Universally speaking: SmileyWorld’s Nicolas Loufrani and the global appeal of the Smiley

Over the past 20 years, CEO Nicolas Loufrani has completely revolutionised The Smiley Company portfolio into true evergreen lifestyle brands and Licensing.biz caught up with him to discuss his ongoing success.

“The last 12 months have been huge for SmileyWorld,” says Loufrani.

SmileyWorld is the Smiley Company’s value proposition, created to offer a culturally relevant diffusion of the premium and iconic heritage Smiley in 1997 and this continues to boom in the market.

SmileyWorld has grown to have a massive cultural significance, not just in licensing where it created an art-form out of emoticons, but also in communication and language, where Smileys have revolutionised pictorial language and the way we communicate and express ourselves today.

“SmileyWorld’s strengths are simple and these have been shaped to seamlessly exude Smiley’s happy and positive DNA,” says Loufrani, “we provide people today with a unique platform to develop their emotional intelligence and express their emotions through inspiring and creative products, and this has connected us with a new generation of consumers.”

SmileyWorld will leave a lasting cultural legacy, not just in the field of licensing, but also in language and communications. This has been highlighted by the continued media spotlight the Smiley CEO has been receiving of late, with recent profiles in some of the world’s biggest media platforms.

Loufrani continues to be broadcast as a leader, picked up by the likes of the BBC, The Sunday times, I, Vice, Huffington Post, Mail on Sunday, CNBC and Reuters in recent months.

And when it comes to licensing strategy, The Smiley Company is simply looking to grow out its partners business. The results over the last 12 months speak for themselves.

While the business only grew its total new licensees by 32 partners (up 11 per cent on 2016-2017) it grew its overall retail sales value by over $160 million (up 55 per cent on 2016-17). This ‘perfectly showcased the brand’s strategy’ that it was not about the amount of licensing partners, ‘but about the quality of licensees and the success being achieved by each individual partnership.

Interestingly, this success was achieved despite SmileyWorld offering a premium royalty rate, showing how the brand’s partners continue to sign up to the original Smiley emoticon as it offers “unrivalled design and marketing support across a multitude of categories and industries.”

Not only that, it also offers a co-creation process, which ‘facilitates best selling structured collections with truly interesting and innovative products.’

And its success stretches across an expane of categories and product lines.

“In publishing, gifts and greeting cards we are enjoying a lot of success. Scholastic launched SmileyWorld books into key retail listings including Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smith and Amazon, with a range of book titles including friendship journals, a joke book and search and find books.

“We are also enjoying some real growth in greeting cards, with a DTR partnership in place with Moonpig and a collaboration with Tache, which is allowing us to showcase the breadth and depth of our creative offering and archive of artwork to the gifts, greetings cards and stationery industries.”

Sales of Smiley-branded food and beverage products rose 20 per cent last year, as branded and private label suppliers looked to boost positive perceptions around their products.

“SmileyWorld’s food products portfolio now accounts for 25 per cent of the groups’ turnover and brand penetration continues unabated as we look to focus on developing 3D shapes for our products, this is best highlighted by the range of snacks launched at Lidl under their Crusti Crocs range.

“Stationary and back to school continue to also be a strong area of growth for us, with both categories providing a perfect extension of a person’s personality and individuality and that is why personalisation is a growing trend within the category.

“SmileyWorld products allow our customers to express their emotions and this continues to be a key ingredient that stands the brand out from the crowd.”

Licensee Lannoo has seen a great season at WHSmith as its range of SmileyWorld products ended up being one of the top five best-selling back to school brands, while Blueprint launched a number of successful gifting products through Paperchase.

Franco Cosimo Panini’s range of note books, pencil cases, bags nad other accessories are flying at retail and Nici is creating a range of products from plush through to stationery in a range that has shifted over two million units in 2017 alone.

However, SmileyWorld continues to offer its biggest growth in the apparel and footwear space, where direct to retail partnerships, upscale collaborations and chains continue to drive growth for the brand.

“We have just activated our biggest cross category lifestyle collection for kids, teens and adults of all genders in Primark,” continues Loufrani. “We have also launched over 1.5 million units in Zara across both adults and kids in the last 12 months and we have products at retail with some of the high street’s biggest players including Bershka, C&A, Pull & Bear, Orchestra and Reserved.”

Finally, promotions continue to give the brand outstanding visibility. Last year, Nestle Waters launched over 139 million bottles of SmileyWorld branded water bottles across multiple formats for Vittel in Central and Eastern Europe, while a major GWP promotion with Unilever saw SmileyWorld mug sets hit the market, as Smiley continued to partner with Dunkin Donuts for Global Donut Day.

With major promotions lined up in 2018 with Cadbury’s in Asia via Mondelez and a year-long promotion with Hyundai department stores in Korea, as well as a cross category promotion with Unilever at Carrefour, there’s a lot to keep Smiley in the spotlight.

Nicolas Loufrani and the Smiley team will be at Licensing Expo on stand E142 from May 22 to 24 2018.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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