Art Impressions was set up as a subsidiary of fine art publisher Collectors Editions, and was founded to handle licensing for Collectors’ artists and develop and sell their own merchandise collections. The firm has since separated from Collectors Editions and is a stand alone company.
Since its conception in 1990, the firm has refocused its efforts to solely focus on licensing and has since developed its own roster of independent artists and designers whose work was more suited to the lifestyle approach of the business.
Cindy Bailey, CEO, says of the transition: “We were one of the first to move away from the traditional way of licensing, i.e., acting less as an image-licensing house and moving instead into development of the artist as a brand name.”
In turn, the renewed focus on licensing changed the shape of the company as Alison Kenney, COO explains.
“This led naturally to us taking a bigger role in developing and marketing the programs, and as part of our continued evolution, we are now known especially for our far-reaching marketing efforts and our partnerships with retailers for brands such as Skelanimals, in which we have an equity stake.”
The development over the last two decades has seen Art Impressions have its fair share of ups and downs, but as the business develops, there have been many different success stories on the books.
Bailey continues: “Success can be defined in so many ways. Is it the licence which generated the most revenue, but only lasted for two years? Or the one that has been slightly less financially lucrative, but has been a great partner for more than a decade?
“We really value the total package that someone brings to the table. To us, it’s a success if the licensee is great to work with and has a fabulous product that sells well.”
The firm has signed licences for just about everything you can think of, from furniture to toys to apparel depending on what is appropriate for the artist.
Depending on the artist and their work, the licensees also reach a wide range of audiences. Kenney explains: “Years ago, I would say many of our programmes were targeted to women in their mid-20s and up; we had a lot of programs in the craft, infant, and home décor markets.
“Now, with properties like Skelanimals, Jessica Louise, Milky Way, and Wittle Bittle, we have a lot of young adults, teens and younger customers.”
Perhaps the feather in the firm’s cap is the marketing campaigns it develops for its brands. Each one is carefully designed to target the key consumers and facilitate the retailers’ needs and goes the extra mile to get the property noticed.
As an example, for Skelanimals, the company has aggressively marketed through bands, music tours, and magazines that reach teens and newer forms of media like MySpace. Later this year, a Skelanimals Halloween ‘boutique’ will hit the US.
Bailey explains the company’s strategy: “We constantly evaluate our operations to see what’s working and what’s not. In the past, it was sufficient to set up shop at the licensing show and perhaps run a few ads in the industry trades; nowadays, we do a lot of direct-to-consumer promotion and retailer outreach. Our team travels constantly to meet with both current and potential retail partners, to find out how we can meet their needs.”
As a result, last year was better than expected for Art Impressions and turned out to be one of its best in the past decade. Bailey comments: “Like everyone else, we have been very concerned about the economic problems that are being experienced worldwide, but we’ve been very proactive in dealing with it, and that has positioned us well for 2009 and beyond.”
Going forward, the firm plans more of the same stellar work, hopefully expanding its reach to new territories, as Kenney explains: “We will continue to focus our efforts on securing and expanding our presence in appropriate retail channels for our each brand.
“I expect we will see more marketing and promotional activity focused on the European market, too, for Skelanimals.”