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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights some licences which have achieved that all important ‘stand out’ at retail.

I arrived for an early flight this week at Gatwick without having breakfast. To fill the gap and a bit of time, I thought I would grab a quick bite to eat from Boots.

Among the food on offer was a range of Jamie Oliver branded sandwiches and wraps. The sandwiches were in the chiller cabinet with a branded header featuring a smiling Jamie with the sandwiches presented in branded bags – the brand presentation being the signature Jamie Oliver name, Jamie’s photo and the Jamie ‘colours’ denoting different types of sandwiches and fillings. It was a very well presented and clearly communicated in a busy fixture.

In my fantasy licensing NPD notepad I had previously noted that I thought there was a gap in the market for branded sandwiches – so I was pleasantly surprised to see this range in store. Another gap filled.


I think it is a good move for Jamie Oliver and Boots: it offers a point of difference in a crowded market and creates reassurance for consumers. Jamie is a very trusted ‘food’ brand and expert. For Jamie it opens up a new category – food on the go and creates engagement in depth with a prominent high street retailer outside of the grocery sector.

Brands such as Colman’s Mustard and Hellman’s Mayonnaise have featured as branded ingredients in the sandwich market for a while, but I think this is the first example I have seen of a celebrity chef brand being used in this category.

I tried the Hot Smoked Salmon wrap from the range – I thought it was tasty, a good recipe and value for money. Using the Jamie Oliver brand will help consumers think about ‘repeat purchase’ as they will recognise the brand at point of purchase and should encourage repeat visits to Boots – it is a smart move and a great example of licensing making a difference.


I was also interested to see that the Levi Roots brand continues to be present on grocery shelves. I spotted Levi Roots’ Coconut Milk this week – not sure when this launched but it joins other products such as crisps, patties and carbonated drinks. The original Levi Roots product was his Reggae Reggae sauce, but through a series of licensing deals the brand has grown further in the FMCG sector. The licensed products do not feature the Reggae Reggae strap line, relying on a strong image of Levi and his ‘signature’ brand colours.

Levi has built his business through licensing – a great example of how the licensing model can be used to extend a brand in a relatively low risk way for the brand owner. Levi came to prominence through Dragons’ Den which generated great consumer PR for him and he has had great support from Dragon Peter Jones.

That said, licensing is a key component of the brand’s success. Arguably without licensing the Levi Roots brand wouldn’t have grown into the brand it is today. It appears to be a licensing success story that we may undervalue in the industry. It is a brand to watch and intriguing to see what new directions it might take.


Staying within the FMCG category, the prize for the ‘novelty’ product of the week goes to Stay Puft Mini Marshmallows using the Ghostbusters licence. These were in the American candy section of Poundworld, but appear to be a product produced under licence in the UK.

It will probably only be on shelf for a limited period maybe operating on the ‘when it is gone it is gone’ sales model, but it is an interesting way of tapping into the momentum of a major movie and creating a licensing opportunity in a new product category.

It is a fun product targeting the home baking category  – it may not win plaudits for product innovation, the marshmallows are an  ‘off the shelf’ product, but it should be applauded for arriving on shelf at the right time and being presented in packaging that consumers will notice. It is a good example of opportunistic licensing.


Ghostbusters has also linked with the Karcher brand – they produce products such as steam cleaners and pressure washers. Karcher are running press adverts featuring the Ghostbusters logo and a model dressed in a Ghostbusters style uniform under the strapline: Don’t Be Afraid of Dirt.

This deal probably falls under the auspices of a movie promotion rather than a licensing deal but it is a very creative campaign – I am sure it will be used to inspire other ideas for using Ghostbusters in the future. In a simple way I think it succeeds because it helps grab consumer attention.

I am sure consumers won’t buy Karcher because they are Ghostbuster fans, but I think they will now recognise the Karcher brand more readily and it will have a higher recall factor for them.


I am also enjoying my tube journeys a bit more at the moment – I have started my own version of Pokemon Go by attempting to spot all the Mr Men & Little Miss information posters featuring on the London Underground at the moment.

The one I spotted this week featured Little Miss Stubborn. The advert was encouraging consumers to move down the carriage. I am not sure how many different adverts there are in the campaign – I have spotted three so far, but it provides the Mr Men and Little Miss with a fantastic brand billboard which I am sure they will be able to leverage to develop other deals from.

The adverts show the Mr Men and Little Miss illustration style really well and also have a ‘sense of humour’. This is a good example of a licensing brand investing time and effort into developing a positive campaign which may bring future benefits – it is not always about the campaign itself. Imagine how many consumers and retail buyers are seeing the adverts every day.

I could imagine a fashion buyer seeing Little Miss Stubborn and being inspired to create an apparel range after seeing it.


I popped into Primark in Leicester this week. This branch, like most Primark stores I visit, was bustling and busy. It is clearly a retailer of the moment. It also seems to be a social hub for teenagers: there were lots of groups of friends socialising in the store.

My unscientific research which was a bit of consumer watching mixed with eavesdropping suggests that two key attractions for consumers are the ‘great value’ offered in store – t-shirts at around £4 and the fact that ‘they get new things in every week’. The latter point offers licensing a big opportunity – as new designs and design treatments can be offered on a regular basis by licensing companies.

However, a challenge is how do you stand out in the crowd? In a retailer that has a great depth of product and very full shelves in categories like ladies t-shirts, it struck me that it is important for licensors to keep thinking about ‘stand out’ design and product – to ensure they grab attention in a busy shop.

A great example of this was a ladies t-shirt featuring Miffy. It had a flocked finish – this really helped it stand out on shelf and caught the eye. This finish may have eroded a little bit of margin for the licensee, but I think it has meant they have delivered a stronger product that represents the character really well and allows Miffy to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it is worth taking a moment to reflect on what you are doing product and design wise even in the fastest of fast fashion retailers.

I was only sorry they didn’t do the t-shirt in men’s XL…

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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