Licensors on the lookout for new product applications should spend five minutes right here. In recent months we’ve come across a crop of first-time licensees from various parts of the globe, taking kids IPs where they haven’t gone before. Read on for the round-up.
First on deck is the company, F.T. Ross a privately owned Canadian firm based just outside of Toronto that manufacturers environmentally friendly household products,entered the world of kids entertainment licensing for the first time as the result of a personal relationship between its CEO Bernie Ross and Doug Murphy, president of Corus Television.
The pair was casually discussing their respective businesses when their philosophical common ground became hard to ignore. Within six months of the first discussion, F.T. Ross created a new range of Treehouse-branded products, featuring characters like The Backyardigans and Max & Ruby, which are seen on the 24/7 preschool net owned by Corus. Eco-friendly 2-in-1 shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, hair detangler, body lotion and foaming hand soap were all part of the initial run of products that launched at Canadian mass and specialty retail this spring.
‘Treehouse is a trusted safe-place for parents,’ says Ilisa Chacon, director of marketing at F.T. Ross. ‘It’s the same for us. We are 100% devoted to children as well. We believe our products are in the same way gentle and natural for kids,’ she adds.
The products, featuring bright character-laden packaging that was created with the help of Treehouse’s design staff, initially found their way into Babies ‘R’ Us outlets as well as drug and speciality stores across Canada. ‘As soon as we show the retailers the packaging, we sell it,’ says Chacon. The initial line has been so successful that a second range, perhaps with products designed for bathtime play, is in the works. F.T. Ross is also currently looking into other kids licensing opportunities.
Over in the UK, Fiesta Crafts has started down the licensing road with Novel Entertainment’s Horrid Henry after more than 20 years in the manufacturing business. The company specializes in making wall hangings, reward charts and hand puppets, and is launching its first licensed line this month featuring Horrid Henry through a deal brokered by licensing agency CPLG.
‘Frankly, it’s easier to get into the larger chains with licensed product,’ says Rob Trup, marketing manager at Fiesta Crafts. ‘We were looking at growing the business and we see licensed product as a route in.’
The initial line includes large and small magnetic star charts as well as hand puppets. And while Fiesta is busy arranging distribution for the line, the company is starting to consider other licensed opportunities. ‘We don’t see ourselves becoming fully licensed, but we will start with this one, give it a year and then start looking for others,’ says Trup.
Finally there’s Toronto, Canada-based StickerYou. The company, founded in the summer of 2008, employs proprietary technology that allows users to create their own die-cast stickers. For US$6.99 consumers can fashion a personlized letter-sized page of stickers online that are then shipped through the mail.
‘People want to personalize everything,’ says Andrew Witkin, StickerYou’s president and chief executive. ‘Everybody loves brands and wants to engage with them. And the brands want to participate, too.’ So far, StickerYou has inked deals with CBS Consumer Products for Star Trek, Chorion for Mr. Men and Little Miss and Lego, with licenses for Justice League (Warner Bros. Consumer Products) and Ghostbusters (Sony Consumer Products) in the works. Each brand has the ability to set the parameters of the DIY tech. As well, the patented sticker-making technology can reside on the IP’s website in the form of a widget, as well as on StickerYou’s site and other third-party sites.
‘We have found more and more promotion and ad agencies are interested in it,’ says Witkin. ‘And entertainment companies have been reaching out to us as well.’