The question of who were the best group of all time should be a qualitative one, but it’s ceased to be so. It’s The Beatles. End of story. In Britain, in the States, in Japan, around the world; there is no argument and no credible contenders.
Interestingly, as well as the music, they left behind a unique bank of iconic images, from the mop-tops of ’63, through the psychedelia of Sgt Pepper to the hirsute hippies on Abbey Road’s zebra crossing. All of this has been seamed skillfully and stylishly in recent years as the phenomenon has become as much about brand as band.
Apple, the company controlled by The Beatles and their families, came up with a clear vision of how they wanted the group to be licensed and represented and has spent four years building up a carefully targeted programme.
Caroline Mickler, eponymous boss of Caroline Mickler Ltd, handles the programme. She told Licensing.biz: “Apple wanted to develop a licensing schedule that was truly design-led and appealed to both existing fans and a new audience; a programme that moved away from the souvenir end of the market.
“We targeted companies who had the design capabilities and distribution that we felt The Beatles phenomenon deserved. It has been an incredible success and that is a testament to the enormity of the brand and to the sensitivity and care which we, Apple and the licensees have given it.”
There are 25 licensees on board so far, including well known brands ranging from Ben Sherman, Lee Cooper and Halcyon Days. Mickler points out that there has been some particularly innovative work from Half Moon Bay (coasters, stationery) and Disaster (bags, wallets, cuff links).
She also highlights apparel as a particularly strong sector: “It’s been very successful. We have been able to develop ranges for different age groups, price points and different retail positioning, including Harrods and New Look, that all complement one another. The product has been covered widely in the press, from Grazia to Harpers Bazaar.”
Alongside the carefully controlled increase in licensing activity, there has been a concerted clampdown on rogue product, much of which has now been removed from the market around the world. Mickler stresses how important protection and regulation of The Beatles name and image is to Apple: “They are extremely careful about the type of merchandise they licence and the ethical content. They feel it is very important that the consumer is offered well-designed product of a high standard and every effort is made to aggressively pursue counterfeiters.”
Looking forward into ’08, she mentions Love, the current sold-out Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas based around the music of The Beatles. “There’s a significant level of interest in utilizing the artwork on a separate range of merchanise which we plan to licence next year to coincide with Apple’s 40th anniversary.
“Beyond that it’s new business as usual. There are no secrets to the enormous range of imagery and branding we have available. What we can say is that the principles of quality, ethics, design and empathy used in the programme will not be relaxed.”