Candy brand spawns a sweet teen fashion program

Property: Love Hearts
Description: Since it began as a candy brand in the 1950s, 3.5 billion rolls of Love Hearts have been sold in more than 50 countries worldwide. The brand has been voted a 20th Century icon by the British...
January 1, 2001

Property: Love Hearts

Description: Since it began as a candy brand in the 1950s, 3.5 billion rolls of Love Hearts have been sold in more than 50 countries worldwide. The brand has been voted a 20th Century icon by the British public and is featured in two exhibitions at The Millennium Dome.

Owner/Licensor: Swizzel Matlow/Link Licensing

Concept: On August 14, 2000, London-based Link Licensing announced its appointment by Swizzel Matlow to represent the Love Hearts brand. Link is looking to develop the brand in the U.K. as a fashion-led property for girls who are too old for Barbie and too young for mainstream fashion labels. All products in the line will reflect Love Hearts’ brand values-fun, quirky, cute, girly and funky.

Demo: Girls seven and up

Licensees: Brand Base (apparel), Gemma (greeting cards exclusive to retailer Birthdays), Blue Print (stationery, bags), Pyramid Posters (posters), Kinnerton (chocolate confectionery), Think Pink (clocks, radios, resin products).

The latest: In late November 2000, three new licensees were announced-Euromark (phone accessories, toiletries, cosmetics, fashion jewelery), Golden Bear (plush, cushions, hot water bottles) and Avana Bakeries (celebration cakes for Marks & Spencer)-with a bedding license nearly closed as of press time.

Potential: As a candy brand, Love Hearts is purchased and eaten by both boys and girls, but as a licensed brand, Link is mainly targeting girls. ‘Initially, we defined [the demo] as girls seven to 14, but we found that from the reactions and interest levels we were getting, we had to quickly take off the 14,’ says Peter Woodhead, international director of licensing at Link. ‘It’s really appealing very much to the `teenies’ right on up to the early twenties.’

Targeting girls, Link chose two product categories as the main pillars of the Love Hearts brand extension: fashion, since Link felt it was the ‘core fundamental place’ to reach teen girls; and greeting cards because the property is message-driven and lends itself ideally to holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Mothers Day and Easter. ‘Although we’ll have lots of licenses, those are the key two that will really lead the licensing program and campaign,’ says Woodhead.

‘We’ve also had quite a lot of interest from publishers, which is not one I would have expected,’ said Woodhead. ‘We’ve had at least two big companies that have expressed interest in doing paperback love stories for young girls and children using the Love Hearts umbrella as a banner.’ A bit further down the track, Link will be looking to expand the brand into other food-related product like ice creams and chilled desserts because ‘there doesn’t seem to be a lot of licensed product in that slightly older, slightly more serious product category.’

Link is also taking the positioning of Love Hearts product seriously. Apparel licensee Brandbase will not be selling its line to major mass chains like Woolworth’s or British Home Stores, but to fashion boutiques like Next, Tammy Girl and La Senza. According to Woodhead, the entire offering from fashion licensees will be segmented at retail. Different retail groups will not be given different designs on the same product, but a different product offering with different designs and different combinations, so that each retailer will have a unique selection.

Woodhead claims that Love Hearts is attracting the interest of major U.K. retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Next and W.H. Smith. ‘Ultimately, it’s nice to have a property that’s well received by licensees, but it’s very exciting when you get such positive feedback from large retailers,’ says Woodhead. ‘When you hear that retailers are very keen on it and want to set up meetings with a number of licensees to see how they can best present a planned story-then you really feel you’ve got a property that is going to work extremely well.’

Will the Love Hearts program go global? Although Link’s initial agreement with Swizzel Matlow was for the U.K. market, worldwide rights discussions were in progress at press time, and an English-language rights agreement was nearly closed. ‘We’d particularly like to extend Love Hearts into the U.S., Canada, Australia and other English-language markets,’ says Woodhead. ‘If all goes well, we would plan to exhibit at the New York Licensing Show.’ Link is not sure whether it will take the brand to continental Europe with foreign-language products, but it is a strong possibility given the far reach of the candy product.

Market reality check: ‘The facts that the concept of love is universal, that the brand has recognizable values, and that a specific targeted market has been defined bodes well for the program,’ says Richard Stamper, president of Canadian licensing agency Royal Marketing Solutions.

Personal accessories is an important category, and Stamper would look to add hair care products, watches and journals/diaries to the line. ‘I would definitely broaden the publishing category with paperback books and add calendars and CD-ROMs,’ says Stamper. Depending on how the property is positioned, Stamper thinks there may be some opportunities in the toys/games category, including puzzles, board games, electronic games and activity kits. ‘My sense is that the Canadian marketplace takes well to U.K.-based properties. Perhaps it’s our British heritage that plays a role.’

And yet Canada is a bilingual nation-something Link will need to keep in mind when marketing the Love Hearts brand in the Great White North. ‘Sometimes you get hung up on the French issue, and that could hinder penetration,’ says Andy Jakobschuk, president of Canadian licensing agency Carte Blanche Licensing. ‘And stores like La Senza are doing programs with their own brands, which could prevent penetration into those types of stores.’

While Jakobschuk admits that greeting cards is a core category to a message-driven program, he cautions that if Link is looking for the same level of success it expects for its U.K. program, another point to consider is the fact that greeting card purchases per capita in the U.K. are almost double those in Canada.

Overall, Jakobschuk thinks the Love Hearts program could be ultimately successful in Canada, but warns that Link must be politically correct in its messaging component. ‘You’ve got to be edgy, but you’ve got to walk that fine line,’ he says.

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