Time to stop label slapping

Why licensors need a new marketing mindset.
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4_Secret Show pic.jpg

There is widespread recognition amongst tv producers that income from tv programme sales alone is seldom sufficient to cover production costs. So licensing is rightly centre stage as a means to increase revenue and extend intellectual properties beyond the tv screen. In this article, Guy Tomlinson argues that licensors need a new marketing mindset. They need to stop relying on sleepy supply push thinking and become more consumer and brand driven.

The Current Model
The process is typically this. A producer makes a show. It’s then sold to broadcasters and aired. A ‘style guide’ is produced containing a synopsis of the show, the key characters and design elements. It’s usually an impressive tome, a wonderful work of art, and often produced at massive expense. This is sent to potential licensees with a brief asking them to come up with new product ideas. The product rights are then effectively auctioned and sold to the highest bidder.

Label Slapping Risks Undermining Value
While there are a few bucks to be made by slapping TV series logos onto new products (insert product name of your choice eg pair of pyjamas, pencil case, rucksack) rarely will this add much in terms of value and support for the TV series. Sure the series linkage is likely to contribute some recognition and interest, but rarely will it truly differentiate. More often it may limit competitiveness to cheap and cheerful commodities that can be found in cheap and cheerful stores like Woolworths (RIP). Equally it can undermine the TV proposition if the product or place is inappropriate.

Be Vigilant to the Competitive World
Licensors need to be aware of today’s increasingly competitive market. Thinking from a supply push point of view alone isn’t enough. It’s akin to throwing mud at a wall - an uncertain way to make it stick.
Be aware of competitive media, retail, product and consumer dynamics. Be aware of the world around you and that everyone is a potential competitor for your consumer’s time and money. So armed with this understanding you need to understand and out-think your competitors to help ensure that what you offer truly resonates.
Consumers make choices based on their individual needs, whether an offer meets those needs, by assessing the relative benefits of competing offers. They buy if their needs become wants. The trade will make stocking decisions on a similar basis - what sets them apart, drives store traffic and meets their customer’s needs.

Invest in Getting Genuine and Timely Insights
So don’t just run internal creative workshops, invest in obtaining genuine understanding on which to base decisions. Invest in audience research to understand what it is that engages and sets your TV series apart. In my experience what engages and enthrals is rarely what it appears from the outside looking in. Often unusual character quirks are uncovered which can highlight previously unconsidered differentiators and drivers, for example that the lead characters should be different to what had previously been assumed. These can all have a profound bearing on your licensing programme. Also invest in obtaining meaningful insights on consumers’ needs, wants and behaviours. And as insights can come from anywhere it is important to look in many places and use a variety of techniques to uncover them. It’s also common for licensing to be considered as an after-thought to programme production rather than at the same time. This can mean lost programme, as well as lost extension, opportunities so ideally you should think about these things at an early stage in the programme’s development.

Create Stimulus to Explore and Define the Brand Difference
It is fair to recognise the difficulties in conducting practical and useful research especially where young consumers are involved. Children are understandably less articulate than adults and need help to express themselves. This is where stimulus can play a powerful role. Stimulus can be used to stimulate, challenge, engage, amuse, explore new possibilities and more.
It can be used to define product opportunities, as well as explore and define fine positioning nuances. Creating product and communication or brand positioning stimulus (key example, The Secret Show (BBC)) helps uncover what is appealing and why. Because stimulus makes things real it helps solicit more substantial insights. It moves the conversation beyond the superficial ‘because it’s good’ to understand the precise combination of rational and emotional benefits and way of communicating. It enables the ‘magic’ of the brand - the detailed proposition that products and services must offer consumers to truly stand-out and command a premium over all comers, to be defined. This proposition can then be hard-wired into ‘style guides’ to provide a more robust plan to deliver the return on investment you need.

Example stimulus to develop products and brands (reproduced courtesy of BBC Worldwide).

Guy Tomlinson is Managing Director at brand marketing consultancy The Marketing Directors and co-author of The Marketing Director’s Handbook. He’s helped many intellectual properties win consumer acclaim through superior brand marketing.


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