Character-based licensing including celebrities, entertainment, TV, and movies, is growing aggressively on a global basis, with retail sales from this segment estimated at $ 48 billion during calendar year 2012, and royalties of $ 2.5 billion, according to International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA). And, some of the key properties in this segment include Star Wars, Power Rangers, Batman and Winnie The Pooh, which have grown to more than a billion dollars, in terms of retail sales. A recent study by The Licensing Letter also highlighted that character-related licensing has been built over decades of exposure across multiple media including TV, film and publishing programs. In addition, the digital entertainment segment is also a growing medium for an increasing number of licensing programs. And, some of the key web-based properties include Annoying Orange and Smosh, mobile game-based Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters, as well as a combination of video game- and toy-based Skylanders. Format of Characters Character-based licensing is in various forms including animation and puppets, but animation is the most common format, with classics like Looney Tunes and Mickey Mouse, appealing to children ranging from pre-school to pre-teen. Apart from that, live action characters such as Star Wars, Batman and Power Rangers, amongst others, are also gaining in popularity, and the key aspect related to these formats, is to develop an appropriate licensing programme. Versatile applications In several cases, licensors have expanded character-based licensing to a wide range of products. For instance, popular characters placed on credit and debit cards increases their applications, such as prepaid Batman cards targeted at teenagers and young adults. Similarly, retailers can also use such a strategy for gift cards, in a bid to boost sales with younger consumers. It does not end there. Character-related licensing can also be leveraged for launching clothes or apparel for children and young adults, as well as for stationery, gift cards, novelties and certain toys. Licensing can be beneficial for both the owner of the character, as well as marketing managers at consumer-centric brands, but many businesses are unaware of the potential benefits from such a strategy. Clearly, the advantages of such a strategy include boosting sales of a particular brand or product, along with greater visibility and recognition amongst consumers, at a time competition is getting intense in most categories. Formula for Success The key question for any licensor, what makes a character commercially viable? And, while there is no straight forward answer to the above, but there are several attributes that help make a successful character . For instance, the character and the related storyline should quickly ‘strike a chord’ with the target audience, and in the case of children, this character should also be relevant to their play-related activities. In this regard, the audience easily relates to Snoopy and his alter ego and hidden talents or Homer Simpson and his struggle with male midlife. It also helps if a character is ‘loveable’ and ‘witty’, as is the case with Winnie the Pooh ad Miffy. Apart from that, frequency of exposure of the character, either of the TV show or movie or on the Internet, plays a key role in expanding the potential for merchandising and allied activities. Roadblocks in strategy No doubt, character-based licensing helps brands and products, but senior managers in any organisation need to be aware of the potential problems arising from an association with an inappropriate character or a very ‘successful’ character dominating their brand. In addition, one needs to ensure that the retail and distribution network for a product gives adequate support and store space to a character-based marketing strategy. In several cases, licensors have expanded character-based licensing to a wide range of products. For instance, popular characters placed on credit and debit cards increases their applications, such as prepaid Batman cards targeted at teenagers and young adults.
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