Consumer shopping trends have evolved rapidly over the last few years. Services such as same-day shipping have led to the rise of e-commerce and caused a tectonic shift in retail. The changing tides of the field has seen some brands struggling to adapt, while new upstarts are joining the industry to take advantage of the new paradigm.
"An overabundance of competition in a continually shrinking retail landscape [been the biggest change I've seen in the licensing business]," says Lauren Winarski, senior manager, brand and licensing, Funko.
However, many brands have been able to leverage the new playing field to their advantage. Companies such as Winarski's own Funko have found real success by leveraging strong brand affinity and smart acquisitions to grow as a business.
Funko made a name for itself with its licensed collectible Pop! figures. Now, it has built up an enthusiastic fanbase that helped propel the company into new avenues in recent years. When asked about Funko Pops!, Winarski shared some insight into how the collectible finds licensing partners. Judging by the company's thought process, it's clear that the Funko brand and its fans play a big role in how they go about business.
"We look at all licenses uniquely," adds Winarski. "So, while there is no set checklist, there are few FAQs in our evaluation: Does it make sense for the Funko brand? Is this something we want to be aligned with? Does it make sense for our consumer demographic? Does the timing align for when we can get the item on-shelf? Is the character interesting? Once you translate it into the form factor, does the character still hold?"
Now, after 21 years in the business, Funko has expanded rapidly. It has recently acquired three different companies, expanded their digital footprint by using Pop! as an entertainment platform and introduced experiential-based retail storefronts in the U.S.
To discuss more how Funko has thrived as a brand and share how it plans to leverage its large fanbase into the future, Winarski will be hosting a session at the upcoming Licensing Leadership Summit event. Join her for the discussion, "I Want it Now!: Using the Fan Expand Distribution," at this year's Licensing Leadership Summit, taking place March 16–17 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York, NY.
Hear from the Licensing Industry’s Leading Voices
Register for the Licensing Leadership Summit to hear thought leaders such as:
- Gene Simmons;
- Terése Whitehead, senior manager, sponsorships and operations, player services NFLPA;
- Michael Stone, chairman and co-founder, Beanstalk;
- And many more!