Lisa Marks Associates to Rep Smithsonian Institution

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Licensing agency Lisa Marks Associates has been appointed by the Smithsonian Institution to develop a consumer products program in the key food and beverage and health and beauty categories. This licensing program will reflect the Smithsonian's celebration of culture, heritage and the beauty of the natural world and will parallel current macro trends in the market.

“The Smithsonian Institution is in a category by itself, and we are thrilled to work with this phenomenal world class organization,” says Lisa Marks, president, Lisa Marks Associates. “LMA is committed to sharing the Smithsonian’s vision of engagement, cultural exploration and inspiration by developing meaningful long-term, strategic partnerships that will amplify the well-established values of the Smithsonian in the core food and personal care sectors.”

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research education complex, comprising 19 museums and galleries of art and culture, the National Zoo and multiple research facilities. For more than 170 years, the Smithsonian has been dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, discovery, learning and storytelling, providing multiple lenses through which to explore the human experience. A portion of the proceeds from every Smithsonian licensed product goes to support the Smithsonian’s educational mission.

The food and beverage program will focus on food, meals and dining concepts and integrations that adhere to principles of sustainable and ethical food sourcing, social responsibility and environmentally friendly production and packaging. The Smithsonian health and beauty category will take inspiration from Smithsonian’s collections, like the colors of gems, geodes and minerals of the natural world.

Molang Taps Aurora World as Master Plush Licensee


Aurora World has been appointed as the master plush licensee for North America by Paris-based animation production and distribution studio Millimages. The deal was brokered via Licensing Works! on behalf of the character Molang.

“Molang is an endearing global sensation, with fans of all ages from all over the world,” says Michael Kessler, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Aurora World. “Aurora is excited to welcome the beautiful friendship of Molang and Piu Piu to the Aurora brand portfolio.”  

Aurora is set to introduce the new line in early 2021. The product launch will include plush in a wide range of product translations in varying price points and sizes from $10 retail and up adhering to Aurora’s eco-friendly materials and sustainability practices.  

"We are delighted to work with Aurora, a company that has been able to provide tremendous value to its customers with the cutest designs, top quality and environmentally-friendly fabrics and affordable prices,” says Mickael Zeggagh, commercial director, licensing, Millimages.

The range will include everyday, seasonal and feature plush across all formats with inspiration from all four seasons of programming and the 1000-plus GIFS that have achieved more than 8 billion views on GIPHY. 

“Aurora’s values are very much aligned with the Molang brand, so we are thrilled to have them join the Molang family,” says Leslie Levine, owner and founder, Licensing Works! “An industry leader, Aurora sets the standard for innovative design that we know will delight Molang’s young adult and all-family fans.”

10 Minutes with Steve Scebelo, NFLPA


The National Football League Players Association has a unique spot in licensing. It covers athletes in the NFL and turns them into consumer product giants. Over the years, the NFLPA has covered some of the biggest athletes in the world. Steve Scebelo, vice president, licensing and business development, National Football League Association, had a chat with License Global to discuss the licensing industry, the importance of Licensing Week Virtual and where the NFLPA will act as a gold sponsor.


License Global: What role have trade shows played in your strategy for licensees/licensors?

Scebelo: Trade shows will continue to be an important part of our business development strategy. It’s helpful to get out of the office and meet with current licensees and prospects. Trade shows provide us the opportunity to meet new people, exchange ideas and build relationships. Plus, the licensing industry is a fun group of people, and we miss that personal connection when we cannot gather together. 


How do you think Licensing Week Virtual will help those in the licensing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The licensing industry has shown itself to be very creative and resourceful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly, how we conduct business has changed a bit – more video calls – but bringing together meaningful licensing partnerships has not changed. So, it’s important for the licensing industry to find ways to come together to learn from each other, to connect with each other and to share how everyone is coping.  


What specialized strategies do you implement when creating licensed gear that represents a specific NFL player, and how do you feel it differs from other sectors of the licensing industry?

Looking at it strictly from a licensing perspective, NFL players are living, breathing IP, so they can get involved in the promotion of officially licensed merchandise featuring their likeness, which can be both fun and rewarding. As licensees get more creative, they are finding ways to reflect players’ personalities in product designs, evolving beyond a standard name and number. Plus, athletes have interests and passions beyond football, so licensees can tap into the player’s reach by aligning with shared interests. 


How do you see the licensing industry changing in the next five years?

I think we will continue to see the rise in brand collaborations – licensees and licensors coming together to create unique, never-seen-before partnerships. The licensing of collegiate athlete rights, for instance, is probably inevitable and may foster some interesting collaborations. I think we will see the traditional brick-and-mortar retail experience go through changes as they look to provide a better and more custom shopping experience. More licensees will expand their consumer relationships and knowledge, and with their ability to sell directly to those consumers. And most importantly, the licensing industry will become more inclusive – opening up to more diverse voices and groups – reflecting the different experiences of consumers. 


