Compiled by Project Partners Network for The Trend Curve
Trends from the Licensing Show included various permutations of vintage and nostalgia, co-branding and cross-licensing, and the continued emergence of properties from the digital world. Here are a few of the highlights:
- A number of licensors offered older corporate brands, more for their nostalgic value than to relaunch them as ongoing concerns. RetroBrands USA, represented by Lisa Marks had a variety of such properties, from Ken L Ration to Tender Vittles. The USPS settled on Pony Express and retro Air Mail logos. Established Brands represented Brim, and Dimensional Branding Group had Skeeball.
- Ongoing brand-licensing programs showed vintage artwork. Kellogg’s offered original cereal-box designs and advertisements from the 1920s on at The Joester-Loria Group. Design Plus had a similar program for Post, with retro designs of Sugar Bear.
- Fashion/graphic treatments of brand and character properties continue to trend. Hasbro touted alliances with Junk Food for Monopoly, edgier efforts with Second Chance and No Fear for NERF, Rocawear with Transformers and fan-driven efforts for My Little Pony, through licensee Mighty Fine. Hasbro extended some of these designs into additional product categories (such as skateboards for NERF/No Fear) and revealed that it would be open to home furnishings.
- Warner Bros. has been working with Junk Food on retro apparel designs for Looney Tunes; many corporate licensors also continue to pair their vintage logos with Junk Food and other similar t-shirt designers. So far this trend hasn’t extended into home furnishings to a great degree, but now that apparel is so established it is likely licensors will want to move in this direction.
- These examples are part of a larger trend ongoing for the last few years of licensed properties teaming with couture designers to create capsule collections. Most of the emphasis has been on apparel and accessories, but there have been some home furnishings expressions and it seems like this trend is poised to enter home furnishings and décor in a bigger way.
A number of brand and character licensors have paired with artists, either for promotions or for co-licensed products, to help freshen or generate buzz for their properties. Most are in the early stages of development.
- Picture book illustrator Mary Jane Begin is developing a new expression for Hasbro’s My Little Pony, which will appear in books from an as-yet-unnamed publisher in fall 2013.
- Pop artist Peter Mars, represented for licensing by Creative Properties, is preparing a gallery exhibit of paintings inspired by Penguin Books’ Mad Libs brand. (Mars also has worked with Elvis Presley Enterprises.)
- Joester-Loria Group is considering a “Pop Art Pop Tart” interpretation timed to the 50th birthday celebration of the Pop Tarts brand, which it handles under its new representation deal with Kellogg’s.
- DC Entertainment is sponsoring an art tour called Darkness & Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism, which will raise funds and awareness to combat hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. A variety of artists have created original artwork featuring the characters of DC’s Justice League.
Co-Branding and Cross-Licensing
Collaborations and mash-ups between properties continue.
- Pan Am announced alliances with Paul Frank to combine Pan Am and Julius graphics on 1960s-style travel accessories and luggage, and with the U.S. Postal Service to combine Pan Am logos and the USPS’s vintage Air Mail logo.
- Other properties have been actively cross-licensing of late, including KISS and Hello Kitty, both of which have paired with a number of properties (including each other) to expand their audiences into new demographic targets. (Examples: KISS/Archies and Hello Kitty/Momiji).
Television programs with distinct design sensibilities are launching licensing programs focusing on home furnishings:
- Knockout Licensing launched a Downton Abbey-inspired home furnishings program and was meeting with potential manufacturers at the show.
- CBS Consumer Products launched a program for furniture tied to The Good Wife, with the first two partners being Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Interlude Home.
- Lionsgate’s Mad Men (on AMC), which has been the focus of collaborations with Banana Republic for apparel and accessories and Estee Lauder for cosmetics, paired with Fab.com for a promotional flash site featuring non-licensed home décor merchandise in the style of Mad Men.
A number of properties were touting anniversaries, with licensing plans including recreating vintage products from their early days:
- Fox plans some merchandise for The Simpsons (25th) featuring the early hand-drawn look of the characters in their early years.
- Nelvana’s celebration for Babar (80th) will feature vintage branding and original artwork.
- Mattel and Random House are marking the 50th continuous year of Barbie being featured in Golden Books with reissues of some of the original stories and artwork from 1962.
Sex and Romance
Romance and sex seem to be up-and-coming themes in licensing for the adult market, if the Licensing Show is any indication:
- One of the most buzzed-about properties was the erotic book trilogy 50 Shades of Grey, which launched a licensing effort through UK-based master agent Carolyn Mickler and US/Canada agent CopCorp. Target products include bedding and home décor, among other categories.
- Curtis Publishing, which offers vintage magazine illustrations from the likes of Norman Rockwell, said its vintage romance art was on an upswing in terms of interest from manufacturers, particularly internationally.
- Attendee BroadLit, a start-up romance website that owns the rights to the stories and images from True Romance magazine, also reported strong interest in its vintage images from potential licensees. It noted significant and unexpected interest from abroad.
All Eyes on Digital
Probably the key overall trend from the show was the plethora of digital-origin properties, which were featured at some of the largest booths on the exhibition floor. Properties included, among others:
- Mobile apps: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja
- Virtual worlds: Moshi Monsters, Stardoll, Bin Weevils
- YouTube properties: Annoying Orange
- Websites: Miniclip.com, AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com
- Videogames: Skylanders, Mass Effect, Call of Duty
It remains to be seen whether these properties will emerge as long-term licensing programs—at least in the U.S.; many have been more successful overseas—or whether they will translate to home furnishings. (Angry Birds is the most successful to date and does have some home décor companies among its 30 licensees.) Their lifespans may be short and they may only lend themselves to niche products. Still, their fans can develop a very loyal and intense relationship with the brand.
Pop Culture Nostalgia
There were announcements of favorite TV shows and toy brands from the 1960s-1990s being relaunched:
- 1960s TV properties, including the Batman (Warner Bros.) and Thunderbirds (ITV) television series. They are banking on interest from nostalgic adults as well as kids who are familiar with the properties in their original form due to cable and syndication airings.
- The 1970s TV series/film Grizzly Adams, introduced by C3, the company responsible for The Three Stooges.
- The 1980s toy brands Popples and My Pet Monster (both Saban). These are being modernized for today’s kids, through digital vehicles, rather than riding a wave of nostalgia.
- Hasbro is planning a relaunch of the Furby, a craze that lasted three years starting in 1998.
All of these will target home furnishings and décor for children and, in some cases, novelty accent pieces and collectibles for adults.
Country/rural properties had a bigger-than-usual presence at the show, mostly in the fashion/lifestyle area.
Some examples included: Country Girl and Boy, Hill Billy, Life is Country, Real Women Real Country, Larry the Cable Guy, and John Deere’s Tractor Girl sub-brand.