The future's bright, the future's licensing

Despite the fiscal blight in the wider economy, with the right brands our industry is set to thrive.
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As the end of the year rapidly approaches and the thoughts of children everywhere turn to the promise of presents from a childless old man with a long coat and beard, sitting them on his knee and casually describing his modus operandi for housebreaking, what better time than now to cast a thought back to the happenings that brought us here, and forward to what the next year might hold?

There have been many surprising things in the UK throughout the last 12 months – Prince William shunned the protocol of marrying royalty with royalty and chose instead the ordinary, run-of-the-mill, public school educated millionairess Kate Middleton; George Michael was convicted of a driving offence and reportedly decided to relaunch his career from behind bars with a release of the classic track ‘just let your son go down on me’; The Formula One drivers’ championship was won by a German; vast swathes of French workers went on strike as their working protocols were amended to be... still more favourable than those in the UK; and former Lib Dem MP Limp Bizkit put himself up for ritual humiliation in a trial by public vote.

But for anyone who read the newspapers in the early part of the year, perhaps the most surprising thing of all was the fact that four horsemen didn’t in fact ride their turbulent way through the British economy, wreaking corporate death and destruction at every turn.

As news of the government spending review began to circulate, people everywhere assumed a look which mirrored that of William Hague the day the tabloids mis-quoted a conversation he was having with his aide... apparently what William Hague actually said was, ‘hold my calls and sack my cook...'

In fact, the major celebrants of the cuts in the public purse came from licensing’s own apparel accessories market as the key players started to count the increasing sales of fingerless gloves to the armies of matted-haired, army jacket wearing protestors thronging the streets of Whitehall.

Joining the crowds to protest at the cuts which aim to payback the debts built up over a decade of fripperies came the Labour front benchers who jumped on the actions of the man they call ‘Boy George’. But anyone with even a cursory knowledge of economics must be left wondering if the country would be in any more of a parlous state right now if its economic future had been entrusted to that eponymous 1980’s pop icon instead of the dangerous half-wit Gordon Brown.

The plain fact of the matter is, as Liam Byrne admitted in his infamous note, that Brown spent all the cash in the good times, sold the gold at an astonishingly low price, shamelessly raided the pension funds leaving millions of elderly people impoverished and mistook rapidly inflating house prices (driven largely by artificially low interest rates resulting from his change in the measurement of inflation) for genuine economic growth... and we are paying for this astonishing mismanagement now.

Measures simply must be taken to stabilise the national economy and it is just not acceptable for those blessed with neither intellect nor good grace such as Bob Crow and Tony Woodley to feel justified in their dangerous industrial actions. People like them may well hide behind the screen of ‘health and safety’ whilst they set about destroying good companies and the career prospects that come with them but the unions cannot possibly hope to disassociate themselves from the current problems... after all, it is their funding and voting practices which helped to give Blair and Brown the stability to (I hesitate to use the word) mastermind the policies that left us in this state.

But there’s very little point in looking at the current crisis and feeling like a British memorabilia shop owner who’s already booked a sabbatical next April. It’s true to say that leadership is about spotting opportunity in difficult times and the role of everyone in the licensing industry right now must be to assess the impact on the sector and take appropriate action to survive the inevitably more difficult trading conditions of the next few years.

Each sector will face an increasing number of questions and decisions in the economic future.

Production budgets will be scrutinised ever more closely as talks of a Strictly Come Dancing sequin budget have been put on hold until Ann Widdecombe’s material requirements are no longer being catered for.

The publishing industry is looking at new ways of doing business as Gordon Brown talks of releasing an autobiography hot on the heels of Brown and Campbell... apparently it’s to be given away free at point of sale but many future generations of your family will be expected to pay for it.

The gaming community can look for synergies amongst other sectors – conversations are already opening up with the manufacturers of gas meters as, never in the field of manufacturing have reels been made to roll so quickly...

Classic board game manufacturers will be forced to re-consider the wording of their rule books to explain the concept of games such as Monopoly to a generation of kids for whom the very idea of private property ownership is entirely alien.

Roary the Racing Car should probably start to research solar energy now to save on the ever-increasing costs of fuel and even Bob the Builder might be forced to turn his skills to home making rather than house building due to the unfortunate downturn in that sector.

But regardless of the impact of the wider economy, the basic principles of licensing remain steadfast – good brands will always out and the key to survival and growth in tough economic times is to continue to take measured risks.

The consumer will always demand innovation, new brands with a fresh offering for the market and new products with features that supply a need, or functions that drive new interest. Sequins budgets aside, continuing to apply the principles of consumer behaviour to the process of selecting brands will always help to drive sales in any market, even one which is suffering from the difficulties we’re seeing in the current economy.

Licensing provides a great point of difference for products and fulfils a consumer need. Without strong brands, there are only two measures by which a consumer can resolve a purchase decision – quality and price - and in a declining market, price wars are sure to be fierce battles.

Strong licensed brands always have and will continue to provide a ready-made purchase decision for consumers and help to ensure consumer products in the sector remain buoyant. Although the wider economy may be suffering from a fiscal blight, as far as this industry is concerned, with the right brands, the future’s bright... the future’s licensing.

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