The Licensing Lookout

This week, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights innovation in publishing and toiletries.

Like most of the UK licensing industry I have spent the last few days decompressing from the BLE bubble. It is easy to believe the world starts and ends in Olympia during the week.

I always feel it is a bit like how the Queen thinks all buildings smell of new paint on her travels, post BLE all licensing professionals tends believe that all retail shelves are full of licensed products!

Of course we know that’s not quite true… yet.

I have mentioned before that getting a product to store is one part of the licensing challenge and that further thought needs to be given to in store activity.

With this in mind I was really pleased to see the effort DC Thomson have made with their Thunderbirds magazine in regards to point of sale. I believe it launched this week.

Within WH Smith they have created FSDUs in the shape of Thunderbird 1 which have a fantastic impact in store. It also takes the title out of the clutter of the comic fixture which can be very busy. Consumers will not miss the title and it should encourage trial. It should also help persuade lapsed comic purchasers to give comics another go.

It seems DC Thomson have thought through the customer journey as well by investing in a good quality covermount – on the first issue  a Thunderbird 1 which will form part of a collection of Thunderbirds. This should engender loyalty. I hope they get a good return on this investment – it is good to see another player in the licensed comic market. I am sure the licensing community will be pleased to see DC Thomson in the market.


I was also impressed by some mail my Mum received. She received a charity mailer from the British Red Cross. This was their Christmas Appeal for funds to help people over the Christmas period. The mailpack was themed with The Snowman and The Snowdog, including a free gift of cards and coasters.

This promotion was arranged by Penguin Ventures and is a great example of how characters can be used to do good and are effective communicators achieving real stand-out.

Related to this I thought Mattel using Fireman Sam to educate children about Firework Safety was a fantastic idea and a great way of using a character to capture children’s attention. Companies like the Louis Kennedy Partnership have been in the vanguard of charity partnerships linking characters with charities – this can be a very rewarding use of characters delivering a real feelgood factor and a great communication platform but the fit needs to be appropriate. The Snowman and Christmas is perfect as is Fireman Sam and Fire Safety. The brand owner benefits with the halo effect, but a mailshot like the British Red Cross has tremendous reach including people like my mum – who knows she might buy some Snowman chocolates from Thornton’s now.

Mickey Mouse handwash

I was also really impressed by a Mickey Mouse handwash I found in retail recently – the dispenser was shaped like Mickey’s head – a 3D dispenser. A fantastic piece of packaging that made great use of an iconic character. It really caught the eye on shelf. I think it was originally created in the US.

It may not represent the best value in terms of relative cost but it would certainly create interest in store and in the category. It is encouraging to see companies thinking beyond label slapping and investing in specific packaging for licensed products in an imaginative way. In this case the purchase driver probably isn’t value for money – the challenge here may be repeat purchase and I guess further down the track a collectability can be included.

Good luck with your BLE follow ups – keep those cards. I contacted someone who saw us at BLE 2011 and met them again in 2015 after reviewing my cards – we may be doing a deal – licensing can be a long-term game.

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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