing Lookout: Partnership pointers

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes ponders on the different reasons for entering brand partnerships this week.

There can be lots of reasons for a brand owner to enter into a licensing or partnership agreement.

It is easy to assume money is the key driver in deals, but sometimes licensing and partnership deals can deliver other benefits to brands. I had this in mind when I spotted a  series of billboards in Kings Cross tube station highlighting a partnership between the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and haircare brand Herbal Essences. The posters were promoting a range of products featuring plants and botanicals – the likes of the very lush sounding Argan Oil of Morrocco. There were at least a dozen posters featuring different variants. The posters were bright, colourful and eyecatching.

The range was promoted with the strapline ‘Unleash Mama Nature’s Secrets’. The range is positioned as endorsed by Kew. The posters carried Kew’s name and brand mark. While I am sure there was a financial aspect to the deal, a further benefit to Kew was and is the advertising that Herbal Essences has activated. With posters placed in transport hubs it is a real on the go cue to go to Kew and the partnership will probably introduce Kew to a fresh consumer audience.

An interactive poster further helped to promote the tie up between Kew and Herbal Essences.
An interactive poster further helped to promote the tie up between Kew and Herbal Essences.

The effectiveness and reach of the campaign was underpinned further by an interactive poster I saw in Kentish Town.

The poster featured a series of paper ‘leaves’ which were stapled onto the poster site encouraging passers by to pick them off the poster. The ‘leaves’ were printed on compostible paper and carried wildflower seeds. There were instructions on how to plant the leaf/seeds with a positive message linking the planting of the seeds to helping the environment.

This was a great way of furthering the partnership and dialling up Kew’s credentials. The poster was also well placed to engage with consumers and I am sure it was being shared on social media. All round this was a good example of a partnership delivering more than money and sparking activity that will help consumer engagement.

The Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 shop at London's Kings Cross attracts the crowds.
The Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 shop at London's Kings Cross attracts the crowds.

While walking through King’s Cross I saw the Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 shop.

This is now a real feature of the station and appears to be firmly on the tourist trail. I was in the station just before 10 o’clock and there was already an orderly queue forming for photo opportunities and people were shopping the shop.

This is a fine example of location and experiential licensing. I think this kind of dedicated store with add ons like photo opportunities is a good template for others to look at.

It is also a form of retailing that seems to buck the current challenging retail conditions. Consumers seem to respond well to shopping experiences and the chance to indulge their passion for a brand.

The Sainsbury's and Disney Heroes promotion is very visible in-store.
The Sainsbury's and Disney Heroes promotion is very visible in-store.

In a similar vein of licensing adding value and helping retailers to compete, it was good to see a major retailer like Sainsbury’s turning to a licensed promotion to encourage and engender loyalty. Sainsbury’s is running a loyalty scheme linking basket spend to a trading card promotion themed around Disney Heroes featuring characters from Star Wars and Frozen.

Linked to a collector album, the promotion uses the brands well and uses a well trodden technique of card collecting to drive retail visits and spend. The promotion is featured on FSDUs, window posters and till points. It is a comprehensive promotion. Disney is getting great exposure in-store and I would imagine it has helped secure other listings in store. I am sure there was a decent level of coordination around this activation.

Sainsbury’s has an exclusive promotion that gives it an edge over competitors and a marketing message that goes beyond price offers. I think the promotion has been used before in other territories and is a proven concept. I am sure the promotions agency who created it can point to sales data from other activations. This promotion is a further example of how licensing can be used to deliver value at retail by leveraging the consumer appeal of popular IP above and beyond being linked to price offers and discounts.

It is a welcome reminder that licensing can create loyalty and spark consumer engagement.

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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