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‘Licensing is very much about telling a story’

Executives from Penguin Ventures, Rocket Licensing, The Roald Dahl Story Company and V&A share advice on how to build a brand from a book at London Book Fair.

Key industry executives with experience in the publishing category shared their advice on how to successfully build a brand from a book yesterday (22 June) during a panel session at London Book Fair.

The session was moderated by Ryan Beaird, ceo of and former marketing manager at Licensing International UK, who kicked off proceedings with a basics of licensing run-through, highlighting the key points which newcomers to the business need to be aware of.

The session was moderated by Ryan Beaird who also offered a brief basics of licensing presentation.
The session was moderated by Ryan Beaird who also offered a brief basics of licensing presentation.

This was followed by Thomas Merrington, creative director at Penguin Ventures, presenting some of the live and experiential activity that the company has undertaken for Peter Rabbit.

This, Thomas explained to the assembled virtual delegates, has ranged from outdoor trails, through to afternoon teas, a stage show, Christmas grottos, exhibitions and rides and attractions. He also hinted at some big plans for the 120th anniversary of Peter Rabbit in 2022.

The panel session then invited Rob Wijeratna, joint md of Rocket Licensing, Rebecca French, senior licensing manager at The Roald Dahl Story Company and Lauren Sizeland, head of licensing and business development at the V&A into the conversation of how to successfully build a brand from a book.

Rob explained that publishers should look to establish five or six licensees to start a licensing campaign and give them a foundation to build on.

“Licensing is very much about telling a story,” he explained. “You want to create a buzz and excitement to really get people on board, so that they can join in on that story.”

Discussing The Very Hungry Caterpillar – which is represented in the UK by Rocket Licensing – he said: “That book is only 22 pages, yet is shows what can be done with an engaging story. But also it’s very much about working hard at trade, delivering great experiences and promotions, style guides and offering great new designs that licensees can refresh the brand with.”

Roald Dahl’s Rebecca said that the author’s backlist is extensive and they have new customers discovering the stories every year.

“There are new formats being introduced, new age ranges, special editions, seasonal titles, a long-term preschool strategies… the core stories are as they have been for generations, but there is still lots of content coming through for us to licence,” she commented. “We celebrate an individual title each year and with each title we have relevant story themes that we can use to create unique packages with licensees.”

Thomas highlighted some of the live and experiential activity Penguin Ventures had carried out for Peter Rabbit.
Thomas highlighted some of the live and experiential activity Penguin Ventures had carried out for Peter Rabbit.

When it comes to the V&A, Lauren highlighted how the museum’s shop is also playing a key role with its latest exhibition inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

Lauren also explained how identifying key territories can help grow a licensing programme. “East Asia is a growing market for us, while the licensing and merchandising programme actually started in Japan, so you don’t necessarily need to start in the territory that you are based if there is a key market elsewhere.

“Also, age groups – East Asia is a younger market for example for us (25-30), whereas the UK is predominantly 40+ and Japan is 60+, so working out how the territories and market demographics work for you is key.”

When asked how companies could find relevant licensees, Rebecca recommended comp shopping: “This is a great place to spot what people are doing with other brands that may resonate with your audience.”

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