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The Licensing Lookout: New Year’s Resolutions

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes on resolutions, partwork launches and furniture sales.

Happy New Year to you all.

It is the time of year for resolutions, partwork launches and furniture sales.

It is good to see that licensing is playing a part in all three of these this year.

In terms of resolutions I think many of us resolve to lose a few pounds – in my case this has to extend beyond a visit to the bookies to genuine weight loss. Maybe that is why Iceland’s TV advertising caught my eye this week. It was promoting its ‘exclusive’ range of Slimming World meals. This partnership is a great example of a retailer recognising an opportunity to reach a market sector through brand licensing and creating a licensing deal that allows it to build a product range over the long-term. Iceland has supported its Slimming World range well in-store with branded freezer cabinets and POS material.


Featuring the range in TV advertising at this time of year is a proactive but timely move, and reinforces the retailer’s commitment to the brand. I am sure Slimming World is delighted with the partnership and the focus that Iceland has brought to the brand.

Having a commercial partner running TV advertising at this time of year is a great boost to the brand and a demonstration of how licensing partnerships can help brand owners. I am not sure of the terms of the deal, but it seems to be a win-win for both partners and I imagine Iceland has ringfenced the partnership for some time.

That said, as it is working why would Slimming World seek to change things?


Partworks – collectable magazines – traditionally launch in January. Historically because national media costs were cheaper at this time of year, but also because most often partworks tap into hobbies or special interest – launching when people are looking for a ‘new’ hobby or perhaps acquiring a new skill made sense.

Launching in January is less of a standard for the partwork industry now but it is still a busy period.


One launch that stood out for me this year was the launch of a die-cast vehicle collection featuring Dinky vehicles and the Dinky brand. A great use of a heritage brand that works well in the collectable field.

Die-cast collections have worked well for partworks before, but there are limited ways of creating these kind of collections – so using a heritage brand like Dinky that is intrinsically linked to vehicles seems sensible.

Partworks are heavily tested before national launch so one can assume that the publisher has established that there is a market demand for the collection. I imagine this will fall into the category of collection that has a relatively low initial sales figure, but those that buy the first few issues will become regular collectors with a high percentage completing the collection.

A challenge will be the level of awareness of the Dinky brand, but this may be assuaged by it becoming a cross generational collection and also the fact that the collection is well produced with good quality vehicles. This is an interesting collection as well in terms of the fact that it demonstrates the value that exists in heritage brands and also that there are commercial opportunities available to rights owners/agents outside of the mainstream licensing sectors.

LL3 beat me to the punch this week with its report of DFS‘ partnership with Aardman’s Early Man film. This promotional partnership is a great example of how a film release can be used by commercial partners to shine a light on their brand and campaign.

I think as consumers we are all aware of the plethora of adverts for furniture retailers and their January sales activities. By using the Early Man characters and using them in a humorous fashion, DFS has managed to achieve sector stand out and created a talking point in a cluttered market. I would imagine the advertising has got families talking – it is a great example of a licensed promotion helping a brand ‘interrupt’ a market.

The TV advertising is entertaining and reflects well on DFS. This is another good ‘case study’ for the licensing industry and should encourage rights owners that there are diverse opportunities out there.


Finally, and I admit it runs counter to my weight loss resolution, but I must give a ‘shout out’ to Mary Berry. I spotted her Rose Celebration Cake in Sainsbury’s this week.

Produced by Finsbury Foods, the cake has a real premium look and style to it. The packaging is simple but effective using Mary prominently on pack but in a stylish manner. I thought this was a really good example of licensing in a competitive category and an example of a licensee being adaptable – producing a cake that really fits the brand and is a genuinely bespoke development.

I can only imagine what it tastes like though… until next week.

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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