With the looming US recession exacerbating an already tight retail climate, the licensing biz is facing a tough landscape. But there
are some bright spots on the horizon. Here’s what our panel
of industry experts ID’d as encouraging trends to keep
an eye on in the next 12 to 18 months.
Leigh Anne Brodsky
& Viacom Consumer Products
Classic properties – as long as they are refreshed with new content and big promotion and as long as they are still relevant to a large audience – continue to perform across many categories. Yes, retailers are risk-averse, but they are consumers (and parents) themselves, so they are keen to jump on new properties that have a buzz with the intended audience. But big promotion, great products and competitive pricing are a must.
Kids are getting their fix for great stories, characters and creativity from many different media sources. When we as property owners connect the dots and are everywhere the kids are with our characters, the products are more likely to sell, and the trade is more likely to see better sell-through.
Executive director of international consumer
products & marketing, Entertainment Rights
There are some positive trends amidst the challenges. Digital distribution of content has finally emerged as a semi-viable platform for consumer product licensing. There remain as many misses as hits, but there are enough successes to believe that digital will become as reliable a means of distributing new IP as the traditional methods of theatrical, television and DVD.
SVP of marketing, entertainment
& licensing, Hasbro
The broad entertainment sector continues to be a hotbed of licensing activity – film, television and video games… Innovative co-branding deals are also gaining a strong foothold…The demand for hip, cool and stylish graphic t-shirts
is on fire. Retro tees have become a pop culture
phenomenon…Ranging from under US$10 up to US$100,
graphic tees help define consumers’ personalities and lifestyles,
and we don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon.
SVP of consumer products, HIT Entertainment
The licensing industry is full of opportunity. We have recently seen an increase in the use of electronics, lights and sound in traditional product categories. For example, we launched light-up and sound t-shirts for Thomas & Friends from Bentex, musical greeting cards from Hallmark and musical toothbrushes from World Trend…’Green’ will continue to be on consumers’ minds.
We have seen the launch of more environmentally friendly
products to match green themes in content.
SVP of consumer products, American Greetings Properties
Last year, we saw a proliferation of web-based toy properties. We can expect this trend to continue, but there will be more innovation online with marketing and merchandising opportunities…Another trend that will continue is eco-friendly licenses, products, packaging and marketing tie-ins. Look for ‘less traditional’ licenses, such as lifestyle fashion lines inspired by entertainment properties,
toy-driven properties and live-action entertainment brands (including
more television-based licenses for tweens) and reality
show licenses for all ages to break through.
Executive director of marketing
& retail development, Paramount Licensing
The link between online and tangible role-play toys is growing in popularity as kids can continue playing with their toys even after their parents tell them it’s time to log off the virtual world and rejoin the real one. Another exciting trend is the growth in co-branded character product offerings as licensors are
allowing their treasured characters to share the spotlight with their
rivals for select categories in specific territories, particularly in Asia.
VP of worldwide home
entertainment & digital
media, Nelvana Enterprises
Speaking to the large licensing category of home entertainment, there’s been an increase in cross-promotional activities between DVD distributors and merchandise companies – building out new SKUs and value propositions to retailers and consumers. Overall, the kids home entertainment market looks promising, particularly due to the platform win by Blu-ray.
As consumers begin to transition DVD libraries
to support new platforms, we can expect
continued growth over the next few years.
SVP of interactive &
Enterprises North America
Value and repeat usage become key purchasing criteria when the economy is in a downturn. There has been significant growth in the mobile, online and video game industries as these
products provide endless play along with brand association.
With emerging platforms like iPod games, the opportunities are
limitless. Online social networks for kids continue to explode
and provide an added incentive to retail purchases.
VP of consumer products,
Cartoon Network Enterprises
One of the most promising areas in the licensing industry is the boys market…It has long been a segment of the market dominated by classic, evergreen properties, but recently some newer ones have emerged that have been able to carve out a healthy-sized business
and help drive growth in the segment. Another emerging
trend is that companies are becoming increasingly aware that to break
through the clutter in the market and capture the consumer’s attention,
they need to provide a service to that consumer…In order to reach
consumers with their desired messages, companies are looking
for new and unique services that are organic to their
products and will capture their intended audience.
VP of global brand management, DIC Entertainment
We can now reach out to our consumers through multiple touch points that haven’t been available to us in the past…With the advent of online, mobile and interactive platforms, companies can create, sustain and
grow a brand through non-traditional outlets at lower costs and higher margins. These avenues allow the ability to target specific audiences, introduce them to the brand, create a relationship and sell directly to
the new fan base.
As with everything in this world, democratization has entered into play, thanks to the rise of new media platforms and the interactivity that now occurs between consumer and brand owner…The effects on the licensing industry have yet to be fully realized, but there is great potential here. There is now the ability to
tailor licensing programs specifically to
certain segments of the marketplace.