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The Licensing Lookout: Love is in the air

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at how the licensing industry approached Valentine’s Day.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
No licensed Valentine’s cards for you…

Or so I thought based on my visit to a few specialist retailers. Licensing didn’t feature in the ranges I saw and it made me think there was an opportunity for licensing within this sending occasion.

However, I then decided to take a look online at print on demand personalised card retailers Moonpig and Funky Pigeon. Reassuringly, there was a plethora of licensed options on these sites. A reminder that they are new markets emerging for licensing and that the online space is an increasingly important space for licensing to operate in.


Some of the highlights on Moonpig included cards produced in association with the Royal Mail featuring the iconic Machin Stamp of the Queen’s Head. A clever use of this design and a good example of a ‘different’ type of licensing.

This caught my attention as I helped put this partnership together while acting as a consultant to the Royal Mail. It is good to see organisations like Royal Mail recognise that the assets can have a second life in licensing.


Other brands that were being used for Valentine’s on Moonpig included Mr Men – a very appropriate brand for personalisation – Disney, Star Wars and Wonder Woman. Moonpig has used the licences well from a creative, design and personalisation point of view.

One of the advantages of this marketplace is its ability to carry a wide range of design options and choices. For licensors it gives them the potential for exposure for themes that perhaps wouldn’t make it into bricks and mortar stores.

Wonder Woman was a great example of a well chosen slogan being on brand in licensing terms, but also a perfect application for personalisation: consumers could upload a photo onto a card with the slogan ‘To my one & only Wonder Woman’.


Funky Pigeon had an equally strong selection with a great mix of licences on offer. Again used in a progressive way with some clever slogans and design placements. Featured licences included the likes of Star Wars and Disney. There were also some humour-based cards such as Mrs Brown’s Boys – a reminder that comedy shows are a good source of inspiration for greetings card companies.

Again it was encouraging to see how licences had been used in an imaginative way. Both Funky Pigeon and Moonpig have helped drive consumer interest in personalisation – a trend which seems to be tailor-made for licensing. It is good to see licensing playing such a big part in a category that seems to be in growth.

Outside of the online world maybe there is scope for card companies to use licensing a bit more for occasions like Valentine’s Day – although I do acknowledge that I didn’t visit a lot of card outlets in search of licensed Valentine’s cards, but my sense was that there is scope for growth in the category.


I also spotted licensing being used in another classic Valentine’s category – jewellery. Retailer H Samuel produced an advertorial in the Metro newspaper promoting gift giving for Valentine’s. One of the featured products was a Disney LOVE charm bracelet by Chamilia which included classic characters Lady & the Tramp.

Another good example of Disney making the most of its very rich archive and also being tuned into occasions – it seems to take a no stone unturned approach to the market. It was also good to see H Samuel featuring a licensed product as part of the promotion. A sign that it believes in licensing and something that should influence other players in the category.


Outside of the world of romantic licensing I was very impressed by a fashion ‘collab’ between two British country classics. Apparel brand Barbour has linked with Land Rover to create a capsule range of t-shirts and jackets featuring the iconic Defender vehicle.

In the world of collaborations where sometimes it is difficult to see the fit, this partnership seemed to be a very credible one and one that is well suited to both partners. This should appeal to existing customers of both brands but also connect with new consumers.

It is also an opportunity for retailers to further promote Barbour in-store and create fresh interest in a classic brand. Barbour seems to be keen to activate partnerships like this, but appears keen for them to resonate with its consumers and to be sourced from brands that fit with the heritage and brand use.


Finally, the Lookout invested in a more powerful telescope this week and spotted something in Argentina that caught the eye. Actually Max Publishing’s Jakki Brown is on holiday there and sent me photos of some Minions ice cream products in an airport ice cream parlour. A really good example of how licensing can add value to a category and how a well designed product can create interest at retail if displayed well. I think Jakki didn’t have time to sample the product, but I am sure it delivered and tasted as good as it looked.

If you are travelling and have time to Lookout for some licensing in other markets please feel free to send me a photo – it is always good to see ideas from other markets.

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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