The Licensing Lookout: Making connections

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at how licensing links to World Book Day and Comic Relief.

It is been a bit of a case of Looking Out vicariously for me this week. I have a connection to two national events that have been in the public eye through a couple of my clients. But it has reminded me how licensing and IP are connected to a lot of events that capture the public’s imagination and motivate consumers.

We are working with Hachette Children’s Books and production company Sixteen South Studios on the charming property Claude. It started life as a book series written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith. Sixteen South has developed an animated series featuring Claude that is currently on Disney Junior. However, Claude hasn’t forgotten his publishing roots and this week a new Claude book has been published which is part of the excellent World Book Day £1 book programme.

The publishing industry works together to create a collection of 12 specially produced books that are widely distributed at retail. The books are priced at £1 and can be purchased with specially issued £1 book tokens that are issued to school children – the £1 book tokens can be used against the purchase of other books but the main push is on the specially curated book collection.

It is a fantastic opportunity for children to get a book for free and to get the chance to enjoy a book. The scheme has grown in popularity and is supported at retail with posters, events and FSDUs – it is difficult to miss and the publishing industry should be applauded for this initiative.

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The Claude book – Best in Show – is fun, bright and a great read. Part of the message around World Book Day this year is to encourage children to read with an adult such as a parent or carer – the notion of sharing a story is accompanied with a campaign hashtag #shareastory and it is good to see World Book Day being used so positively.

A benefit from World Book Day for licensing beyond books is that there has been a real surge in interest and sales in product categories such as dress-up, with children encouraged to dress up as their favourite book characters during ‘book week’. Not all book characters are licensed ones of course but many are. World Book Day has created a new selling opportunity and, indeed, provided a momentum for a number of characters in the category.

Bookshops and book sellers also use World Book Day as a focal point to sell other merchandise and book related products. I don’t think this sideshow selling detracts from the main purpose of World Book Day and indeed it helps create a wider movement around it. It is a good example of how licensing can participate in events that engage with consumers in new ways.

Rubie’s is developing a Claude costume that should be available next year – arguably World Book Day was a catalyst for it to get on board with the opportunity and it is good to see leading licensees giving opportunities to ‘start up’ licensing properties. Although I should emphasise Claude is by no means a ‘start up’ property in publishing terms – hence his inclusion in the World Book Day programme in the first place.

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The other national event that I have a connection with via one of our clients is Red Nose Day. Our client Nadiya Hussain has been involved with Disney and TK Maxx and is one of the celebrity ambassadors for a range of ‘exclusive’ Disney/Mickey Mouse Red Nose Day products such as aprons being sold through TK Maxx.

The retailer has been a long-term supporter of Comic Relief and the Disney range is the latest alliteration of this partnership. This is a good example of a ‘collab’ blended with a ‘retail exclusive’ in licensing terms – Disney has seemingly developed a specific design look for the range.

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It stretches over a range of products including aprons and t-shirts. The use of celebrities has helped raise awareness and it is an interesting addition to the array of Red Nose Day activations.

One specific highlight of this current partnership is a limited edition print by Sir Peter Blake featuring Mickey Mouse – it is selling for £999 in a limited edition with at least £900 going to the charity.

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Charity-related partnerships present an interesting opportunity for licensing and I think there is scope for this area to grow. One other interesting Red Nose Day product I spotted this week was in Specsavers. It has developed Comic Relief Red Nose Day Jester frames. Being sold for £2 a pair, Specsavers has pledged £250,000 to Comic Relief from the sale of these products.

It is a novel way of supporting Red Nose Day and continues Specsavers’ smart use of brands and personalities. Specsavers has promoted the partnership well with advertorials in papers like The Evening Standard and poster advertising. It has also linked the campaign to a promotion for Free Eye Tests; a good example of using a big event to help push a key marketing message.

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Another event caught my eye this week as well. The White Hart pub in SE1 was promoting a Gaming Night on Monday, allowing customers the chance to play computer games such as Super Mario in the upstairs room. The room had been converted to a gaming room for the night.

I may be late to the party, but I haven’t seen this kind of event promoted in a pub before. It is a further sign of the pulling power of gaming as a past time and the strength of classic gaming characters like Super Mario.

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Finally, it was good to see partwork company Hachette Collections’ new Terminator-themed partwork being launched – a good example of a licensee and property owner breathing life into a ‘classic’ archive property in a novel way. Prominently displayed at retail, the partwork gives consumers the chance to ‘Build the T-800 – the Endoskeleton that defined a generation’ and to ‘Create your own piece of film history with this official model featuring accurate details, moving parts, sounds and lighting’. Sounds tempting but also quite a challenge. A good combination for a partwork.

Although as an ex-partwork man I would like to have seen it with the strapline: I’ll Be Back. Fortnightly.

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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