As we approach the Brand Licensing Europe Show it is a good time to reflect on how licensees and licensors/agents work together in the toy sector.
The toy and licensing industries are closely aligned but it may be that in some ways a degree of compliancy has set in.
My feeling is that collectively we are overlooking one of the essential components of a licensing deal, which is working in partnership. A successful licensing partnership should be one where there is a high level of communication, exchanges of information and a sense of joint endeavour. This is a two way process.
When a company secures a licence it is important that they accept the notion they are entering a partnership and that the property owner will want to be involved in the product lifecycle. Licensees need to be prepared to bring licensors into their circle and respect that they can make a positive contribution to the marketing of a product.
Many licensees are missing the extra benefits a licence can bring by not communicating with the rights holder. A way of looking at is that you have bought a membership of a club. To get the most value out of your membership you need to be fully aware of what is on offer at the club. Sometimes you have to ask. A simple example is that most licensed properties have comics associated with them. It is good to see many licensees getting involved in these comics, which are 100 per cent, targeted media, but there are many licensees who do not avail themselves of this opportunity.
Those that represent rights should make a real commitment to communicate and manage their property. A successful licensed product will be one that has original elements and reflects the values of the licensed brand. We need to move beyond simplistic label slap products.
In my own experience, it is important that the rights representative knows their property well enough to have a positive impact on product development. Do not be afraid of contributing ideas to start the process. A good example of this in action for me was the development of The Beano Comic Maker Kit with Flair. Through research with Beano readers it was clear that fans enjoyed designing their own comics but were frustrated that they didn’t have a ‘kit’ to do so. Consultation with Flair allowed us to develop a product that fitted their production requirements and delivered a consumer friendly product. This is real partnership and this is where licensing can score in the toy market. Adding real value, originality and a marketing platform.
Added value is another dimension licensing can bring – products can have unique features that offer a point of difference beyond generic product. Consumers are more sophisticated and expect more from licensed product these days. MV Sports have just developed a range of Bang on the Door roller-skates that the consumer can colour and decorate themselves – playing on Bang on the Door’s design credentials. This brings the brand into the product.
Clearly, ideas need to centre on realistic commercial and production objectives. As an agent or licensor, you will gain respect from licensees if you show an appreciation of their business needs and boundaries. Equally as a licensee, you will gain an edge if you make a genuine commitment to communicate with and involve the rights owner. Working in a real partnership will being benefits for all those involved.