MY VIEW: Succeeding in Asia Pacific markets - Licensing.biz

MY VIEW: Succeeding in Asia Pacific markets

Since the switch over to the new interface, I've been trying to decide whether to wean myself off Facebook.
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So, when I was asked to write this article about succeeding in Asia-Pacific markets, it got me thinking: if the region had a Facebook profile, what would its status be?

Perhaps the Asia-Pacific region's status is 'intoxicatingly unpredictable'.

I once tried to find a chemist during a visit to Mumbai. Wandering out onto the street, I was swept down onto Juhu Beach with a singing, dancing crowd of worshippers numbering several hundred thousand. It took some strategic negotiating skills to get back to the hotel.

Another time, with the street signs in Japanese, I hailed a taxi in Tokyo only to find my destination was only 20 metres down the same street.

I've found that doing business in Asia, more can be learned from experiencing the journey than from reaching the destination.

I love working in and being responsible for the licensing business in the region. It's such a diverse part of the world, with characteristics that make it equally interesting, difficult, fascinating and ultimately rewarding.

Within the usual restrictions imposed by piracy and the recent economic downtuwn, in some parts of the region the brand licensing industry is flourishing.

Let me give you a few examples.

Character brands have always had a home in Asia. Classics Hello Kitty and Angel Cat Sugar are hugely popular and Tiger Aspect's Mr Bean continues to have a unique appeal in many Asian markets.

Building on that natural affiliation with and love of character brands, in many markets in the region rising levels of disposable income in urban areas has led to increasing awareness and interest in local and international TV and film brands.

At FremantleMedia we've had a great reception to our efforts with the new film franchise Star Trek in live events, one of the feature properties that came to us from our recently formed relationship with CBS Consumer Products.

We are even starting to have some success in China with CBS property Mighty Mouse, which has interest in footwear and apparel.

I've just returned from Manila, where I was energised by the sophistication of the licensing discussions we had with TV broadcasters and licensees about our brands Project Runway and American Idol, as well as the CBS brands CSI, Next Top Model and Star Trek. In the kids' category, wherever I looked, Transformers dominated the boys' toy aisles.

The dollars may not be as big as in some western markets, but the interest is certainly there.

When in Singapore, I always visit the department stores of Orchard Road, where TV, film and toy brand licensing is more popular than ever.

Sports licensing was given a big boost by the Beijing Olympics and the upcoming East Asian Games.

Like everywhere, when recession hits (like it has in many markets including Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong), the effect will be felt by retailers reducing the number of brands they are willing to carry, as well as the size of orders.

So licensors have to prioritise their properties and be more realistic in their financial expectations. Also, it's time to think differently about licensing - why not consider online, mobile and sponsored live entertainment?

What are the overall keys to success? Some flexibility, a lot of patience and reasonable financial expectations. Oh, and a great agency partner...

This June, in Las Vegas, we'll be looking for the best, most promising entertainment brands to introduce to the dynamic markets of Asia Pacific. I hope to see you all there.

Jon Penn is senior vice president of licensing Asia Pacific for FremantleMedia Enterprises.

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