As American icons go, John Wayne certainly has to be in the top ten of all time.
He was the biggest box office star of his time, with 175 films and 142 leading roles. He was an Academy Award winner and has consistently made the top ten of the Harris Poll since its inception in 1994. He is the only deceased actor ever to appear on the list.
John Wayne Enterprises was established in 1979 by his children, Michael and Ethan. The company was created to preserve and protect the name, image and likeness of John Wayne by associating the brand with “quality and timeless product”, explains Ethan Wayne, who took over as president following Michael’s death in 2003.
“I took stock of the programme and felt that, while the products were of quality, there was room to expand and reflect more of my father’s essence and vitality across all areas,” he says. “I revamped it, adding new vision, branding and partners, successfully growing the company in categories and promotions that resonate with John Wayne’s core fan base.
“Most importantly, I felt that I wanted to bring more of my father’s sense of spirit and adventure into the programme to make sure we stay true to his personality. John Wayne was a man of the people and he knew that his fans were responsible for his success.”
There are currently 45 licensees across a wide range of categories including novelty gifts and collectibles, stationery, standees, seasonal product, slot machines, action figures, games, t-shirts, pocket knives and even firearms.
“We’ve been careful not to over commercialise the brand,” continues Wayne. “It is our mission to align John Wayne with products and services that represent his core values and beliefs. The brand has now evolved and we are now in the process of creating a new lifestyle programme.”
This, explains Wayne, will focus on branded restaurants and automobiles, apparel, footwear, accessories, home furnishings and gaming – all targeting the contemporary male.
On top of this, the firm has recently hired former Cookie Jar SVP Lisa Streff to head up global partnerships and licensing.
“Lisa has an impressive track record in the consumer products industry and immediately understood our vision,” Wayne says. “Our major goal is to expand the brand in a meaningful and effective way, and she is actively developing new programmes and exploring new lines of untapped business that will allow us to achieve our vision.
“For example, our international licensing programme has been limited, but with Lisa onboard, expanding overseas will be a major focus for us going into 2011. We are currently in discussion with several manufacturers and agents to help us grow our business globally.”
On top of the consumer products, the firm is also heavily involved with The John Wayne Cancer Foundation and Team Duke, both of which will continue to be a major focus, says Wayne.
So, in five years, what does Wayne hope to have achieved? “We would like John Wayne to be recognised as a global brand that is embraced by people worldwide for products that emulate his strength, style and authenticity.”