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The Licensing Lookout: Christmas gifts ‘on point’

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes spots a series of Christmas initiatives by brands this week.

Sometimes when I am ‘Looking Out’ I see products that I think are ‘ spot on’ in licensing terms. I think younger people might say they are ‘on point’.

I saw two examples this week. Both of which were part of Christmas ranges. The first was a box of Twister Christmas crackers. A great use of a classic game brand being deployed in a really relevant category. It allows the brand to play in the Christmas market and be a feature in fun family time. It will probably inspire people to play Twister if they already have it or invest in a new copy.

For the cracker company, it is using a much-loved brand in a competitive price driven category and is delivering a new twist to a traditional format. It may encourage others to think about how their brand can be activated in the category  and the wider partyware market in general.

Twister Christmas crackers are a great use of a game brand being deployed in a relevant category.
Twister Christmas crackers are a great use of a game brand being deployed in a relevant category.

The other noteworthy product that caught my eye was part of an activity range from RMS in Wilko. The range was featuring the Christmas classic The Snowman. This is a brand that has been managed in a focused way and has become a perennial in terms of Christmas products.

A skill is adding new licensees and products without undermining the core appeal of the property. It is also important to say no sometimes. In this case the range centres on craft and activity, which is a good space to be in, and is a keenly priced range which opens it up to new consumers. It suits a retailer like Wilko well. It has family appeal, is well recognised and a safe bet. The product that struck me as a bullseye in licensing terms was a Letter to Santa pack. A kit that has all the elements to allow a child (or I guess adults) to write the Santa. A creative use of the licence in the creative category.

The whole range was well presented and sited in two places in-store including a FSDU.

RMS' range for The Snowman in Wilko was presented well in-store.
RMS' range for The Snowman in Wilko was presented well in-store.

Sticking with Christmas, a feature of Christmas celebrations these days seems to be Christmas Jumpers. There was a time in my house that the words ‘Christmas Jumpers’ conjured up thoughts of the Boxing Day meeting at Kempton Park, whereas today it is all about apparel.

I mentioned a number of licensed Christmas jumpers last week, but I became aware of another one this week and it is one with a good cause associated with it. Simon Gresswell sent me a photo of him modelling Prostate Cancer’s Christmas jumper which is available through Burtons. A really good example of cause-related marketing. A positive reminder that products, licensing and charity can go together well.

The Prostate Cancer Christmas jumper is available from Burtons.
The Prostate Cancer Christmas jumper is available from Burtons.

I was so impressed by Simon’s modelling ability that I have decided to join forces with him to try to develop more crossovers between charities, retailers and licensing.

Around 20 years during my time at Copyright Promotions, I worked with the NSPCC to develop a licensing programme around its then brand characters The Happy Kids. We developed a number of products including a book programme with Egmont. The products raised money for the NSPCC, but also gave it a communication platform and retail visibility. Simon and myself have our own causes that motivate us, but it is a good opportunity to ‘give back’ in licensing terms but also it is a interesting application of the licensing model.

Louis Kennedy Partnership has done a great job of marshalling relationships between IP owners and charities around campaigns and promotions. But there is scope to develop other types of partnerships with more of a focus on specific retail products. I might even don a Christmas jumper myself one day!

Related to this in my role as a Light Fund committee member, I joined some colleagues at an event run by MIND last week. The Light Fund has helped fund a peer support programme. This is a series of activities such as crafting classes, choirs and drop-in centres which encourage people to meet up and help each other through ‘hands on’ activities, but essentially meeting others and building support networks. It was very impressive and uplifting. It was great to see how The Light Fund’s funding really makes a difference.

You can find out more details of this programme by click here.

The BLE team ran a sample sale in aid of The Light Fund and MIND this week.
The BLE team ran a sample sale in aid of The Light Fund and MIND this week.

The team at Brand Licensing Europe ran a sample sale this week at their offices with proceeds being split between The Light Fund and MIND. This was very kind of them and supported by product donations from licensors and licensees, helped by Max Publishing.

I mention this to acknowledge BLE’s great support, but also to point out how well licensed products were received by the wider office community in BLE’s office. It is easy to overlook that licensed products hold a great appeal to consumers – I was helping at the sale and it was really interesting to see how positively people reacted to the products on sale. Yes there were bargains to be had, but the response to the products was very encouraging and a reminder that good quality licensed products can really motivate consumers. Especially those that are ‘on brand’.

Cadbury's Secret Santa initiative has seen it open a series of chocolate 'post offices'.
Cadbury's Secret Santa initiative has seen it open a series of chocolate 'post offices'.

Finally, I think we can always learn from what companies are doing outside of the licensing sector and I have been very impressed by Cadbury’s Secret Santa initiative.

It has opened a series of ‘pop up’ Chocolate ‘Post Offices’ in locations such as the South Bank. As a consumer you could gift a free chocolate bar to a friend or family member. Cadbury’s mail it onto the recipient. It worked really well – the chocolate bar I sent turned up a few days later. I guess my secret is out now! I thought this was a simple and effective way of building a relationship with a brand, tapping into the positivity around Christmas and, of course, for Cadbury’s building a direct link to consumers. It was an entertaining pop-up.

I think there is scope for IP owners to look at this kind of thing, either to sell product or carry out promotions. Well-known IP has the ability to connect with consumers and to motivate them. You can see that in action at sample sales!

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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