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"The brand's popularity at a consumer level has driven its evolution"

Damien Kenny, Licensing Director, and Nick Aird, Director, The Aird Group


Kimmidoll is a family of dolls inspired in the design of the traditional Japanese Koseshi dolls, created by The Aird Group, an Australian company with over 30 years of experience in the licensing industry. As explained by Damien Kenny, Licensing Director, and Nick Aird, Director, it is not enough to offer design, as it is also very important to associate strong and possitive values to the property.

How was the Kimidoll concept created?
The Aird Group (TAG) is run by three directors comprising Brian Aird, who started the company back in 1978, his son Nick Aird, who has been with the company for near 23 years, and Damien Kenny who joined from a retail background in 2005. All three Directors have a deep-rooted affection and connection with Asia, but for many years Brian in particular had collected Kokeshi dolls and loved Japanese decorative homewares.

As a company, TAG had built a solid national business designing and manufacturing stationery and greeting cards primarily under license, with brands such as Anne Geddes, Kim Anderson, Happy House and Christopher Vine Designs. For many years TAG exhibited twice each year at the Hong Kong gift fairs to promote its licensed stationery brands.

TAG’s years of experience in China lead to the thought of strategically creating its own brand so it was not restricted developing certain product category ranges under license agreements. With this objective in mind a new designer was specifically appointed in early 2007, and then briefed and directed to play around with Kokeshi shapes, but “in a western way”. Given that Kokeshi dolls were given away as tokens of love and friendship, Kimmidoll was developed as a modern westernized version of the traditional Kokeshi doll made to represent and celebrate ‘life’s true values’. It is this philosophy of bestowing luck and good fortune upon friends and family that is behind the creation of the Kimmidoll brand which was officially launched in the first quarter of 2008.

Was the licensing strategy of the brand planned when the product was created?
At the launch of Kimmidoll back in 2008 there was no particular or clear strategy in place for the brand on a global basis. Our first priority was to launch the brand in as many countries as possible through our existing international distribution customers and of course continued trade exhibitions in Hong Kong. Before starting to discuss a more formal global sales and marketing plan we need to be sure the brand would be accepted at the retail level in as many markets as possible.

After a few short months the feedback was very positive and in the months following clarity of the brand's popularity was overwhelmingly confirmed. The brand's popularity quickly gave rise to the children’s adaptation (4 to 9 years of age), Kimmidoll Junior being released in the fourth quarter of 2009 and right now in the second quarter of 2012 the release of Kimmidoll Love to cater for the tween and teen market segment. It is fair to say that the brand's popularity at a consumer level has driven the brand's evolution.

The brand is sold worldwide. Why do you think this property has achieved such a success?
TAG now has some 35 international distribution customers who (to varying degrees) wholesale or retail the brand in more than 55 countries globally. There is no doubt the aesthetically pleasing doll character and their beautiful and elegant design work are significant factors in popularizing their appeal to each target market, however, the meanings and messages that each doll brings to life connect and resonate with consumers all over the world. Of course one never expects that a brand will work successfully in every market, but it appears the meanings and messages have elevated the Kimmidoll brand to global success through connecting personally.

Which do you think could be the main trends in the licensing market for the next years?
Without doubt the Kimmidoll brand has a great deal to offer consumers going forward. We have the Kimmidoll collection (for the more mature market), Kimmidoll Junior for children 4 to 9, now Kimmidoll Love for teens and tweens, and next year the introduction of both Kimmidoll Baby and Kimmidoll Wisdom. The Kimmidoll brand will offer a myriad of opportunities to meet and satisfy a growing consumer base which will encompass age groups from birth to mature and old age.

The plethora of product licensing opportunities is only limited to one’s imagination: Kimmidoll is not just a beautiful product item, each Kimmidoll character connects with the consumer which in turn adds additional personal value to their purchase, Kimmidoll represents and presents a lifestyle.

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