The Licensing Lookout: A sense of community

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes enlists six fellow ‘Lookouts’ this week in a timely reminder that licensing is a community.

This week I decided to ask people to help me with my Lookout. I contacted a number of people in the licensing community and asked them to flag up a current deal from their own portfolio that they are most proud or pleased about and also to pick a deal or product from recent times that they aren’t involved in that they thought stood out.

This has made very interesting reading and it is a reminder that licensing is a community and we are all part of the community. It is good to keep in touch, keep talking and if you need to ask for help, just ask. I am sure by working together we have a better chance of pushing through the current situation and re-building business in the future.

Thanks to everyone who helped me Lookout this week!

Here are the contributions:

Moonbug's preschool property Morphle will expand into toys later in 2020.
Moonbug's preschool property Morphle will expand into toys later in 2020.

Darran Garnham, ceo, MTW Toys

“Our recent global master toy partner announcement with Moonbug for the hit preschool property Morphle. This brings together Thinkway’s innovative product skills, seen across many Hollywood blockbuster IP, and Moonbug’s fanbase that now sits on top tier digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Samsung and Apple TV. In Q4 of 2019, more than 20 million American households alone watched at least one episode of Morphle weekly – a number growing tremendously fast already in 2020.

Morphle, a magical red creature, along with his friend Mila, have quickly become a favourite of children aged two to five years old around the world. Unlike some IP which gain master toy partnerships with only 26 or 52 episodes Morphle has 180 episodes already, produced and distributed in six different languages. The story-led series encourages curiosity, imagination and kindness among its audience, along with a playfulness that Thinkway and Moonbug will expand upon in new toy lines set to launch in 2020.

This IP stands out for its positivity that speaks to any gender and many diverse markets. How kids are interacting with this brand reminds me of watching Peppa Pig with my own kids.

I have a lot of respect for the team at Tech Will Save Us. Passionate founders with a clear vision and mission. The standout product for me is the Arcade Coder. Not only can kids plug ’n’ play with games direct from the box, but learn the key elements of game design and block coding. With two boys obsessed with Minecraft and Roblox, this is an excellent entry to coding. The unit comes with a 12-inch by 12-inch board and 144 multi-coloured LED buttons, these are all fully programmable and controllable.

At this time of booming global board game and puzzle sales, this is a great tech-led extension into the play pattern. We have been using the product at home and love the multiplayer gameplay experience and watching the kids use Painter Mode where the kids can bring their paintings to ‘life’ with illuminating, multi-coloured LED lights and then animate them with learnt coding skills.

The ease of getting into the product is also super. Downloading the iOS Games Studio app for iPad and connect via Bluetooth. You can see the team have through this through to make this process seamless and fun with a games design course on the way.

I love how this product brings us together as a family vs other single player games they play.”

The Mr Men Little Miss brand teamed with Carex last year.
The Mr Men Little Miss brand teamed with Carex last year.

Sabrina Segalov, senior licensing manager, Sanrio:

“In 2019 the Mr Men and Little Misses partnered with Carex, the UK’s no.1 handwash brand on a range of handwash and antibacterial hand gel. Both being family brands, we wanted to bring some fun to the importance of handwashing and encourage kids to always wash their hands. While we had no idea what 2020 had in store, this has become more important than ever and we hope our characters can continue to encourage this message in a fun and educational way. We have recently launched posts and activity on social media and with Mr Tickle teaching his handwashing skills that parents can download.

Over the last few years I think the Roald Dahl team has done a great job with its licensing programme and the product that stands out is the partnership with Premier Food’s brand, Mr Kipling. This product development shows great imagination and creativity with incorporating the world of Roald Dahl into the flavours such as Miss Honey’s Delightful Honeycomb Flavour Fancies and James’ Peach Slices. The on-pack promotion also offered customers the chance to win prizes such as Roald Dahl inspired holidays, overall a great offering for families.”

The Farrow & Ball x NHM collaboration shared respect and curiosity for the natural world.
The Farrow & Ball x NHM collaboration shared respect and curiosity for the natural world.

Maxine Lister, head of licensing, Natural History Museum:

Farrow and Ball x NHM – Colour By Nature

“I think it’s fair to say that the success of the Colour by Nature campaign has been phenomenal. The eco-friendly paint collection draws inspiration from Werner’s Nomenclature of Colour, a colour guide first published in 1814 and used by Charles Darwin, a copy of which is held in the Museum’s rare book library. Every colour described in Werner’s book evokes a vision inspired by the natural world. The Colour by Nature collection is a celebration not only of colour, but also of our shared respect and curiosity for the natural world and combined with such a fascinating back story, consumers have truly engaged with this collaboration between two British heritage brands.”

