Here then, are 5 tell-tale signs of a healthy licensing programme, along with some recommendations for how to deliver them.
1) Ride the Curve
As Jean Noel Kapferer puts it in Strategic Brand Management "Brands are rejuvenated by new products matching new needs." Visit any food trade fair and you’ll see a cacophony of small innovative players lighting up the radar. Big branded innovation can lead the market so, for licensing programmes, the race is on to be the first brand to own an emerging trend, just make sure you pick the winners.
2) Fight with giants
Most categories are dominated by one significant branded player with a majority market share. These cash cows rarely lead category innovation, they don't have to. Stagnant markets need brands to take on the market leader so look for brandless private label manufacturers who can undercut the market leader. Retail buyers love to disrupt a complacement market leader so it might not be as hard as you think. Sometimes retailers even license in a brand direct rather than buying in licensed product from a manufacturer, especially when the private label offering is lagging heavily their competition.
3) Feed your Roots
In many licensing programmes the brand is both an identifier on pack and an ingredient inside the licensed product. This ‘ingredient’ style branding can work well provided that there is good communication with the trade sales teams.
With the core product an ingredient in the licensed product, there should be opportunities for joint retail promotions. Gifting also plays an interesting role in feeding the core, making the brand appear like a much loved visitor at the Christmas party.
4) Market back2back
Share marketing materials with partners, giving them as much notice and information as possible. If an advertising schedule is in place, then licensees should have sight of it virtually a year in advance so that the marketing campaign can also be incorporated or adapted for the licensed product, and licensees can have the benefit of using the marketing plans as a sales tool.
Trade shows, branded shops and exhibitions are another great way to incorporate licensing into the marketing mix, with Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and M&M’s featuring their licensed products in store and at trade shows.
5) Partners for Life
Successful licensing is a long-term, durable, sustainable business relationship that can last many years. Like most relationships there will be ups and downs but ultimately if it is to succeed it depends on the both parties developing and nurturing each other’s trust. Often the licensee can become a vital part of the brand helping to extend it into new territories and eventually the licensee and licensor can fall in step so that one takes over the other.
The majority of licensees that find success in a category with a brand will look to extend their reach into other categories, as well as redevelop the core product, creating a marketing plan and developing phase, 2, 3 and 4 of the licensed product. As long as both parties respect the brand and put it before their own interest then the licensed product will work well alongside the core product, justifying its own marketing plan and category manager to drive innovation.
Revenue is the symptom of successful licensing and not the cause, focus on these 5 successful habits to achieve lasting and sustainable licensing success.