There is a perception among some entertainment companies that compelling kids entertainment equates to toyetic appeal, and should therefore lead to massive licensing revenues.
Alas, although that’s part of the formula, it’s not quite that simple.
Here’s www.VirtualWorldLicensing.com's five top tips for creating a toy-friendly brand and licensing programme:
1. Create an entertaining, immersive and compelling entertainment experience
Yes, this is a critical part of the formula. You need to deliver entertainment or you have nothing, but that is merely the foundation. While your creative director may feel orgasmic about his or her creation, the reality is that this award winning, highly entertaining masterpiece is just the start point.
2. Ensure the maximum number of kids are exposed to your property
Clearly we’re starting with the most obvious ones first. Nevertheless, if you have a brilliant property but millions of kids aren’t being regularly exposed to it, and feeling the full strength of what your brand has to offer, you aren’t going to be able to create much in the way of toy licensing revenue.
3. Create distinctive, protectable toyetic characters
This is the most obvious point to me, but seemingly not to some branded entertainment companies. Creating a property around a generic looking set of characters, when just a little forethought could create a unique character universe is a surefire path to not being able to generate much by way of toy licensing revenue.
As an example, we once ran qualitative focus groups for a leading toy company, who were testing a licence which they were considering for master toy rights.
The toy company had literally millions of pounds at stake, because it’s not just their minimum guarantee committments - it’s R&D investment and resources, opportunity cost, marketing spend and inventory investment that’s at stake.
The property they were reviewing was based around a collection of very generic animals, which could have been easily confused for hundreds of existing low price, white label plush toys already in the marketplace. So frankly, the chances of avoiding knock offs and achieving on shelf standout/perceived premium value were limited.
There’s a reason why characters on successful toy licences have quirky and distinctive features.
If you have a property based on cars, your cars need to be different from every other car out there, if you feature monsters they need to be distinctly different, fish, real people, mythical beasts – whatever, just make them distinctive and uniquely yours.
4. Cover more/all toy categories
For those seeking to create strong toyetic appeal and to drive significant licensing revenue from toys, this becomes critical.
For instance, a particular ‘bug bear’ of ours is the absence of any vehicles in an entertainment property. This category makes up a significant portion of the toy business, it works at low pocket money price points, as well as driving significant sales at high end price points. Furthermore, there are comparatively large toy companies who focus on this kind of toy alone.
Clearly, including vehicles needs to make sense based on the back story, and of the vehicles fitting the setting, but to not include vehicles where they could be takes a meaty chunk out of your opportunity.
So for instance, if you have a Robin Hood style toy, you can’t include tanks or planes, but you could still include stage coaches. For a futuristic setting, maybe you wouldn’t include a common or garden bicycle, but you’d be remiss not feature some really cool air/space craft surely?
5. Position yourself against what’s come before you
There is only so much new under the sun. You might be the one in 100 who has managed to create something truly original and unique, but more likely you have created something in an existing genre, or with strong similiarities to previous properties.
If you ignore this fact and claim to be unique when you are not, your potential licensees, their retailers and the consumer will make those comparisons anyway. So create a clear and distinctive positioning i.e. if you’re doing fairy tales, that area has been done ad infinitum…so do it with a twist. Why not give it a futuristic setting or flip a standard part of the setting. Just make sure you stand out from the crowd, and aren’t perceived as just a 'me too'.
About the author
Steve Reece runs Virtual World Licensing, a brand consultancy whose mission is to facilitate offline commercialisation of virtual worlds. You can find out more at www.VirtualWorldLicensing.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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