This article was written by Ian Downes, Director at Start Licensing Limited, for The Bugg Report.
The fast approaching Christmas season is dominating thinking in UK Licensing Industry and retail minds at the moment.
Retailers in particular are hoping that Christmas will bring them the gift of sales this year, providing a welcome boost to them in what are still challenging times.
In general terms, rights holders have got better at developing design resources that are fit for purpose on a seasonal and thematic basis. Christmas is a great example of this with brands developing style guides suited to the occasion and focussed on core areas like apparel. New traditions have emerged around Christmas product-wise, which have been a boost for licensing such as Christmas jumpers and t-shirts as Licensing plays a key role in these categories.
It is interesting to see specific properties emerging from the pack at this time of year. At the moment a property that seems to have had a great Christmas sell-in is The Grinch. Of course, the acid test of success is that product sells out and sells through.
Classic brands like The Snowman and The Elf on the Shelf naturally make strong showings at this time of year; but they are subject to more competition as other brands up their Christmas game.
It is also a strong season for food and drink brands licensing-wise, particularly in the composite gifting category where brands such as Guinness, Jack Daniel’s and Marmite do well. This category is managed by specialist suppliers like Beams and Kimm & Miller, who are experts at blending brands with gifting. This category allows brand owners to extend their reach beyond their everyday distribution and opens up opportunities for product sampling.
Christmas is also a strong selling period for publishers with traditional formats like annuals coming to the fore. Annuals are a category where licensed brands play a key role and it is not uncommon to see Free standing display units (FSDUs) in retail dominated by licensed titles.
Beyond product this is also the time of the year where many companies, and retailers in particular, release their Christmas themed advertising campaigns. These days these campaigns go beyond just TV and will include other elements like social media. Advertisers use these campaigns as launchpads for their ranges but they have also become a focal point for PR campaigns and give brands fresh momentum. Licensing has played a role in some of these campaigns over the years providing themes and content.
A good example from this year is clothing brand Barbour working with Aardman Animations to create a bespoke advertising campaign that features Shaun the Sheep. Aardman created new content for Barbour which focusses on the fact that Barbour jackets can have a long life and are durable; the Barbour brand and the messaging fitted perfectly with Shaun the Sheep, which has helped deliver a very engaging campaign. A great example of licensing helping to deliver a campaign message clearly in a cluttered market.
Early signs are that licensing should have a good Christmas — it is a present I think the whole industry will welcome!
This article is also featured in Edition 46 of The Bugg Report Magazine