What would you say is the next biggest trend in brand licensing, and how can licensees and licensors prepare for that trend?

One of the biggest trends in brand licensing is the continuation of a personalized shopping experience and customized product offerings. Retailers, licensees and brand licensors are gathering valuable information on their consumers and will need to serve up the right products at the right time as shoppers look for unique products. 


What do you see as the most beneficial habit those in the licensing industry should implement while working from home?

Taking time to check in on people. Making sure your staff and partners are doing well, that you are thinking about them and that you value them. It’s important that we all try and stay connected as we’ve been fortunate to work remotely these past few weeks. 

Licensing Week Virtual: Brand & Lifestyle Experts Discuss What Licensees Want


At the inaugural day of the first-ever Licensing Week Virtual, experts from all over the licensing industry came together to share insights and strategies. One such educational opportunity was in the form of a panel called, “What Do Licensees Want?”

Steven Heller, founder, The Brand Liaison, moderated the panel that featured five other industry experts: Chris Volpe, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, United Legwear and Apparel; Jeff Siskind, president, Castlewood Apparel Group; Cindy Levitt, senior vice president, licensing, Mad Engine; Jeffrey Fisher, president, Fashion Angels; and Brian Speciale, president and co-founder, The Comfy!

The discussion spanned understanding how and when to taking licensing risks, looking for insight and learning when you’re new to the licensing industry, as well as personal stories from each of the experts on how they created a successful licensing program, the opportunities presenting themselves through e-commerce, licensing strategies and more.

In short, as Heller said while opening the panel, this advice is basically “what licensees want served up to you on a silver platter.”

From Levitt’s experience creating licensing programs in Japan with Studio Ghibli, which she calls one of the most magical experiences of her life, to Speciale’s insights on what it’s like to be new to the licensing industry with a product with incredible potential, there’s something in this panel for every member of the licensing industry.

If you missed the panel, don’t worry. Those who are registered for the event can re-watch all of the panels and presentations up to one week after the event is over. Other perks come with registration, too, like a Matchmaking Service, the opportunity to walk the virtual show floor and more. Register for the first-ever Licensing Week Virtual by clicking here.

Brands Accelerate E-Commerce Plans as More Consumers Head Online


During a presentation at Licensing Week Virtual, industry leaders discussed the growing role e-commerce will play in brand retail strategies and shared tips for how the licensing community can best leverage online shopping plans.

The temporary closures of brick-and-mortar stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic has acerbated trends in a retail landscape that was already experiencing widespread changes. As consumers were asked to stay home, more and more people headed online to shop. Many brands were already pushing toward e-commerce as part of their overall strategy, but the pandemic accelerated those plans. 

During the "Stop Living in a Silo: Why Everyone Needs an E-Comm Strategy" session, moderated by Jeff Lotman, chief executive officer, Global Icons, the panel highlighted just how much has changed due to COVID-19.

"We all knew e-commerce was accelerating, but with everything that is happening, that has been accelerated by about five years," said Michael Carlisle, principal, The Wildflower Group. 

The panelists highlighted the value of a robust e-commerce strategy and discussed ways to get things started quickly if a brand is late to the online shopping landscape.

Building Brand Awareness Through E-Commerce 

Matt Bonaccorso, director of global video games and robotics, Discovery, spoke about the importance of e-commerce, not just for sales, but also for ensuring your brand reaches its audience. He shared how even if a consumer doesn't buy from a brand directly, the online shop can play a crucial role as the first touchpoint for a customer.  

"Regardless of where a customer purchases a product, you can bet that they are going to first research for those products online," said Bonaccorso. "They are going to research them, and online is going to be the first potential touchpoint with your brand."

Understanding Your Fans Through Data

Having a strong online retail presence can also help brands better understand the types of things fans want to buy. Bonaccorso and the panel discussed how analytics and data collected from the online shopping experience on a brand's digital retail shop could show businesses how to provide a seamless experience.

"Now, more than ever, we can look at all the analytics of what fans are doing on their website," adds Bonaccorso. "For us, as a brand owner trying to ensure we provide that best experience and with e-commerce, we are able to have one of the few direct touchpoints with our fans.”

Amazon Still Plays a Crucial Role in Online Shopping

Amazon continues to play a significant role in e-commerce strategy as well. The panelists discussed how the e-commerce giant has to be a part of any brand's online strategy. As such a ubiquitous platform, Amazon is a crucial component to get more eyes on a company's products. However, Carlisle pointed out that Amazon can't be the only touchpoint for a successful e-commerce strategy. 

"Fifty-one cents of every e-commerce dollar are made on Amazon, so you want to be there, but you also want to make up that other 49 cents," continued Carlisle.

Learn More

The panel provided a deep dive into strategies needed to lead a successful e-commerce plan. To hear the full discussion, be sure to register for Licensing Week Virtual to access the recorded panel, "Stop Living in a Silo: Why Everyone Needs an E-Comm Strategy."

