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An Inside Look at Licensing in Japan

Steven Ekstract of License Global provides a brief analysis of the world's third largest licensing market and some of its most popular brands.

ASIA­–2018 is set to introduce some new, exciting opportunities to the licensing business, and for licensors looking to grow their brands into new territories, Asia beckons. According to LIMA’s latest Brandar study, Asia is the fastest growing market for licensing in the world, with a growth rate of 8.3 percent. While every country in Asia is culturally unique, the Japanese market is by far the safest and most robust market for licensing in all of Asia.

Japan is a fascinating case study of a nation that has created rich, extraordinary IP for export while, at the same time, is ripe for U.S. and European brand IP licensing as well. It is not until you are there, immersed in Japanese culture, that you truly understand what this nation has done on behalf of the licensing business.

If you have never visited Japan and you are in the licensing profession, you need to visit to truly understand Japan’s unique position as a brand paradise. A visit to Tokyo is like getting an advanced degree in licensed IP. It is pop culture on steroids mixed with an old-school respect and well-known, well-established brand names. Japanese culture is a unique experience, unduplicated anywhere else in the world. The combination of an intense work ethic, an ingrained culture of mutual respectfulness and deferential attitude toward institutions distinguishes Japan.

The Japanese have created some of the world’s best IP for licensing export including anime (numerous brands), manga (numerous brands) and kawaii (the culture of cuteness).

Examples of top Japanese brands and entertainment companies include:

  • Pokémon
  • Bandai (Toys)
  • Bandai Namco (Gaming)
  • Capcom
  • Dentsu
  • “Final Fantasy”
  • 4K Media
  • King Records
  • Kodonsha
  • Konami
  • Level-5 (video games)
  • Line Friends (social online)
  • Nippon TV
  • Sanrio (Hello Kitty, Mr. Men)
  • San X (characters)
  • Square Enix (game developer)
  • Sony PlayStation
  • SEGA (gaming)
  • Studio Ghibli
  • Tezuka Productions
  • TMS Entertainment
  • Toei Animation
  • Toho (film)
  • Tomy
  • Nintendo
  • Honda
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Godzilla
  • Kawasaki
  • Yamaha
  • Viz Media

Western Brands are Hot

Western brands remain very strong in Japan. Character properties like Peanuts, Miffy, Care Bears and Paddington Bear do extremely well across multiple product categories, and American lifestyle brands (spanning surf culture to fashion to music) also perform extremely well. British heritage brands are also big in the region.

Of course, entertainment brands like Disney and Universal are ubiquitous in Japan with well-known film franchises like Star Wars and Minions. However, Japan’s retail sales have remained strong through most of 2017 and licensed product offerings remain popular options for consumers.

The Third Largest Licensing Market in the World has a Dedicated Licensing Event

As the third largest market for licensed sales in the world, UBM’s Global Licensing Group launched a Licensing Expo in Tokyo in 2017 to further support the industry. This year’s Licensing Expo Japan will take place April 25-27 at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center. Whether you are a licensor looking to get your property into Japan, or a licensee looking for new, hot properties to license, Licensing Expo Japan is a show not to miss. The Expo utilizes the UBM Global Matchmaking service, so whether you’re an attendee or an exhibitor you will get the meetings you need to justify your ROI. License Global will also be on-site in a Japanese language version as way to further drive business forward. For more information, click here.

For a deeper dive into the Japanese market please see License Global’s Japan coverage here.

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