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The Licensing Lookout: Trick or treat?

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at some brands taking a slice of the pumpkin pie.

Trick or treat?

Words we are more familiar with in the UK these days as Halloween has become a bigger thing. Retailers theme stores and displays to capitalise on it, while big FMCG brands develop special edition packs and flavours. Orange flavouring manufacturers must rub their hands at this time of year, while it is a boom time for pumpkin growers. Against this backdrop it is no surprise to see licensors, licensees and licensing taking a slice of the pumpkin pie.

Confectionery seems a particularly buoyant area. I spotted two Halloween themed ranges featuring licensed characters in Poundland. Both had been bought in depth and were supported by branded displays.

Casper the Ghost has had a strong link to Halloween over the years.
Casper the Ghost has had a strong link to Halloween over the years.

The first featured Casper the Ghost: in many ways not a surprise and a character that for obvious reasons has had a strong link to Halloween over the years. It also has a Halloween heritage in the United States which would have underpinned its credentials.

The other example was a range of products featuring Despicable Me. Here there seems to have been some investment in a bespoke style guide – a reminder that sometimes a targeted approach to thematic design can pay dividends. There are probably other seasonal and retail themes licensing could play a part in with an investment in bespoke design.

A targeted approach to thematic design can pay dividends.
A targeted approach to thematic design can pay dividends.

A further example of a classic character set being deployed effectively at Halloween is a range featuring The Addams Family, developed by Rose Marketing. Retailers such as Next and Nisa have bought into the range. Rose has form in the seasonal confectionery market. It recently picked up a Licensing Award for a range of Christmas products featuring The Snowman. It has recognised that a well chosen property with a strong theme can help it compete in a strong selling period. It is important in scenarios like this that the licensee thinks about product formats and NPD.

Other categories that tap into the Halloween pound include dress-up and accessories, while there seems to be some growth in the apparel category. Here Halloween is a stepping off point for ranges. An example is an apparel range featuring Universal Monsters – I read about this on LinkedIn. I believe it is available from BooHoo. A topical and fun promotion. LinkedIn is a productive new way of looking out for me.

I am sure other IP owners are thinking about how they might be able to play in the Halloween market. Themed style guides help but an authentic Halloween ‘friendly’ property probably has more chance of success. It all points to a comeback for Rentaghost to me. Some readers might need to Google that one…

Pulsin is running an on-pack promotion for Farmageddon.
Pulsin is running an on-pack promotion for Farmageddon.

Beyond Halloween, and closer to home for me, it was good to spot some of the promotions around the new Shaun the Sheep movie, Farmageddon, launching. One noteworthy one is an on-pack promotion with Pulsin fruity oat bars. The promotion is linked to a ‘win a holiday’ competition with Forest Holidays. Promotions like this help fill a gap where there used to be wall to wall product ranges. Product licensees are a little more wary of running licensed product ranges overtly linked to films these days. A further aspect of movie promotions that is good for licensing is that often they are the first exposure some brands have to licensing. A happy promotional partner may well become a willing licensee in the future.

Aardman and Studio Canal, in tandem with promotions agency Snowball Effect, have done a great job of harnessing the power of a film to bring a wide range of promotional partners on board. Many of these partnerships may well morph into longer term licensing deals and of course help bolster the overall licensing programme.

Pitbull has been brewed in association with rugby union legend, Brian Moore.
Pitbull has been brewed in association with rugby union legend, Brian Moore.

I was also lucky enough to try a pint of Pitbull this week. A pale ale brewed by Wimbledon Brewery in association with rugby union legend Brian Moore. Timed to be on sale during the Rugby World Cup and also the Wimbledon BookFest where Brian was appearing.

A good example of brewers using brand partnerships to create a point of difference and interest in the pub trade.

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher are gracing the walls of SE1's Leake Street.
Dennis the Menace and Gnasher are gracing the walls of SE1's Leake Street.

Finally, it was good to see my old friends Dennis the Menace and Gnasher on the walls of SE1’s Leake Street. The duo were featured in a fresh piece of street art.  A further example of characters starring in street art. Some of these artworks are orchestrated by IP owners, while the majority are tribute pieces by artists.

Interestingly for those looking for the next big thing for Halloween, there are the remnants of some Goosebumps street art still visible. A legacy of a Goosebumps Halloween event from a few years back. Maybe Goosebumps is worth backing in the Halloween Stakes 2020 – comes with free street art.

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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