Licensing Expo connects the world’s most influential entertainment, character, fashion, art and corporate brand owners and agents with consumer goods manufacturers, licensees and retailers. At the 2016 Expo, 489 exhibitors gathered in Las Vegas and more than 16,200 retailers, manufacturers, marketing and advertising professionals attended, across all consumer product categories.
Project Partners Network, one of the country’s top licensing experts, reveals the top trends from this important event.
Many of the themes at this year’s Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas were upbeat and positive. They ranged from safe and sweet properties for preschoolers and art-and-lifestyle brands focused on happiness, to characters and brands promoting girl empowerment.
- Safe and sweet: The preschool market remained strong, with properties such as Paw Patrol, Shimmer and Shine, and Peppa Pig seeing sales on the upswing. Meanwhile, new shows for the youngest consumers, such as Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small and PJ Masks, are coming to the airwaves. The focus on “safe and sweet,” was positioned as an antidote to the darker themes and heavy action of many current entertainment properties.
- Fun and flavorful: Cute foods commanded a high profile among character properties, likely inspired by Moose Toys’ Shopkins and, before that, mobile games such as Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja and King’s Candy Crush Saga. Newer examples available for licensing include MGA’s Num Noms; Simon & Schuster’s Peas books by Keith Baker, represented for licensing by Moxie & Co.; and fruit-themed Smileys.
- More emojis: While some confusion reigns on the part of potential licensees when it comes to the copyright and trademark status of the various emoji-related properties, there is no doubt that emojis remain a key theme for design and content. Emoji-themed designs were noted across the exhibition. Companies launching or expanding emoji-themed licensing efforts included: entertainment studios (e.g., Sony, with its Emojimovie), corporate marketers (Pepsi, with its Pepsimoji campaign, licensed by The Joester Loria Group), and lifestyle brands (Smiley and Emoji: The Brand).
- So happy: There was a wide presence for properties that had the pursuit of happiness at their core. They included Travel Therapy, TV presenter Karen Schaler’s lifestyle brand focused on travel as a tool for happiness; Find Your Happy Pose, a yoga-themed social expressions and lifestyle brand; Molang, a wordless animated series originating in South Korea, now airing on Disney Junior; and the Smiley brand, with its tagline “Celebrating 45 Years of Happiness and Positivity.”
- You go, girl. Girl power was prominent on the show floor. Girl-centric properties included superheroes, such as Zag’s Miraculous and Cartoon Network’s relaunch of The Powerpuff Girls. Also in evidence were brands featuring smart and tech-savvy young females, among them Jim Henson Productions’ Dot. and the engineering toy (and now content brand) GoldieBlox.
- Everything old is new. Licensors were bringing out retro styles and properties to appeal to millennials, especially millennial parents. Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog licensing program now encompasses artwork from the original Norman Bridwell books, with t-shirts and totes among the initial products. Properties such as Dot. and Macmillan’s Tractor Mac are newer, but were purposely designed with retro looks.
- Collectibility. Tiny toys for kids to not only play with, but also to collect remained both a significant licensed-product category and a fertile source for new properties. MGA’s Num Noms, Moose Toys’ Shopkins (and its new spin-off Shoppies), and Ty’s Teeny Tys (similar to Disney’s Tsum Tsum) were all on display at the show. So was the virtual world/online game Animal Jam, which integrates collectability in the digital and physical realms. Collectability is a key attribute for all types of properties and products, both for kids and adults.