One word that gets used more than any other as a synonym for ‘brand’ is ‘personality.’
The parallel is apt, and it is equally synonymous when applied to the discipline of licensing and merchandising.
The goal of all members of a licensing partnership should be to try to capture a part of the ‘personality’ of the original creative concept to grab the core DNA and work from it so that any new formations remain connected by the life blood of the original production, be it a cartoon, television program or theatrical release.
One of the best examples of a marketer who has truly understood this process, and who practises it better than most, is Ralph Lauren. While this might seem to be distantly related to what we do in entertainment marketing, I’d like to use the Ralph Lauren example because his vision has created branding across a wide range of products.
Ralph Lauren brings his products to the marketplace with seamless execution. Merchandise is packaged and presented in a way that appeals to the same taste level, and maintains uniformly top-quality branding across a diverse range of products and product categories. Even though there may be 100 separate manufacturers involved in creating Ralph Lauren products, from socks to swimwear to fragrance to furniture, they are well schooled in the Ralph Lauren philosophy, to the point where the consumer probably believes there is really only one manufacturer.
Our job is to build the same kind of consistency of branding or personality and apply that throughout our licensing programs.
We position our brands so that when they are taken off the screen and interpreted into different product categories whether it’s a toy or a T-shirt or a child’s lunch box they deliver the same level of quality and are faithful to the original personality. The consumer should be left believing that the brands all sprang from the animator who drew the very first animation cels. Ideally, the magic of the artist’s creation lives again in all licensed products, and in a way that makes you feel as though they had just leapt from the artist’s drafting table.
It is important to keep in mind the parallel between branding and personality because brands are as much living things as the consumers who embrace them. They must evolve and grow like trends in order to avoid becoming static, otherwise they will wither and die. Brands should be constantly placed in environments that are natural to them, and in which they will flourish. Brands should be nourished and allowed to grow, with fresh design and innovative thinking.
The dream scenario is when consumers walk into a retail store and look at the various displays see the different brands, like The Flintstones or Scooby-Doo and feel as though they had just stepped inside a cartoon world.
As owners of the world’s largest film and animation libraries, we intend to take the lead in developing a whole new direction for how these brands can live off the screen.
In the entertainment world, a celebrity is managed by agents. We are agents of the stars of the animation world. It is our responsibility to treat their ideas with care, and to build their careers. We reach into a marketing tool kit to build new life for these characters to turn them into powerful statements that will be heard above the din of a very crowded and competitive global marketplace.
All our activities are attached to a carefully detailed marketing plan. We see ourselves as an invisible network of marketers who are constantly finding new ways of connecting with consumers. We work on turning well-known characters into marketing masterpieces that touch all areas of life, and that really have true meaning for the consumers who buy them.
Everyone has a kid inside. We are trying to tap into that.