Property: The Magic Pants Factory
Licensor: The Licensing Company (TLC)
Description: Launched in January 2000 as a greeting card line, The Magic Pants Factory is the brainchild of Purple Ronnie creator Giles Andreae. Over two million units of the cards have been sold in the past year, distributed in W.H. Smith, Woolworth’s, Athena, Birthdays and a host of independents.
Concept: With enough characters to fill a pants factory-Happy Pants, Twinkle Pants and Drinking Pants, to name but a few-the cards feature stick figures wearing a pair of underwear and an accompanying poem in the cheeky tradition of Purple Ronnie.
Demo: Teen girls
Licensees: Hall and Associates (health and beauty), Kinnerton (gift, seasonal, novelty sugar confectionery), Euromark (mobile phone/computer accessories), Downpace (plush, glassware, key rings, pins, PVC figurines), Somerbond (men’s and ladies’ underwear/nightwear).
The latest: With the first-round licensees announced and selling in to British retail, TLC is actively pursuing licensees in stationery and publishing categories. Bath and beauty products by licensee Hall and Associates will be the first out of the U.K. retail gate, launching in Superdrug, Argos and Sainsbury’s this September.
Potential: As a fun, humorous property rooted in the realm of undergarments, licensor TLC is tailoring The Magic Pants Factory to teen girl consumers on the hunt for a self-treat or gift, though appeal may skew both younger and older. ‘Pants is a bit of a fun word,’ says Lisa Shapiro, managing director of TLC’s entertainment division. ‘It’s cheeky, but it’s not indecent or too edgy, and it’s quite girly.’
The property’s most obvious product extension-pants (underwear to North American folks)-will be the only category in which TLC will target a male audience as well. Says Shapiro: ‘We feel that it does cross over to things like boxer shorts,’ which licensee Somerbond will include in its range.
Since the pants on the cards stand out in 3-D and incorporate funky features such as glitter or fur, TLC is looking to reflect those elements in product. The duality of the cards-character and poem-will also be fleshed out. In some instances, it makes sense to incorporate both aspects; in others, only one. Thus, in an effort to produce a cohesive range at retail, TLC has developed a swing ticket that envelops both the character icons and the poems.
From TLC’s point of view, reflecting the greeting card itself-the initial property driver-will be integral to the licensed success of The Magic Pants Factory. Thus, Shapiro is looking first and foremost for partners who share TLC’s vision for the property. A long-term vision, strong distribution and creative technique follow.
With the first phase of the program in the retail development stage, Shapiro sees the property branching out into bedding, bags, posters and apparel categories a little further down the track. ‘What we don’t want to do is over-stretch the brand too quickly,’ says Shapiro. ‘Because it’s early days, we have to get the U.K. sorted and potentially develop a template for taking it abroad.’
Initial territories of expansion interest include Australia, South Africa, Japan and the U.S., though Shapiro is open to pursuing distribution agreements in the interim. ‘If I had a buyer from Hot Topics or JCPenney thinking, `Wow, we could really run with this in America,’ of course we’d talk,’ says Shapiro. Will Europe be an eventual target? ‘My gut feeling is that there will be opportunity from an English-speaking point of view rather than us going to Europe with this, because you lose the translation in a way,’ says Shapiro, adding that Japanese plans will focus on English-language applications.
Market reality check: ‘I think that this has a good chance because it’s very different and has already had success as a greeting card,’ says Len Reiter, president of New Jersey-based agency Bradford Licensing Associates, with the proviso that U.K. market success in other licensed categories will need to be proven before an adequate assessment of U.S. crossover potential can be made.
Competition in the U.S. teen market will be the largest obstacle facing The Magic Pants Factory. ‘It’s a highly segmented area. The trends change extremely quickly and the audience is very fickle-as soon as something becomes popular, it becomes unpopular,’ says Reiter. Thus, success will depend upon positioning the property perfectly and backing it with a large amount of marketing dollars for exposure.
Depending on the level of market competition that exists when the licensor plans to bring Magic Pants to the U.S., rethinking demo positioning may be necessary-Reiter predicts a higher level of success with a younger girl audience.