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The trends to watch from Licensing Expo

Carol Feeley from Beacon Creative highlights her top spots from last month’s showcase.

Licensing Expo features the who’s who of the $251.7* billion licensing industry. There were over 140 new brands on show, and we’ve compiled our list of favourites, as well as what to look forward to in the coming months…


Line Friends

Featuring the biggest independent Asian character brand booth in history, Line Friends stole the show at this year’s expo. Originally created in 2011, Line Friends were created as sticker characters of mobile messenger ‘LINE’. It has since become a global brand developing 5,000 character products across multiple territories, featuring animation, games, a café, hotels and a theme park.

Products on display varied from super cute apparel, stationery, a collaboration with Brompton bikes, as well as Line Friends beer. The first official Line Friends US store will open this July in Times Square, New York City.


FAO Schwarz

Another new exhibitor to this year’s show, the FAO Schwarz booth featured graphics from its recent rebrand… (as well as the giant piano from Big). ThreeSizty Group announced that it had acquired FAO Schwarz from Toys R Us late last year.

David Conn, spokesperson, commented: “FAO Schwarz, now owned by ThreeSixty Group, will be bigger and better than ever in 2017. With an estimated presence in more than 1,000 top US speciality and department stores, the coming holiday season looks bright. Attending Licensing Expo in May is a key part of the expansion strategy for the upcoming year as FAO Schwarz is evaluating select licensing partners in the marketplace.”


Nintendo | Nintendo x Uniqlo

There were over 16,000 t-shirt designs submitted by Mario fans across the globe, and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto selected the top 25 winning designs. On sale earlier this month in Uniqlo, most have sold out worldwide, but the Nintendo booth displayed a selection of the most popular.



Among the 140 new brands to be showcased this year, Coca-Cola licensing displayed a range of vintage inspired apparel and accessories. Trend Bible explains how the brand stays relevant with a young audience: “Coca-Cola are a great example of how a brand uses trends to maintain relevance. Essentially their formula stays the same and has done for decades, but they are able to recontextualise themselves with every new generation by using trends – in strategy, packaging and marketing – to stay current.”



The leading independent digital media and tech company delivers news and entertainment content to a global audience. It recently launched ‘Product Lab’ – a newly formed division focused on extending the reach and value of brands and properties through partnerships.

Its first year at Vegas, and its first venture into the licensing world, Buzzfeed caught the attention of passers-by with the open plan space with hanging digital banners which promoted its influence around the globe.


Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network displayed giant interacting screens which showcased some of the top properties, including Ben 10 and The Powerpuff girls.

It also announced new show ‘O.K K.O! Let’s be heroes’ – from the creator of Adventure Time, it follows the character, K.O., and his efforts to become the world’s greatest hero, while working at Gar’s Bodega, a hero supply shop in the Lakewood Plaza strip mall. The show will premiere this August with a tie-in game called OK K.O.!



New for 2018, ITV Studios showcased two new properties, Robozuna and a new four-part series for Watership Down.

Robozuna follows 14-year-old Ariston and his robot sidekick Mangle as they battle evil robot centurions to free a nation from the tyrannical empire. Scheduled to air in early 2018, we’re expecting big things.



Sanrio announced two new characters this year. The first ‘Aggretsuk’ – a cute Red Panda, aims to address the decline in the kawaii craze which has dominated Japanese culture since 1980. By day Aggretsuk works as an office associate in the accounting department of a highly respected trading company. By night, she goes out after work and takes out her frustration and stress with heavy metal karaoke sessions.

Hello Kitty also announced a move into experiential markets, including food, with a Hello Kitty Café truck and a Hello Kitty Café pop-up container.

Sanrio and Snapchat will continue to collaborate on themed lenses for both Hello Kitty and Little Twin Stars this year. Further partnerships include clothing label Lazy Oaf, Stance socks, hats from New Era, Nylon magazine, LootCrate subscription box service and JuJuBe bags.


JoJo Siwa

Building on the success of social media, Nickelodeon signed social media influencer and star on the TV series Dance Moms, JoJo Siwa.

The deal includes consumer products which were on display from ‘JoJo Bows’ to confectionery and the company is now looking for partners across apparel, home furnishings, toys, accessories, publishing and more.

Carol Feeley is creative manager at Beacon Creative – an independent brand design consultancy, working with worldwide brands on a daily basis, which believes that at the heart of every good brand communication is a great idea. She can be contacted on 0191 478 4411 or by clicking here.

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