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Market Research


6 trends we spotted in Brand Licensing Europe


  • Key4Communications

"This fair is growing a lot." This was one of the most heard comments in Brand Licensing Europe, which was held from 15-17 October in London, occupying not only the ground floor of Olympia convention centre, but also the areas of the upper floor, where the new Brands, and Art and Design areas were located.

The event was attended by nearly 300 exhibitors, bringing both their classic brands as their new licenses, totalling some 2,200 properties. After talking to some of them, as well as with many licensees who went to the show in search of new brands, we gathered some ideas about how the licensing market is evolving and about the expectations and trends that will shape the coming months.

1. Moderate optimism for the Christmas season. Most licensing professionals showed cautious optimism for the holiday season, and explained that the market is showing signs of recovery. However, there is still some fear about the caution that leads retailers to control stocks and go for safe bets.

2. It’s time to diversify. This commitment to safe bets leads to an excessive concentration in the main properties. Indeed and for example, the agents of a major market license explained that they ask retailers to diversify their offer and not focus only on the main names. This may seem counterproductive, but it is more than logical: the goal is to extend the life of the licenses further than the typical two or three years. To achieve this goal, it is necessary that consumer products hit stores gradually, leaving room for other properties, so that the market becomes more dynamic and diversified, reducing the risks of licensees and retailers.

3. But it is also important to have priorities. There are many licenses in the market, most of them coming from entertainment and animation, aimed at children, and of course with a presence throughout the world and in all languages. Licensors need to be very clear about what brands are the most important in order to prioritize and adjust times and launchings. For example, Mar Romera, head of retail for Turner CN Enterprises, explains that "2014 will be the year of Adventure Time." Without neglecting the rest of their portfolio, agents and owners have to dose efforts according to consumer and retailer behaviour.

4. It is necessay to innovate. It is not enough to launch a brand and a style guide: properties and products must differentiate themselves, to call the attention of a consumer who counts with a very wide range of brands. For example, the union between Chupa Chups and Betty Boop, that will allow licensees to use images of both brands to create new opportunities for licensing in a move that will help boost the market. Another example of collaboration is Mixels , the property of Turner CN Enterprises and Lego.

This was also the case of digital licenses, with increasing presence at the show. Yes, they are still difficult properties to sell, except in high-profile cases such as Angry Birds and Skylanders. Although mobile games are very successful, it is very difficult to convince retailers of their possibilities, as some agents and licensors explain, even though they are convinced that this is a market that we need to know: both as a source of properties as well as to develop licensed apps and games. This business is just starting, and it is difficult to implement a system of royalties in a market that often relies on free downloads and ad revenue.

5. Always follow market trends. Proposals should also go in line with market trends, after studying them in depth. Rosa Tévar, Director of Licensing at Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) in Spain and Portugal, explains that the company has launched True Classics, its line of classic brands with a vintage touch "because the 90s are back and we are the 90s", referring to the great moment that Warner brands such as Looney Tunes also lived in that decade.

Similarly, licensors are increasingly launching preschool properties, which are gaining a lot of strength and presence: Masha and the Bear (Biplano Licensing in Spain, France and Portugal), Superfriends (Warner Bros. Consumer Products), Bubble Guppies (Viacom), all Hit Entertainment properties (Mattel), and Disney Junior series such as Sofia the First and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, among others.

Of course, superheroes of both Marvel (Disney) and DC (Warner Bros.) also had a significant presence in BLE.

6. Everyone wants to become a classic. The goal of most agents and licensors is not to get a license that will sweep the market in a couple of years and then die, but achieve sustained sales over time, becoming a permanent option for retailers and consumers. There are several ways to achieve this:

- In the case of films, producers opt for trilogies, spin-offs (such as the Minions) and even television series between releases (as Dreamworks.)

- And TV series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob Squarepants, both of Viacom, are complemented and boosted with movie releases, mobile apps and live events.

- Contents are multiplatform. For example, Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, aims to become a global entertainment company, with movies, series and consumer products, as well as their games for smartphones and tablets.

- Properties are reinforced and relaunched. Thus, although Mattel is revamping its portfolio, with new brands such as Ever After High, but the firm is also is stepping up efforts to make Monster High one of the evergreen brands of the company.

- Neglected classic brands are coming back: for example, Biplano Licensing will relaunch the licensing programme for Pucca in Spain, France and Portugal.

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