Boden x Harry Potter

“This particular collaboration stood out to me in the last year for a number of reasons. The marketing around the collection, particularly the teaser campaign building up to launch, was very smartly executed, however it was also the quality of the products themselves that really caught my attention. The collection created a brand new stance on what is an evergreen property that has had presence in the market for a number of years and that is no mean feat. The vibrant palette, subtle use of branding and clever use of applique techniques all resonated with me, and all the while developed as a gender-neutral range to appeal to everyone – bravo!

Vimto and Tango Freeze Pops will launch in Lidl stores in the UK in May.
Vimto and Tango Freeze Pops will launch in Lidl stores in the UK in May.

Carl Richardson, owner, Sweet Connexion:

“Thanks Ian for the opportunity to contribute to your feature. The current deal in which I play a significant part includes 2019 Licensing Award winner Rose Marketing, two fantastic beverage brands and Lidl UK.

From May 7, Vimto and Tango Freeze pops, sold to freeze at home, will be found in the now famous ‘middle of Lidl’ for the first time. The pick up from these special buys is always huge and by May 7 we all hope that the lockdown if not fully lifted, will at least be less restrictive.

The deal I haven’t been involved in but stood out for me was spotted last Christmas in a farm shop. These products also resonate during these current exceptional times: chocolate board games.

Firm family favourites like Scrabble, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuits, all great fun but with chocolate what could be better? I imagine they would be extremely popular right now if available? Monopoly, in particular, is well known for often bringing out latent greed in some people – imagine if someone had five hotels on Mayfair and all the chocolate… it would be carnage!”

Japanese anime/manga brand, Death Note has seen a much broader appeal than expected.
Japanese anime/manga brand, Death Note has seen a much broader appeal than expected.

Phil King, managing director, Trademark Products:

“From my own business I would highlight our work with the brand Death Note (a Japanese anime/manga brand). While this might be considered as not mainstream and not what is expected, this represents a genre that has surprised us in its popularity and more general appeal. Expecting this to be a niche property targeting just core fans, we have seen a much broader appeal and are being asked by mainstream retailers to develop options. It is the unexpected nature of that appeal that makes this stand out for us, we have more main stream properties, all doing well, but this stands out as a great property and certainly a very strong genre for us to pursue.

Outside of our work there are two things I would highlight. A Stranger Things VHS style notebook: I really like the way the property has been translated to this product, it is a simple product at heart, so easy to simply apply logo and image on cover and be done. To take the detail of a product correct to the time period of the show and translate that to a product is clever, it demonstrates an understanding to the licence and a very creative design work. A simple product becomes desirable and collectable because of a well thought out design work.

I also like the way Disney Princesses have been developed into adult dress-up. This is a great brand extension, taking a children’s property and developing it into adult dress-up in a stylish way is very interesting. The little design details in the dresses endorsing the brand so you see that it is a Disney Princess dress, but not so obvious that you see it straight away. I find this a very clever development of a classic brand.”

House of Disaster's The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club LED lamp scores highly for innovation, while Pantone's licensing programme is 'inspired'.
House of Disaster's The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club LED lamp scores highly for innovation, while Pantone's licensing programme is 'inspired'.

Caroline Mickler, owner, Caroline Mickler Limited:

“It is always exciting to see a product one has licensed picked up by the press, so it was terrific to see House of Disaster’s The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club LED lamp included in BuzzFeed’s ’36 Tiny Products That Might Massively Improve Your Bedroom’ available at Apple Corps has always encouraged licensees to be creative and to bring their unique vision to The Beatles’ considerable asset guide. House of Disaster never fail to interpret the imagery in a new and commercially appealing way and it is rewarding to see their work recognised.

Pantone’s licensing programme is inspired. As we know licensing is so much more than simply finding a manufacturer for a particular product category and negotiating the terms of a licence. It’s about having a vision for how the brand should translate onto product, how the product should look, how it should feel, what price point it should retail for, where it should retail, and how to connect to the consumer. Every time I see a Pantone product, I think how clever they were to have had the vision to see how beautifully it could translate onto a wide range of product.”

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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