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TLC's New York-based joint managing director Angela Farrugia is passionate about brands and likes to keep close to their core. What are the biggest challenges facing the international licensing industry today? The
April 6, 2018
What are the biggest challenges facing the international licensing industry today?
The biggest challenge facing all of us in the licensing industry is retail instability. And it looks like all roads are now leading to grocers, dollar stores and discounters. Consumers are looking at more value, and we have to help properties work in that context. There really is going to be a paradigm shift as the value sector evolves. And we will have to find ways of dealing with that—for example, we may have to enter markets with a two-tier strategy.
What's your approach to licensing?
Our approach is always strategic and about putting the right plan at the heart of every brand extension—and never forgetting that great product sells well. You can adapt the plan culturally as you extend around the globe, but everyone involved has to understand the strategy and buy into it. We work with people who supply some of the biggest brands in the world—so our intelligence has to go beyond the surface. For example, we are working on flavor licensing with some of our clients. This means that we work with the suppliers to supermarkets and are coming up with ideas such as taking Jim Beam marinated meats or Jelly Belly cupcakes into stores. That looks the same as product licensing, but it takes the brands into customers' daily shopping baskets.
What's the outlook for licensing?
Something good will emerge out of this difficult economy. There will be a return to more strategic licensing, the next generation of agency will evolve, and the situation will reveal those who do logo licensing. We are consistently being approached by major corporate brands interested in finding out how they can work with companies like ours to create revenue out of their brands.
What are the key elements that make licensed product successful?
The successful products are those that are close to the core of the brand but that step to the side and find the right licensee to deliver. We've done that with Woolite, creating tumble dryer sheets for delicates. It fits the strategy: It's laundry, it's fabric care, it's relevant, and it's been highly publicized. It's everyday licensing, and that's why it is great—and consumers do not even realize that it's a licensed product. Licensed product has to truly represent the DNA of the core brand, and that means exact replication.
What's on the agenda for TLC?
All our offices are profitable and respected in their territories, so we have our eye on new territories for possible expansion. China and India are interesting. And our entertainment division has an amazing business in the U.K., Germany and France. We like to have new brands, but we are not brand hoarders—we worked with BIC as a consultant for three years before we took on its representation. In this business you don't make money for two to three years and not everyone can take that pain.
What are the hot brands for licensing in your field?
Designers in all disciplines are still the ones to watch, together with health and wellness, green issues and food licensing. Although it has taken us 13 years to create an overnight success with Jane Packer, that business has taken off with stores, the Westin deal and a renewal with Debenhams for five years. And I think that we are only on the surface of food and flavor licensing.
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