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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes heads to Spain and finds some interesting licensing initiatives.

A new and developing trend in licensing are ‘collabs’ – collaborations between licensing brands, most often characters, and well known designers or fashion brands. The majority of these have been centred on the apparel market – a key motivation behind them is generating consumer and trade PR and perhaps creating momentum that will inspire licensees.

With this trend in mind, I was interested to see a different kind of collab in action last week in Soho. I spotted a Hello Kitty partnership in an independent coffee shop and bakery, Cutter and Squidge.

The partnership presented a Hello Kitty Secret Garden with the opportunity to enjoy a themed tea and also includes a range of products such as mugs. I think these are featuring a specific design for the retailer.

Kittycafe

It was refreshing to see some new thinking and I am guessing the idea behind the activity is to help consumers and licensees see Hello Kitty in a different light, pushing the property into a lifestyle positioning. It helps tap into the baking category, one which is in growth, and should benefit existing licensees while opening up new opportunities.

Another benefit is the interest it sparks internationally. Soho is a tourist attraction in its own right and having an activity there will help project Hello Kitty internationally. When I was taking my photos I had to join a queue of tourists who were also taking photos. There was a bit of a buzz around the shop and one can imagine the photos being widely shared.

I also caught sight of a very clever idea in the publishing category this week. My friends in publishing have told me that the market for adult colouring books is still strong and this is borne out at retail with a plentiful supply of colouring books in store – apparently this boom has caused a global shortage in pencils…. check your drawers, the price of pencils might be on the rise…

Doctodot

However, there is another trend emerging which is for dot to dot books. This category is predicted to be a strong one to follow on from colouring books. However I think there is a winner in this category already – I spotted a Doc to Dot book: the official Dr Who book. While content is always important in publishing I think this book is already ahead of the crowd on the title alone.

I have spent some of this week in Mallorca and was hoping to switch my licensing radar off, but as I slumped into my Easyjet seat I knew it would be difficult. On the seats in front of me was a promotion for the on board children’s meal which was themed around Ice Age.

One is never sure of the commercial terms of deals, but at a visibility level this was a great success for Ice Age and a good demonstration of how the travel sector is a good one for licensing to prospect in. Easyjet’s on board retail offering included a number of Disney products – on board retail being another good outlet for licensing.

Pinkids

On arrival in Mallorca it wasn’t a surprise to see a lot of licensing in the local tourist shops, with characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse being used on beach toys, inflatables and apparel. I think most product on sale was official, but in categories like pocket money toys there is no doubt that unofficial product creeps into the tourist markets. Difficult to police, but something to be mindful of not least as this retail channel attracts international interest.

One range that stood out in the local shops was a well merchandised range of officially licensed FC Barcelona flip flops. A good example of how sports merchandise is a growing part of the licensing mix and how football clubs can compete with entertainment brands.

Emojisnack

Another sector that featured a lot of licensing was the food category. Highlights were Disney’s tie-up with Pink Lady apples to create a range of apples targeting children with a brand called Pinkids featuring classic characters such as Mickey and Minnie.

The apples were sold in packs of four with the packaging including some activities and each apple having a collectable sticker on it. It is a neat idea and a great way of using the power of licensing on fresh product.

The packaging worked well and I am sure encouraged consumers to pick this up for beach picnics and snacking.

Simpsons

Another food product that caught my eye was a crisp range featuring the emoji brand. This is a brand that is becoming more established in licensing and featuring on a snack product is a good measure of its popularity.

It also shows that outside the UK business, sectors like snacks are more open to licensing – I also noted a Peppa Pig range. This may be because of the dynamics of the market and distribution with more opportunities for smaller manufacturers.

I was also interested to see that Ice Age was featuring on products such as Kinder eggs. Ice Age seems to have caught the attention of food companies in Spain.

I was also impressed by a cereal product using The Simpsons – this was in novel packaging which I believe included milk sachets, but had great attention to detail with The Simpsons characters shaped into cereal pieces. Good to see that the manufacturer has pushed things a bit further with innovation like this, rather than just label slapping the character on a standard box and filling it with a standard product.

Garbageman

Finally, I was interested to see a non-licensed monster character being used on a recycling bin. I am guessing this is to encourage children to think about recycling and to want to give it a go. A pretty good idea and well executed. It certainly caught the eye.

I thought it presented licensing an opportunity to do some good. An obvious candidate for this in the UK would be The Wombles or maybe Mr Greedy. Would be good to see licensing getting involved in more things like this.

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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