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Watch manufacturer MZ Berger winds up its innovation clock

One of the biggest challenges facing licensees in today's warp-speed business environment is how to expand their kids portfolios without falling into cookie-cutting mode. But New York-based watch manufacturer MZ Berger, which recently added licenses for the Nickelodeon brand, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and retro property Rainbow Brite to its bag of tricks, has built its business on giving properties the individual attention they deserve.
August 1, 2003

One of the biggest challenges facing licensees in today’s warp-speed business environment is how to expand their kids portfolios without falling into cookie-cutting mode. But New York-based watch manufacturer MZ Berger, which recently added licenses for the Nickelodeon brand, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and retro property Rainbow Brite to its bag of tricks, has built its business on giving properties the individual attention they deserve.

‘We make it a priority to really get to the essence of the character or property,’ says Marci Gordon, chief marketing officer at MZB. ‘We don’t just arrive at a similar type of end-product regardless of the license.’ Indeed, MZB’s newest licensed lines for the holiday season – Ninja Turtles and Nickelodeon (an extension of a previous deal) – are a testament to this approach.

The Turtles line includes the Temperature Control watch, complete with a rotating dial that gives kids access to four settings: time, calendar, temperature and countdown timer. And at the heart of the Nick line is the NickTime Silly Sounds watch, which lets kids sound off by pressing four effects buttons (cough, burp, fart and snore). Both lines will range from US$14.99 to US$19.99. Gordon couldn’t say what the Rainbow Brite range will include, as the ink was still wet on that deal at press time.

To get the inspiration to produce watches that are both toyetic and fashionable, MZB conducts focus groups with kids and trolls for trends overseas and in other product categories. ‘Kids have responded very favorably to sounds, lights and multi-functions,’ says Gordon, which is why the Turtles and Nick lines are chock-full of them.

Of course, when it comes to kids licensing these days, packaging must match product on the value scale. At the department store level, MZB offers watches in collectible tins with value-added items like clocks or other licensed goodies. The Turtles tin gift set, for example, features a watch with a free collectible Fleer trading card.

As for what types of licenses are up next on her hit list, Gordon is keeping mum, saying only that she looks for properties with strong artwork, retail partners and licensees to provide a unified front that makes an impact at retail.

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