For 35 years Licensing Expo has been the meeting place for the global licensing industry. Project Partners Network, licensing specialists and contributor to The Trend Curve, filed this report from the 2015 show.
Cutting Edge Licensing Trends
Celebrities and characters from social media and streaming platforms represented a key theme at Licensing International Expo 2015, held June 9-11 in Las Vegas. Fashion collaborations, reboots of classic TV shows and 3D printing were among the other trends noted across the exhibition hall.
Celebrity Goes Social
Celebrities continued to make their presence known in the world of licensing, particularly in apparel and accessories. This year, celebrities that have become established through streaming platforms such as YouTube and AwesomenessTV (both first-time exhibitors) made a big first impression. Exhibitors touted a wide variety of social media stars, including SMOSH, Cimorelli, Captain Sparklez (Jordan Maron), Bethany Mota, Cameron Dallas (Expelled), Teala Dunn and more.
Streaming as Entertainment Platform
Platforms like YouTube, Amazon (also an inaugural exhibitor) and Netflix (highlighted at many booths) also have become a viable springboard for launching a licensing program, even without support from traditional media. Russian property Masha and the Bear signed Spin Master as its toy licensee for the U.S., based on its Netflix exposure, while Brazilian property Gallinha Pintadinha (Lottie Dottie Chicken) generates an estimated $300 million globally in retail sales of licensed goods, thanks to its YouTube channel. Major studios and indie producers alike were boasting distribution deals with the key streaming media brands at the show.
Fashion with Character
The marriage between fashion brands and classic characters endured in Las Vegas. Licensors from 20th Century Fox (Simpsons, Home Alone) to Peanuts Worldwide (Snoopy and friends) and King Features (Betty Boop) all highlighted their wide range of fashion collaborations. These fashion pairings have become almost a necessary component of a licensing program for a classic film, TV show, or character.
Emergence of 3D Printing
For the first time at the Expo, a number of licensors were shining a spotlight on their 3D printing initiatives. Properties ranging from Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Big Tent’s Domo were spotted in 3D form in display cases across the show floor, while companies supporting 3D printing (including Source3 and 3DPlusMe) represented a new category of exhibitor.
The propensity to refresh and reboot retro properties—with the “retro” umbrella covering anything from the 1960s to the 1990s—continued. Among the re-launches spotlighted this year: PowerPuff Girls and Ben10 at Cartoon Network, JEM and the Holograms at Hasbro and Teletubbies at DHX Media.
Riding The Emoji Trend
Emojis continued to proliferate as a design theme. A notable new entrant was Emoji the Brand from Bavaria Sonor, a global lifestyle property positioned for all ages. Saban and Jakks Pacific offered the multiplatform entertainment series Emojiville. Meanwhile, a few classic properties—namely Smiley and Sanrio’s Mr. Men and Little Miss, both of which are non-digital forerunners to emojis—were riding the trend to greater prominence.
Cube-shaped characters were on the rise. This design trend emanates from Korea, the source of properties including Vooz’s long-time Asian hit Canimals and Aurora World’s newer Cuby Zoo. Construction-toy company Laser Pegs introduced its characters Peg Heads, while a number of licensors, including Sesame Workshop, decorated their booths with boxes featuring all-over designs of their characters’ heads.
Monkeys were a popular design/lifestyle theme at the Expo this year. WithIt’s Joey & Joy joined Saban’s classic Julius (from Paul Frank) in the category of monkey-themed properties. Multi-character brands such as Muy Pop, represented by Art Ask Agency, and Bavaria Sonor’s Emoji the Brand prominently featured monkeys among a range of characters. Sun Bum, a beach sun care and lifestyle brand, was offering its gorilla mascot Sonny for licensing.
Power to the Princesses
Princess themes were prominent, taking many forms. Princess Plié & Friends is a character property with dance themes; Swan Princess Partners offered the 1994 film The Swan Princess and is producing more films tied to the property; Tezuka Productions promoted the classic manga brand Princess Knight; and CMG highlighted Princess of Beverly Hills, a real-life pampered and pink-furred pup made famous through Twitter.