Matt Nuccio. "Licensed Product."
Toy & Family Entertainment, June 2007
Over here at Design Edge/BuyProduct we’ve invented, patented and licensed tons of items over our twenty years of existence in the design industry. We’ve touched on just about every avenue of juvenile products. We have created games, plush, furniture, room décor, garment, action figures, dolls, sporting goods, vehicles, pool items and so on and so on. It seems that no matter how energetic, obvious and/or strong an item is there has always been one constant that helps to drive sales in almost every category imaginable, and that is licenses.
In the present market place, licenses adorn just about everything, but only as recently as ten years ago, most of our cliental was hesitant and very wary about which, if any, license they would even consider thinking about. Today things are far different. We all live and work in a license-driven world that seems to be ever strengthening and expanding. No longer is it a decision of whether or not to put a license on an item, it is now almost completely a call of which license to choose. It would seem that if a product at retail is going to have just about any legs at all, it needs to be license friendly. Good or bad, licenses have stretched beyond simple slapped-on labels to become possible brands and categories of their very own, if they are not already. Many large and small manufacturing companies have now anchored their foundations in six, sometimes seven figure deals. They are banking on these risky deals in hopes of sizeable box office receipts, nelson ratings and publishing translating to retail sales. One thing is certain, no matter how proven, tried or true a license is, it is simply nothing without the right quality product to back it up.
No matter how strong or recognizable a character or logo is it is not just the license alone that brings an item to the register, it is the products function that ultimately sustains the buzz. In our industry an item absolutely needs to look great, entertain and be flat out fun. A product, no matter how hyped the license is, needs to have legs of its own in order to truly hit the ground running with or with out a good license. True, some licenses have natural extensions simply by virtue, but be wary since sometimes they are too obvious. For example just how many Spiderman 3 web shooters can the retail world absorb? Personally, through Design Edge alone, I’ve seen water, foam, and dart webshooters at every price point. I can only imagine what I haven’t seen. Regardless, manufactures push forward knowingly with hopes that retail will narrow them down to only one or two. Then it’s up to the consumers to vote with their wallets.
So how can one stand out in a world of licensed goods? As an inventor I’m not too keen on companies simply slapping logos on packages and products. Licensors aren’t fans of this practice either. The idea is to enhance the brand and product—not pimp it.
Lining up the right license with the proper product concept can be done in a variety of ways. There are really no specific formulas, positions or even rules per say. You just need to make absolutely sure that the license and product make absolute sense together. They really need to honestly compliant each other like any great relationship. A strong product with a bad license can sink really fast at retail. In the end it kills any future for the product to live on, no matter how good of an idea it was. It can just as easily affect a licensing program by just collecting dust on a shelf therefore lending to inventor returns and discounts at great a loss.
Generally when assisting a company with their licensing or retail pitch we review all the categories the company holds in their contract and try to cater to their specific manufacturing strengths.
Licensed products are here to stay. Long gone are the days of new brands built around single products without a license decorating the package. Good, bad or indifferent, this relationship will persist as one cannot survive without the other.