Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at how licensing can extend a brand experience for today’s toy firms.
Like many people, when I joined the licensing industry I didn’t know much about it. 20 years later, I'm still learning.
I remember the industry being explained to me at my induction at Copyrights Promotions (now CPLG).
The session that left a lasting impression was on Monopoly. Examples of Monopoly products were shown to us, including cufflinks and gift chocolates.
They were impressive and helped me think differently about board games. Even more impressive were the promotions, including an eye-catching initiative with McDonald’s.
It’s one that is still going strong and seems to be used annually. It must be one of the longest running licensed promotions and a real tribute to the strength of the Monopoly brand.
Toy companies are good at creating brands, and toy brands have strong identities, gameplay and international appeal. The road may be well trodden, but licensing has always welcomed strong brands.
Current competition in licensing is intense, yet there is still an appetite for new opportunities, and toy companies are well placed to engage with licensees to develop products based on successful toys.
"Toy and game brands have huge licensing potential today.”
Ian Downes, Start Licensing
A successful campaign can bring in additional revenue, add bottom line value to a brand and, in today’s changing retail world, extend a brand’s reach into new retail channels.
Licensing can also extend the brand experience for consumers and now could be a good time for toy companies to review their own brands and think more broadly about them.
Publishing is an obvious route. A range of books with stories or activities can extend the brand experience and help build the brand universe. Licensees will challenge toy companies to demonstrate the consumer appeal of their brands and toy companies should be prepared to ‘sell’ their brands with hard evidence of their popularity and longevity.
This shouldn’t put brand owners off the process. In fact, it is quite healthy to find out what makes your brand popular.
Furthermore, in an age where many new games are launched through crowdfunding, it's clear there is consumer empathy for toys and games.
Game developers should be thinking about brand building – can you make your game licensing ready?
Brands like Monopoly have shown that the conversation between licensing and toys doesn’t always have to be one way. Toy and game brands have licensing potential, and you don’t need to throw a double six to start in the Game of Licensing.
Ian Downes is the director of the licensing agency Start Licensing. A veteran of the licensing and consumer products scene, he has worked across a number of leading children's brands including the Beano, Asterix, Bananaman, Olly the Little White Van and more.