The Licensing Lookout: Incredible feats

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes on how Incredibles 2 is appealing to different retailers.

A confession. I didn’t see the first Incredibles film but I really hope to see Incredibles 2.  Reading reviews and articles, it seems to be a genuinely good film and from a licensing perspective a film that has delivered on its promise. Early box office numbers suggest it is proving incredibly popular as well. Many licensees I have spoken to recently have suggested that licensing needs a new ‘hit’ : a property that excites consumers but perhaps more crucially interests retailers. Maybe Incredibles 2 might perform that role.

The perceived wisdom is that a new property with momentum will help switch attention back to the benefits of licensing and have a ripple effect throughout the industry. It is a rather large pebble thrown into the licensing pond.


I spotted two good examples of Incredibles 2 being used in the market this week – I am sure there are many more out there.

The first was an enterprising use of the licence in the greeting cards sector. I was in my local Post Office which has a very well presented greeting cards department – a certain symmetry in that. There was a full range of Incredibles 2 cards on sale taking in age and relation cards including Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother, Granddaughter and Grandson – an indication of the family appeal of the film. The cards were displayed in a FSDU and as such featured prominently in-store.

This is a good example of a product range based on a film licence being presented in a proactive way with a promotional mentality behind. The card company has launched its range on time and in a way that consumers will notice it. From a retailers point of view they can buy into a topical range without disrupting existing ranges and displays.


The second example I spotted this week was a promotion in Boots. Boots is a retailer that isn’t one you always associate with film licensing and promotions so it was good to see it on board – as noted earlier if this works, it should make Boots engage further with licensing.

This specific promotion was linked to Boots’ suncare brand Soltan. Consumers receive a free Incredibles 2 water bottle when purchasing 2 Soltan products. Again well displayed and well timed. A summer blockbuster movie is a great vehicle for a summer products promotion. It is also a neat idea to have a water bottle as the premium as it is a product that is very much on trend. I look forward to spotting some more Incredibles 2 activity over the next few weeks and maybe even going to see it!

Our postman has taken the week off this week. I think this might be in part to the fact that he has just delivered the latest Next Directory. The Directory is a weighty tome but now comes with a Next Home Directory and a third supplement, Label. It is a weighty parcel to deliver.

Next has always been a retailer which combines high street selling with direct selling. In fact I have a feeling it is no longer the Next Directory it is just Next – I guess I am showing my age. It is interesting to see what licences Next carries – often it seems to try to offer some different brands or designwork to other retailers. I am guessing it feels it is important to offer consumers a point of difference.


Licensing doesn’t dominate the pages, but there is reasonable coverage throughout Next’s ranges. I would say it takes an ultra selective approach and licensing makes up 5% or so of the overall offer. Some of the highlights in the current ranges include Boys 3 to 16 years t-shirts featuring Star Wars, Marvel and Minecraft.

I imagine Next also tries to deliver unique design work to further enhance its positioning and to be different. In younger years, classic Mickey Mouse features a number of times. An endorsement of the cross generational appeal of Mickey. He is a recognisable and trusted character well suited to ‘gift’ buying.

Licensing seems a bigger player for Next in its bedding offer with a colourful double page spread featuring Harry Potter, Pusheen, LEGO Friends, Batman, Avengers, Pokémon and my new friends the Incredibles. Paw Patrol also features. Licensing also features in a small way in Next’s houseware offering with Sophie Conran for Portmeirion ceramics such as dinner plates and a Ken Hom-branded wok set. Next does support other brands as well in terms of stocking core products from suppliers such as Joseph Joseph and Dualit. It strikes me that Next has a good opportunity with brand licensing and could consider supporting more licensed ranges in this part of its business.

Finally, while it is not strictly licensing I am always impressed by how museums and galleries support their exhibitions with well developed product ranges in the obligatory gift shops. The ranges are well produced and show a lot of imagination. I think it is worth visiting shops like those at the Tate to see how they innovate regularly and try new things product-wise.


I recently went to the All Too Human exhibition at Tate Modern featuring art from the likes of Freud and Bacon. As you can see from my photo I am a whippet fan as was Lucian Freud. So I was delighted I could buy a whippet t-shirt.

I decided I needed to add value to the t-shirt and make it a special edition shirt so added my own whippet to it. I like to think Lucian might have liked it!

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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