This issue's cover story, "New Faces in Brand Licensing," exemplifies the changes that are impacting licensors, licensees and agents worldwide.
In addition to the new executives, new strategies and organizational structures that are being implemented among the top global licensors, there are several underlying factors that brand licensing executives will face in 2012 and beyond. They include the changing aspects of retailers, consumers, mobile, social media and international, among others. These factors, which are all interrelated and extremely critical to the brand extensions equation, will drive the success of a licensing program.
- Retail–The one consistent message among each new executive is the importance of retail relationships to the extent that several licensors, including Disney and Nickelodeon, are in the process of revamping their organizational structures to reflect this strategy. Over the years, I have written extensively about the importance of understanding a retailer's goals and philosophy and that knowledge and insight is mandatory in today's more consolidated, competitive and fragmented market.
- Omni channel consumers–More and more consumers are shopping traditional stores but actually making purchases online, according to a recent survey, and using their smartphones to compare prices, get coupons and decide where to make a purchase. The playing field is changing dramatically from the once print circular-dependent shoppers especially as penetration and usage of smartphones increases. The savvy shopper is savvier than ever before.
- Mobile commerce–As more apps are developed to enhance the shopping experience, the smartphone and tablet will become increasingly important as a marketing and purchasing tool. Special offers, loyalty programs and catalogs designed for mobile devices and tablets could become a huge opportunity for licensors and retailers. Google Catalogs for iPad was launched in August and several retailers have launched catalogs including Ikea and Walmart. Nickelodeon recently launched a virtual Nick Toy Machine in 100 malls that allows shoppers to purchase toys with their smartphones.
- Social commerce–What is also being called Facebook Commerce is expanding rapidly as retailers and licensors look for ways to leverage their brands and follow their customers and fan base. Walmart just launched its first Facebook social shopping app from its recently-formed @WalmartLabs unit called Shopycat, which allows users to shop for gifts for friends based on specific interests.
- International expansion–While this topic has long been on every trends to watch list, particularly regarding expansion into the BRIC nations, there have been some recent developments that are worth noting. For example, last month, the India government approved a 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing thereby allowing the world's largest retailers, such as Walmart and Tesco, to open superstores. However, India subsequently rescinded its ruling and will address it in 2012. The stakes are incredibly high as retail expansion in India would be similar to that in China with the potential for hundreds of stores, billions in revenue and huge opportunity for global licensed brands. Walmart, for example, currently operates 352 stores in China.
In addition, the success of the Iconix Brand Group in China and its recent announcement regarding initial monetization of its London Fog brand as its partner, China Outfitters, completed an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Iconix China has retail partnerships for six of its brands, including Candies, Rampage, Badgley Mischka, Rocawear and Royal Velvet. Iconix now has over 100 London Fog stores and shop-in-shop concepts throughout China since it launched in 2009.
While this issue's cover story addresses major changes in brand licensing, it also underscores new opportunities that are emerging.