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10 Minutes With … Pink Key Licensing

License Global speaks to Richard Pink, managing director, Pink Key Licensing Ltd, about creating new collaborations and what to look for when searching for a licensing partner.

Ian Hart

July 14, 2022

8 Min Read
Richard Pink
Richard PinkPink Key Licensing

Richard Pink began his career at Kellogg's, where he worked for 15 years before discussions started about the potential for licensing out the Kellogg’s brand. At the time, Richard was the promotions controller and was tasked with exploring and taking on the project. He moved into a full-time licensing role and then became head of licensing, before leaving to set up his own business.  

Pink Key Licensing was set up in 2005, initially as a hybrid of consultancy for promotions and licensing, before becoming a fully-fledged licensing agency, specializing in food brands 10 years ago.  

License Global: Can you tell me about some of the brands that you work with and some of the unique concepts you have created with them? 

Richard Pink: “I think the one that sticks out more than anything, is the work we did with Kellogg's and Anya Hindmarch, which was unique when it first started. When Anya did the range of Tony the Tiger handbags, it was quite something because nobody had ever taken a brand like that and moved it into the space that she moved it into before. We realized what a stretchable brand Kellogg's was and what it could do when, on the same day, we had a £1,500 handbag on sale in Bloomingdale's in New York and Tony the Tiger pajamas available for £19.99 in Primark.  

There’s a couple of things coming out now which were quite pleased with too, working with Pan Am and trying to move the brand into areas that you wouldn't expect it move. For example, we’ve got a Pan Am gin and vodka range coming out, which is due to be hitting the market in Q3 or Q4 this year. 

We’ve also done some interesting things with Pringles, around items that are shaped like a Pringles can. We worked with Helix on a Pringles pencil case, which was almost identical to a Pringles can, and it just took off and has been one of our best sellers year-on-year.  

My theory is that the closer you can get to know the character of the brand or the DNA of the brand, the more success you are likely to have. We’re always thinking in terms of what's the bullseye product for a brand when we take it on. We weren’t expecting a Pringles pencil case to be the bullseye product, but it was.  

Probably the best example is what Fizz Creations did with SLUSH PUPPiE. They took the brand on because they wanted to develop a home-based SLUSH PUPPiE maker. That has been the most successful product that we've had since we started. It just ticks so many boxes, in terms of being absolutely bang on for what the brand is about, and they launched it during the summer when and it just went ballistic. We then had a big rise in sales around Christmas, with people buying them as gifts.” 

What excites you most about creating new collaborations and campaigns? 

“I think it's the potential for innovation and bringing the brand to life in a way which the brand is unable to do itself. We're quite unique in terms of our positioning as a licensing agency. I don't think there are many licensing agencies that have food as part of their portfolio. It's quite interesting seeing the new product formats and what licensees can achieve, taking a brand and doing unexpected things with it. We like to see the fun stuff. We like to see the things the brands stand for and then translate it into something. 

The Best example of somebody doing something unexpected with a brand is a simple thing that Roy Lowe & Sons did with socks for Kellogg’s and Pringles. It wasn’t so much what they did with the socks, it was way they packaged them. They created mini replicas of the cereal packets and Pringles tubes and just put socks in them. The line of vintage Kellogg’s socks earned Roy Lowe & Sons an award at the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2020. It's sometimes the simplest things that are the most innovative and that's what really gets me gets me going.” 

How has the licensing industry changed over the last 10 – 15 years and what do you think is the biggest driver in that change? 

“I would say probably retail more than anything else. It’s the way in which the retailers have got an understanding of licensing which has been the biggest change, for me. Back in the day, there was a very much a model for licensing. There were very few people who really understood licensing. 

I think there's been a huge shift in terms of the understanding that retailers have about what licensing is, what it can do and an increased knowledge base within licensing. Retailers know how they can make licensing work, how they can put it together, in terms of programs, how they can integrate it, do cross promotions and that sort of thing. So, there's much more of a need, as a licensing agent and as a licensee, to talk directly to the retailers.” 

What do you think are the three key things a brand owner should have in mind when searching for a licensing partner? 

“I think financial security is key, but that’s a given, so I won’t say that. If you’re looking for three things that would nail whether you work with a license or not… 

The first would be the distribution. You need to guarantee that they've got the right distribution, in terms of retail. That's not necessarily the whole market, it can be very specific in terms of channels of distribution that you want to go after with a brand, for a particular reason. I'll give you an example, we’ve just started working with Peperami and we think that there is a double-edged angle there, in terms of trying to get as much distribution as we can in, say apparel. But you can't really go after one licensee to do the whole market. So, you've got one licensee who might do the mainstream and then somebody else who does something a little more akin to independents, meaning you can put those two licensees into play without them conflicting with each other. 

Secondly, is creativity. You should be looking for somebody who can interpret the brand, maybe push the envelope a little bit in terms of what you can do from a creative point of view. Otherwise, you are shortening the license period. You’ve got to innovate, and you've got to be as creative as you can with it. 

The third one is they've got to love the brand. It's what we hang our hat on. We never take on a brand unless we really love it and we want that from our licensees as well, because you don't just want to be one of a number of things they've got in their portfolio, you want to be with somebody who really loves the brand and really appreciates it because then they'll put the work into trying to develop it.” 

What properties will you be highlighting and showcasing on your booth at BLE this year and how will you be tying that into the event’s fashion theme? 

“We've got two new brands that we're going be majoring on, one is Peperami, and the other is Quorn. We've got a portfolio of brands that we always try to sell equally, such as Kellogg’s, Pringles, Laughing Cow, SLUSH PUPPiE, Pan Am and Vimto, but when you've got new brands, it's always quite an exciting time. We've had a good response to Peperami, but there is still room for us to look at more areas and a lot of scope to do more with that brand. We’re going to be featuring that quite heavily on our booth. In fact, there is going to be a big lightbox on our stand featuring a giant Peperami, because there's nothing quite like seeing the animal that big! 

The reason for wanting to feature Quorn, is because of all the dialogue that's going on around sustainability and improving the planet. We work closely with Products of Change because it's a different approach for us on Quorn. We're not really starting in the place we would start with other brands, around the idea of what the categories are and what the products are. With Quorn, the categories and the products are less important to us when looking for the right partnerships. What is key, is working with people who have the same ethos and the same values that the brand does. Therefore, it’s likely that we're going be talking to people outside the licensing industry, who haven’t really done licensing before, that are UK-based and are looking to deliver sustainability in everything that they do. It is going to be about enhancing the brand message of Quorn and getting that into different places, such as non-food distribution. 

Specifically, reflecting on the fashion theme, we've got a session on the catwalk on Wednesday at BLE, where we’re going to be highlighting some of the fashion work we have done with Pringles, Kellogg's and specifically Pan Am, which has a really cool brand, from a fashion point of view. It lends itself nicely to apparel and fashion accessories.” 

Brand Licensing Europe returns to London’s ExCeL from September 20-22, with exhibitors spanning a range of categories, a new Fashion theme highlighting exciting lines from leading brands, exciting seminar content and more!  

You can find Pink Key Licensing at booth B273.  Click here to register for BLE 2022.  

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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