The Licensing Expo sets up shop in Las Vegas May 23-25, promising a bounty of brands, characters and entertainment properties ripe for the picking by vendors and retailers.
While the housewares industry certainly is no newcomer to the licensing business, the licensing proposition seems especially well positioned again for a retail market in need of swift, pre-qualified competitive differentiation.
What’s more, with all the talk about consumers craving experiences over the accumulation of things, licensing can tap into its longstanding advantage of connecting products to brands with strong lifestyle and personal engagement identities.
With such an advantage, though, comes the risk of underwhelming results if retailers don’t adapt merchandising and promotional strategies to extract the full potential of licensed programs.
Successful licensing requires careful vetting of prospective licenses and licensees, along with faithfulness to brand standards and consumer expectations. The allure of easy royalty dollars can cause some licensing opportunists to get a little loose with their brands, just as eager vendors don’t always clearly see the long-term risk through the short-term glare of promising new licenses. Even when licensed products are aligned to brands effectively, success often comes down to retail execution and how effectively consumers can be immersed into lifestyle presentations that creatively unite a brand’s offering, including licensed goods.
First, many chain retailers need to tear down traditional category management structures when it comes to licensed goods, ending internal debates about where, for example, glassware licensed by a top beer brand belongs in the store and which buyer gets credit for the business. Are they willing to pull that glassware from the tabletop aisle and feature it as complementary accessory in a lifestyle “shop” of the brand’s products in high-traffic locations?
Entertainment brands and properties have refined the art of threading the needle for licensed product launches and promotions to optimize expected surges in demand. More traditional CPG brands, while offering strong year-round awareness and sales potential, often enjoy a number of peaks during the year that nimble vendors and retailers should exploit to drive the upsell of licensed products.
In other words, why just sell more beer when you can also sell more glassware?
The licensing business benefits from recharging itself with fresh, new opportunities on a frequent basis. Just as that lifts the promise of revenue windfalls from capitalizing on hot brands and properties, it also raises the risks of misaligned partnerships, misjudged brand power and endurance and mismanaged product development and marketing.
It’s not easy, but when the licensors and licensees make an effective lifestyle connection— and when retailers pull it all together— you get the type of inviting experience everyone craves.