A Few Thoughts on Brand Licensing

Compiled by Sarah Gurman

If you happen to be in London this week, you’ll meet all kinds of animation consumer and licensing professionals at the Brand Licensing Show (Oct 25, 26). Based in the city’s Earls Court, the show features 150 exhibitors and close to 5,500 manufacturers and brand outfits. To find out more about this growing event, you can visit www.brandlicensingexpo.com.

In conjunction with the show, we asked several of our favorite professionals in the field to give us their takes on related matters. Here’s what they zapped back at us:

Maryellen Zarakas VP/General Manager of Television & Studio Licensing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products:

How to create a sensation: Start with a great show that has compelling characters, themes and stories that translate well to create a fantastic product. Another key ingredient is a great licensing partner who understands and is passionate about our properties. Launch strategies are also significant as we work to create the appropriate retail launch for the property. Our strategies are property specific, not formulaic.

Biggest Trend? Batman has been an incredible program for us. Between the launch of The Batman on TV and the film release this past June, our product has received great placement and sell thru at retail. Batman has had a strong licensing history with us and we expect that trend to continue for years to come. Up on the horizon, expect an amazing Superman program next summer: The program is getting tremendous reactions at retail.

Preschool is also a huge initiative for us this year. We are focusing on four preschool shows–Krypto the Superdog, Baby Looney Tunes, Firehouse Tales and Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs. All four shows are currently airing on Cartoon Network.

Favorite movie or TV show of the year: Xiaolin Showdown is my favorite animated show this year: It’s a mystical adventure with a lot of comedy, loads of action and great story lines.

The last book I read: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Joy Tashijan, JTMG, LLC.:

How to create a sensation: There are many animated series on television. The most important aspect of any program is the characters and stories. Merchandising can only succeed if the television series has recognition with the audience and even then, there is no guarantee that the licensed products will be successful.

Biggest Trend? Anime licensing and music licensing perform consistently. They seem to be perfect entertainment vehicles for kids.

Favorite movie or TV show of the year: Wedding Crashers–since I am planning a wedding, and Nanny 911 to help me better communicate with my godson.

The last book I read was: Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

Carl Lumbard, Managing Director of Fox Licensing Europe:

How to create a sensation: In my opinion there are three key factors: First, the TV show or film must have strong and believable characters with whom the intended target audience, whether kids or adults, can easily, continually and readily identify with. There must also be a core of high-quality licensees who can interpret and develop the characters into first-rate products, which hold true to the essence of the property. Finally, major retail support allows the products to be showcased appropriately in store, coupled with promotional overlays.

Biggest Trend? The general consumer malaise at retail across the U.K. and Europe and the consolidation of retail into fewer, but larger, influential players. From a creative angle, the "biggest sensation" has been the rebirth of the Family Guy on TV due to massive consumer demand in the U.S. BBC2 launches season three in October…I can’t wait!

Favorite movie or TV show of the year: 24: Season 4…outstanding TV. What more can Jack Bauer do!?

The last book I read wasRough Guide to South America. My wife and I have just returned from a couple of weeks in Chile and Argentina during their spring. It was wonderful.

Brenda Wooding, Managing Director of BWM (B Wooding Media):

How to create a sensation: Call me an eternal optimistic entrepreneur, but I strongly believe there are many ways to create an animation-related licensing sensation. Good properties that inspire enthusiasm are at the core of success. What is needed is a killer instinct on what trends are coming up, a well-tuned promotional and marketing machine and a bit of luck! And whether the property starts at retail and migrates to other media’s or vice versa does not make a difference these days. What matters is that all media’s work in tandem to create the sensation.

Biggest Trend? Puppets are back in full force! In fact, BWM ‘s biggest sensation (and in my opinion soon to be worldwide hit) is the "charm-a-licious" and groovy puppet series Roofters (AB Svensk Industri and ex Happy Life producer, Ulf Synnerholm). This stylish and rockin’ series from Scandinavia has all the markings of international legs and a great base of license and merchandising support from Brio toys.  

Favorite movie or TV show of the year? The Brothers Grimm was so fantastic. Terry Gilliam’s fantastical comedy was a delight from start to finish!

The last book I read: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguirea. It was a really demonically delightful read!

Cathy Malatesta, Director of Licensing & Marketing, Earthworks Entertainment:

How to create a sensation: Should you hope for licensing success, the locomotive (your animation) must be intriguing, well-crafted and feature characters that will draw kids in. But what goes hand in hand with the high-quality animation is a succinct marketing/branding strategy that will make it virtually impossible for a viewer to resist buying all the related goodies featuring their favorite characters–offering them in locations for maximum exposure and accessibility.

Biggest Trend? It seems as though the emergence of mid-tier retailers offering destinations in their stores for licensed products is one of the year’s notable trends. There is no question that on-line purchasing has become a fast-growing growing trend as well.

Favorite movie or TV show of the year? Crash and Medium <

The last book I read: Jane Fonda biography–My Life So Far

John Gildea, S.V.P. Consumer Products, Cookie Jar Entertainment, Inc.:

How to create a sensation: In short, it is an art, not a science. Create something that is completely unique and never been done before and hope that it resonates with your target audience.

Biggest Trend? Doodlemania. The Doodlebops are having a huge first year winning their time slot in preschool demo on the Disney Channel! A major consumer products program is being anchored by Lions Gate DVD in the U.S. and Universal in Canada, and by Mattel for toys with many category leaders getting on the licensing bus as we speak.

Favorite movie or TV show of the year? The Lord of the Rings

The last book I read was: The Bourne Legacy