4Kids Entertainment International’s new managing director Simon Philips is overhauling the way the company does business. ‘You can’t look at the world as a single opportunity,’ he says, and so the company is honing in on the individual needs of each licensing territory and building local strategies to help global brands such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon stay buoyant.
As CEO of Licensing Dynamics International in the Middle East, Philips saw first-hand that global or regional licensing/marketing strategies don’t always work in a local market, leading to missed opportunities and program failures. He says you’ve got to provide the local market with relevant opportunities. For example, LDI’s pairing up with Israel’s fast-food market leader Burger Ranch yielded stronger promo programs for that market than going with a leading worldwide chain.
To increase its local presence in European and Asian markets, 4Kids is beefing up staff in the retail, promo and agent management departments in London, as well as extending its network of local agents, establishing stronger partnerships with these agents, and putting 4Kids staff on the ground in these territories.
Under Philips, retailers will have significant input into merchandising and promotional strategies. He’s looking to educate them about the brands but, more importantly, wants to suss out their requirements and get an earlier read on what’s working. Philips is also aiming to bring retailers in on ground-level action and will be awarding more exclusives to individual outlets, licensing retailers in select product categories, and helping them develop destination areas for the licensed goods that will set them further apart from their competition.
While Philips admits the exclusive approach is not novel to the North American licensing landscape, he says it’s a departure for Europe. To that end, the new efforts will initially focus on major Euro markets including the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy before expanding to other territories as the year goes on.
Philips is convinced the international scene is where the licensing action is, with a number of markets still virtually untapped. ‘India has one billion people, and 9% to 10% of the population is middle-class. That’s 90 million people and growing. We have to be out building initiatives that will work for them locally.’