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The Licensing Lookout: Ice ice baby

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes turns his attention to ice cream and ice lollies and the licences on-shelf.

It has been hot in the city recently.

This naturally turns my attention to iced refreshment – aka ice cream and ice lollies. When the sun shines while others head to the beach, I go out on an iced refreshment store check. I know…

This is a category I have built up a decent knowledge of via our work with Britvic. We have been involved in developing five ice lollies so far and have learnt a lot about the category. Licensee Brand of Brothers has done a great job, not least because this is a category dominated by big players like Unilever. The bigger companies guard their retail space well and, of course, have some powerhouse brands like Magnum and Solero in play.

R Whites Lemonade lollies are still in distribution in good numbers after seven years.
R Whites Lemonade lollies are still in distribution in good numbers after seven years.

Competing with them through licensing requires a focused approach with a real commitment to translating the core brand into iced refreshment, with an emphasis on taste and flavour. It also helps if you can tap into a distinct flavour profile and a heritage brand.

R Whites Lemonade fits the bill in that regard. When it was first launched it was subject to little competition. However since it launched, competition in the lemonade ice lolly has heightened so Brand of Brothers has had to work harder on maintaining listings with proactive account management and promotions.

Iced refreshment is a promotion heavy category. Seven years in R Whites Lemonade ice lollies are still in distribution in good numbers which is a great endorsement for brand licensing. A good licence has to be well used.

Cadbury's brands pop up regularly in McDonald's.
Cadbury's brands pop up regularly in McDonald's.

Two other strong brand players in the category are Mars and Cadbury’s. Both brands are very active and, of course, brands like Daim translate well to the category.

Indeed Cadbury’s pops up regularly in McDonald’s, with a Cadbury Flake product currently being promoted by McDonald’s with billboard advertising.

Peppa Pig and The Gruffalo are good examples of licensees going the extra yard in NPD terms.
Peppa Pig and The Gruffalo are good examples of licensees going the extra yard in NPD terms.

Iced refreshment is a category that is tough for character licensing to succeed in. In part because it is hard to bring a character alive in brand terms in the category and it is also subject to fierce competition from well established brands and increasingly price driven own brand offers. With this in mind it was good to see Peppa Pig and The Gruffalo active in the category. Both of these products are good examples of licensees going the extra yard in NPD terms focusing on the style and shape of the products.

Obviously taste and flavour are not so relevant with characters like these, but the character of the brands have been dialled up: The Gruffalo product has been developed in the shape of tusks – ice tusks of course.

This shows even in character licensing adding value can make a real difference.

Speakeasy has focused on bringing signature flavours to ice cream via brand partnerships.
Speakeasy has focused on bringing signature flavours to ice cream via brand partnerships.

I was also interested to see that alcoholic ice cream company Speakeasy announced that its range of branded ice creams have just been listed in Booths. Speakeasy has focused on bringing signature flavours into ice cream via a series of brand partnerships. One example is a link with Conker Gin. This is a good illustration of how licensing and partnerships can create a point of difference particularly when using distinct flavours. In this case the retailer has responded to a good product combined with a strong brand. Speakeasy Ice Creams are a good example of how a traditional category can still be disrupted by a new twist in product terms.

Staying with more indulgent ice cream, it is interesting to see that Haagen Das has dialled up a partnership with Wimbledon including some high profile posters around Wimbledon. I guess this is superbrand building and is a bold use of a high profile event to encourage brand trial and switching.

After writing this Lookout I need an ice cream, but in true British style since starting this article it has started to rain. Rain stopped play. This also shows how the frozen ice category is weather dependent – a further complexity for the ice cream men and women that makes it a hard category to break into.

Even the biggest characters can face unexpected challenges... and, no, we don't mean a selfie with Ian.
Even the biggest characters can face unexpected challenges... and, no, we don't mean a selfie with Ian.

I mentioned I visited Liverpool last week. One of my highlights was meeting Bumblebee. A further case study of the pulling power of IP in the live context?

I felt compelled to have a selfie with Bumblebee, but somehow I don’t think this was an official activation. So maybe not one for the case study file after all. Just shows even the biggest characters can face unexpected challenges.

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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