Caroline Mickler, MD at Caroline Mickler Ltd, has a portfolio of clients as diverse as you'd like, spanning Fifty Shades to Moomin; The Beatles to magician Jamie Raven. Billy Langsworthy talks to Mickler about the origins of the firm, and her plans for next week's BLE show.
Could you give us an idea of the career path that led to the creation of Caroline Mickler Ltd?
My aim was always to work in licensing and marketing. Of course I wanted to work with brands that enjoyed high awareness and that I could give major licensing exposure. But I also wanted to find and develop brands whose potential had been overlooked, but that I believed could have a strong presence in the marketplace if handled intelligently.
You don't reach that position overnight, of course, so I worked my way up the industry ladder through sales and research work, until I reached my first major role with Copyright Promotions Group Plc, where I was responsible for licensing in all markets outside Europe. I then started PolyGram's Licensing Division, where I was managing director, before starting my own agency.
The key word in all these posts was diversity. I worked with brands ranging from TV hits like Mr Bean to TV cult favourites like The Prisoner; from stage successes like Phantom of the Opera to one-offs like Kevin & Perry Go Large; from animated kids’ classics like Tom & Jerry to pre-school successes like Humphrey’s Corner.
After working in licensing for some years, I felt I had learned a lot and might be able to apply that learning to a new venture. I also had the good fortune to have built a network of high quality contacts. With my own agency I could choose and work with a small but select group of clients and offer them close relationships unencumbered by a corporate structure.
And the time was right: I like to think to there has been a clear progression and consistent approach throughout my career leading to my present position.
Since launching your own agency, what have you learned about working in the licensing space?
You must listen to what a brand owner wants. The brand is their baby and they have allowed you, the agent, to looking after and develop it on their behalf. You must be very sensitive to the different ways you work with ‘talent’.
And you absolutely must have the ability to work on diverse brands - from kids’ publishing favourites like Horrid Henry to music and style leaders like The Beatles, both of which are in our present portfolio.
What can an independent boutique licensing agency like yours offer brand owners that some of the larger firms can't?
An acute understanding of the brands we represent and the ability to extend them in a way that always complements and enhances the core brand.
For instance, the UK Moomin licensing campaign focused on women, who have long responded with great fondness and affection to the charming, friendly inhabitants of Moominvalley. This allowed us to successfully extend the brand into apparel, homeware and fashion accessories and was carefully managed to allow us to target new consumers as well.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running your own independent licensing and branding operation?
The main advantages? You’re only answerable to yourself and your client. You can work more closely with a client. You can choose your client. You can follow your instincts. You can be a bit more creative in the brands you choose and how you sell them.
The main disadvantages? Roughly the same: the buck stops with you!
What are you working on at the moment?
Lots of things.
The Beatles yet again are a talking point thanks not just to the continuing growth of the licensing campaign and the brand’s win in the Best Music or Celebrity Licensed Property category at the recent Licensing Awards, but to the well received new Ron Howard documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.
The Fifty Shades Darker film is on the way in February, adding further brand awareness to a publishing phenomenon. There’s also the continuing popularity of Moomin (another of our brands nominated in the Licensing Awards) and the launch of the licensing campaign for magician Jamie Raven — the man who made Simon Cowell say “I now actually believe in magic”. We’re expecting a busy time before and after BLE.