It's the movie franchise that launched the career of Keanu Reeves and had kids and adults quoting 'Wyld Stallyns' ever since. CLC's president, Rand Marlis talks the longevity of this 'Excellent' classic brand, dude.
Can you give me a history of the Bill and Ted brand and its successes?
Creative Licensing has represented Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) since their box office debuts respectively. At the time of their releases, both movies were not expected to be the smash hits they became. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, for example, grossed $40.4M domestically on a budget of roughly $10M and launched the career of Keanu Reeves who played “Ted”. Since that time both films, “Excellent Adventure” in particular, have become cult classics with iconic phrases such as “Be Excellent to Each Other” and “Party On Dude” woven into pop culture today.
The merchandise licensing program we’ve developed spans a wide range of categories. Over our 25+ years of representation, we’ve completed worldwide deals in categories ranging from a breakfast cereal, to highly stylized figures, to a t-shirt design contest, to a 20+ year deal with Universal Studios for the live action event, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure”.
What is the demographic for the property and who are you targeting with the licensing programme?
The target demographic are those who remember Bill and Ted’s in theaters, and reflect fondly on the properties - roughly generation Y. Our target audience is therefore this generation, with a gender split of 60/40 in favor of men, but we are bringing in new fans through licensing deals on more modern platforms, such as via social and mobile.
How many licensees do you have on board for Bill and Ted and in what categories?
We currently have fourteen licenses in 8 different countries, including a number of licensees selling worldwide, in the categories of: apparel, attractions, boxed board games, collectible figures, comic books, online games, casino games, live action, and posters.
What are some of the most popular licensing categories and what would you like to see the Bill and Ted brand move in to?
The overwhelming popular category for Bill and Ted’s is apparel. I believe this is because the iconic quotes work so well on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps etc. In terms of future partnerships, I would like to see the Bill and Ted brand move into educational entertainment. As a PTA approved movie with a new historical figure in almost every scene, I think Bill and Ted’s would work perfectly for a ‘choose your own storyline’ type book or a tie-in with a history museum.
What do you look for in a licensing partner and how do you pick your licensees?
I look for two main criteria’s when picking a licensee: passion for the properties and a proven track record with other licensed properties in similar genres. First with respect to passion for the properties, I want to see that a potential licensee is not only familiar with Bill and Ted’s, but also has a passion for the properties that can be translated through the products he creates. A thoughtful product with details ‘only a true fan would understand’ will undoubtedly inspire other fans to engage with and buy the product. We therefore look for licensees that do not simply ‘slap logos on product,’ but rather create products that the long-time fans will appreciate and continue to grow fond of over time.
Second, with respect to a proven track record, I want to see that a potential licensee has completed a successful range of products for a 1980’s or 90’s brand, such that Bill and Ted’s is not their first licensed property.
What are the main challenges with managing the Bill and Ted brand?
One main challenge with managing the Bill and Ted’s brand is cultivating an international audience. We have a strong UK and North American presence, but have yet to move outside these territories in a big way.
What is the secret to maintaining the success of Bill and Ted and its heritage?
Finding innovative licensees to reinvent the property in new and exciting ways. Our comic book licensee, Boom! Studios has done a tremendous job of digging into the heritage of Bill and Ted’s to create authentic storylines that resonate with fans. They have also commissioned key, popular artists to give each Bill and Ted book a different look and feel, which we believe will help keep fans engaged over the long term.
How different is your approach to the Bill and Ted property compared to other brands in our portfolio?
Bill and Ted’s differs greatly in tonality from our most popular feature, “The Terminator.” Bill and Ted’s, at its core, is about two high school teenagers who must travel through time so they don’t fail their history exam. We therefore look for licensees who understand the humorous, goofy, undertones of Bill and Ted’s and aren’t afraid to take risks in that regard.
What has changed the most about the licensing industry over Bill and Ted’s history and how has this impacted the brand?
The largest change has been the growth of new product categories. Many of our current licensees are in categories that didn’t exist when Bill and Ted’s began. Another main change is, when the films were first released, there was a strong belief that a successful licensing program must follow a successful theatrical release – it was a hit driven business. Now, there is more of an acceptance and appreciation of classic properties, rather than a ‘what’s hot now’ approach to licensing. Our licensees develop long-term plans knowing Bill and Ted will be around for years to come.
What’s next for the Bill and Ted property?
We have a number of exciting new deals in the works for Bill and Ted’s, including a new collectible figure, boxed board game, casino game, limited edition subscription box, and a new mobile game featuring all the well-known historical figures from the movies.
Anything you’d like to add?
The awareness of Bill and Ted’s initially surprised us. Its reach in the United Kingdom exceeds that in the United States. It truly is a favorite memory of the 1990’s, and new fans are constantly catching onto the property. Bill and Ted have a bright future, if they can pass their history test.
To learn more about our current Bill and Ted’s partnerships please visit us at BLE booth C100 or visit our webpage, Bill and Ted's Introduction