The Licensing Lookout

This week, Ian Downes looks at how Star Wars is introducing new retailers to licensing.

We are starting to Feel the Force as more Star Wars product rolls into retail. There is no doubt that Star Wars is a very popular licence at the moment. It is being used across lots of categories and target markets. This includes FMCG products such as biscuits from Fox’s Biscuits and cereal from Kellogg’s – when you see a licensed brand in the FMCG aisles it is a fairly good indicator that it is a ‘big’ licence.

Star Wars is also a licence that a broad range of retailers embrace – seeing licensing move out of the usual retail channels into retailers who are not such frequent or heavy users of licensing.

Two good examples of this are Joy and Robert Dyas.

Joy is featuring Star Wars giftware and apparel in a neat window display in its Southwark shop. What is quite striking about this is the clever design work used by the licensee to create fresh interest in the brand – in this case a photoshop design of Chewbacca blowing bubblegum. There is also a cartwheeling Stormtroper.

This shows that there has been an investment in design and thought given to trying to create product which will hold a broad appeal but work effectively in the channels it is deployed in – Joy’s customers are fashion-conscious, trend orientated young adults with their stores in high footfall up and coming areas.

For a shop like Joy unique and original design is important – their customers will be seeking out ‘something different’. Disney have factored this into their planning, but also signposted the brand well by using classic art for some products celebrating the film’s rich heritage.

Investment in design to be and stay on trend is a key component in licensing these days especially in apparel.

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Robert Dyas supports licensing through the year, but this is generally in categories like cookware, gardening or electrical goods – often centred on personality driven licensing.

However as Christmas approaches they bring in gifts ‘for Kids Big & Small’. Here there has to be an emphasis on competitive pricing and impulse purchase – product needs to look good and strike an instant chord with customers. In Robert Dyas’ case there has to be a dual appeal for children and adults. Its Christmas flyer highlights three Star Wars lines: a colouring pencil tube, Top Trumps and a melting Star Wars Stormtrooper. It is backing some other licences as well such as Minions, Guinness World Records and Tetris.

My slight concern regarding the Star Wars programme is that there may well be too much product in the market. The campaign seems to have been well managed and the market segmented carefully, but I think in some areas such as gifting there may be too many products available with the consumer £ diluted across the ranges.

However, conversely this approach does ensure high visibility at retail, plenty of product availability and, at this time of year, plenty of exposure in catalogues and advertisements. These are all factors that are important to Disney both in licensing and film promotion terms.

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This week I was reminded how product placement and product use by celebrities can be a good thing – this is not always the case, but generally it is beneficial to a licensing programme.

Chris Evans was wearing a Mr Happy t-shirt on TFI – while he may not be a hipster to everyone, it was undoubtedly good exposure for the product which I’m sure would be beneficial from a social media point of view.

The other great example of celebrity endorsement was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson dressing up as Popeye for Halloween – a fantastic look which he pulled off very well. The image has been shared widely via social media and it seems to have been very positively received.

I’m sure this will inspire a few more celebrity ‘dress up’ campaigns next year.

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