Start Licensing's Ian Downes explains how the firm is successfully extending the brand.
Firstly, can you tell me the history behind the brand?
Tango is owned by Britvic Soft Drinks and is part of a wider portfolio of drinks which include R Whites Lemonade, Idris Ginger Beer, J20, Robinson's and Fruit Shoot. Tango was first launched in 1950. It has had a rich and successful history since. It is well known for its memorable advertising campaign and straplines such as You've Been Tango'd. The Tango Man is a well known and fondly remembered brand and advertising icon. It has a very cheeky, irreverant personality.
It was originally only available in orange flavour but is now available in Cherry, Apple and Intense Citrus. There is a Tango Ice product in Blue Raspberry flavour. Previous flavours have included Lemon. It stands out in the market with its strong brand identity, striking packaging and distinct taste. It has a noticeable fruit tang to the flavour with an intense taste. The brand has evolved it's marketing to encompass new opportunities such as Twitter and Facebook. It has over 720,000 Facebook likes.
How did the brand perform over the past 12 months?
The core brand has performed well and benefits from being part of the Britvic portfolio. It is widely available at retail and is present in all tiers of retail including convenience, grocery, value, travel and leisure. It is also available in locations such as pubs with it now being available on 'tap' and is also present in locations such as cinemas. The brand is worth £31.2million at retail (source: The Grocer/Neilsen). It has benefitted from promotional activity including a link early in 2014 with the Anchorman 2 Movie.
How many licensees does it have to date, and in which categories?
Current licensees are: 151 Products for shower gels, handwash, foam bath and car air fresheners; Crackerjack UK for lip balms and gift sets; Poetic Gem for apparel; Huntley & Palmers for Tango Jaffa Cakes; Bon Bon Buddies for Tango flavoured Nanobytes; Rose Confectionery for a range of confectionery including candysprays, bon bons, chews and popping candy and freeze at home ice products; Maxilin for liquorice and lollipops; Brand of Brothers for ice cream; and Fruitapeel for Ice Cream Sauce.
What are some of the best performing products?
151 Products have had a very significant success with their range - nearly two million units of shower gel have been sold by them. Crackerjack have just launched their lip balms and the initial launch has gone very well. This momentum should allow them to broaden distribution quite quickly. Our confectionery partners have performed well. Rose, in particular, have had good success with their products which combine innovation with well produced 'on brand' flavours – their products are distributed across retail including grocers, convenience, value and travel retail. Huntley & Palmers Jaffa Cakes have proved very popular with their sales outstripping their forecasts.
Broadly speaking most licensees have had success and their products have sold through well at retail. The programme has been up and running for four years and we estimate retail value for licensed products in 2014 was around £6 million. We have had retail buyers approaching us about the product range and licensees. It was a big hit at Brand Licensing Europe where we had a wall of Tango products on our stand and we received very positive feedback about the campaign. Some of our original licensees are no longer with the programme but we expected this and we think it is important to rotate the product mix. It is also worth noting that Britvic won Best Brand at the Licensing Awards in 2013 which included the Tango brand.
Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – for example into new categories or territories?
Yes, but in a controlled fashion. We aren't looking to licence the brand into areas we feel aren't right for it and we also feel that our existing licensees should have space to operate in so we don't want to crowd the market.
We are talking to a couple of new prospects in the bakery category and also we are close to developing a Tango barbecue sauce.
When we started working on the brand we worked with Britvic on a number of innovations and new ideas – we are now looking to deliver some of those such as the barbecue sauce particularly as there is a foundation of success to build on.
We are also looking to develop more presence in the Christmas gifting market and also other occasions such as Valentines – for example on idea is a pack of two Tango confectionery tins 'It takes 2 to Tango' and potentially re-visiting Easter with Easter Eggs. We developed this area previously with Kinnerton. We are also looking to build a greater presence in apparel with Poetic Gem.
We are also targetting novelty gifting and believe there is scope for Christmas gifts in this category. The focus of the campaign is the UK – although as a business Britvic are developing their business outside of the UK so there will be opportunities for us to follow their progress. As an aside it is worth noting that we say no to a few opportunities as well. We could have signed a few more licences, but are determined to try to be selective and to continue building the programme in a successful way.
Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2015?
Tango will be announcing some brand news soon which will benefit the licensees as it will ensure the brand remains topical and in consumer's minds. Generally we follow the lead of the core brand and we follow their developments where we can – for example by introducing new flavours and themes.
We are looking to see where licensees can work together – for example Rose and Crackerjack are discussing how they can develop gift packs together. We are also focusing on more activity at key times such as gifting for Christmas.
We are trying to keep retailers up to date with developments. We also talk with the brand team and are working with their social media agency to set up promotions and competitions. With over 700,000 Facebook followers there is a good audience to talk about licensed products to. We also made a big focus of our Brand Licensing Europe stand around Tango. We featured all the licensed products and created a large display. This worked really well. We are also running regular trade advertising campaigns.
What has the retail reaction been like to the brand?
It has been very positive. Retailers have supported it and seem to welcome the innovation behind the campaign. The success of licensees like 151 Products has come with good support from retailers and in turn this encourages other retailers. Licensees can point to sold success at retail and, of course, point to the ongoing success of the core Tango brand. We aren't introducing something that is totally unknown. We are building on a successful brand with a rich and colourful history. I think they also like the fact that we haven't licensed too many products and that there has been a focused approach to the programme.
What are some of the main challenges you've come up against? And how are you overcoming them?
The biggest challenge has been the level of competition in some categories from existing brands. We probably underestimated in some cases how tough it is to gain traction and how existing brands protect their shelf space. That said retailers are keen to support innovation and to develop new products from reliable suppliers. We have spent more time on NPD, checking out the retail market and also establishing 'launch' campaigns for new products.
We have also embraced the challenge of making sure that the licensed products are on brand. We have spent a lot of time in making sure taste, flavour and brand packaging are as good as they possibly can be. We have made sure licensees understand that they need to get the product right in all ways. This has become easier over time as we have more experience to lean on and lots of product benchmarks to apply. If licensees cannot appreciate this we wouldn't work with them and we also say no to products we feel aren't going to hit the right criteria – a good example is saying no to Tango candles.
There was some cynicism from the sidelines when we embarked on this journey, but I think licensing does need to take on the challenge of innovation and risk taking – this is the territory that licensing can win in and make a difference to companies. This has to be done in a structured way with a vision and plan.
What would you most like to achieve with the brand in 2015?
Hopefully launch some new products that go on and succeed. We want to make sure we continue the trend of developing licensed products in the right way and we help to create products that build on the Tango brand and add to its equity.
We are determined to maintain the success we have already and keep the licensee group on track – we are fortunate that we have a very motivated group of licensees who are proactive and dynamic. They appreciate that they are working with a fun brand that has great commercial value, but they also realise that they are active competitors rather than passive spectators – we all have a role to play and the licensees appreciate they can drive a lot of opportunities by their own efforts.