Consumers, Brands and Retailers: Adapting in the New Reality


Licensing Week Virtual kicked off Monday, June 15, offering a host of informative talks and seminars.

Allison Ames, president and chief executive officer, Beanstalk, led a dynamic discussion, “Consumers, Brands and Retailers: Adapting in the New Reality,” about the present and future state of retail, branding and consumer behavior. Panelists included Michael Stone, chairman and co-founder, Beanstalk; Stephanie Wissink, managing director, Jefferies; and Rob Gaige, managing partner, Q, Sparks & Honey.

The group dissected the complicated yet unavoidable trend of brands taking a position with respect to social causes.

“Today, during the pandemic, consumers are expecting even more from brands,” said Stone. “For a long time now, there’s been a trend of consumers wanting their brands to take positions on social or cultural or political issues of the day, and that trend has been growing… consumers now are really requiring that brands not only take positions on the health crisis today, but actually take action.”

Gaige identified the following three key trends among brands:

  • Brand as civil servant;
  • Brand activist; and
  • Digital immortality.

Wissink highlighted the increase in ways consumers could use their wallets to support their activism and the trend of companies rising up to take a clear stance on today’s most-pressing social issues.

Gaige noted consumers are turning back to reliance on experts in a trend he called, “The Rise of the Expert.” He also presented data that noted a shift from “community to castle,” where consumers are spending and investing in all things home.

Panelists also discussed how the Food and Beverage segment has been affected (both positively and negatively) by the pandemic, as well as the other categories that have seen a significant change, such as beauty, automotive and travel.

“Between restaurant licensed products that you could buy at the grocery store and alcoholic beverage licensed products that you could buy at the grocery store, these brands are learning how consumers can become entangled with the brand and engaged with the brand in ways that perhaps they didn’t realize before the pandemic,” Stone said.

“This crisis has absolutely challenged the status quo,” Ames added. “It’s empowered us to reevaluate things and come up with creative solutions and new opportunities, and I am certain together we are all going to rise to the challenge and emerge stronger.”

To learn more about the changes in digital, shopping behaviors and what brands should do to succeed in the post-COVID-19 climate, watch the full session after you have registered for Licensing Week Virtual.

Kraft Heinz: Bringing a Century of Food and Beverage Heritage to Licensing


With the trends of nostalgia hitting the food and beverage sector in waves, the experts at The Kraft Heinz Company – responsible for grocery icons such as Kool-Aid, Planters, Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, Heinz Ketchup and more – are bringing its iconic brands to the world of licensing.

Speaking during the Licensing Week Virtual Keynote on Monday, June 15, Kraft Heinz’s Chris Urban highlighted the group’s approach to using brand licensing to build on its existing consumer relationships.

“The biggest challenge for us is furthering the positive connection between brand and consumer,” says Chris Urban, vice president, general manager, Mealtime Stories, Kraft Heinz. “It’s dangerous if you license out to something that doesn’t stay true to the brand equity. Kraft Heinz has very high standards for its products, and we place that emphasis toward our brand as well as we’ve built some of these brands for over 100 years. At the same time, there is an opportunity for us as our brands have been on consumers' minds for a long time. It’s fun starting to think about where we want to go with the brand and where our partners think we should go.”

Kraft Heinz works directly with its internal brand owners and licensees to keep centuries of brand heritage agile, and speaks with its consumers – whether they’re loyal, nostalgia buyers or returning customers – via social media to drive new product creativity.

“Today, social media drives a lot, and this is where licensing can really leverage our brands,” says Urban. “We just did a launch for National Ketchup Day, and this is the perfect opportunity for our consumers to get involved. We worked on Air Pod cases, watchbands and so much more, and the response from our consumers has been extremely positive.”

Stating the group is “busier than ever with licensing opportunities,” Kraft Heinz showcased some of its latest brand ideations during the Super Bowl, where a new campaign brought Baby Nut – the successor to Planters’ long-loved brand ambassador Mr. Peanut – to screens to restart the conversation of an iconic brand with consumers.

So, especially in such strange times, what foundations does Kraft Heinz lean on to drive such bold strategies and licensing programs forward?

“Everything starts with the consumer; understand their ever-shifting habits,” adds Urban. “How has this pandemic changed the consumer behavior? What’s here to stay? How much will revert? Everything happens with the consumer. There’s also trends in the marketplace, so, nostalgia in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where your brands can ride a wave. Yes, this time is unprecedented, but the consumer always remains in control. Understanding their thoughts, feelings and desires is your way to reaching your consumer. Make sure you understand the evolving world of retail. All our behaviors have changed drastically in the last three months. So, the shift in brick-and-mortar. That continues to evolve in the licensing space. How can that work for your brand? Understand the consumer, understand the trends, and see where your brand can sit well.”

For more information on the licensing journey of Kraft Heinz, the products underway and the approach the brand takes toward global collaboration with its agency Brand Central, watch the full keynote by registering for Licensing Week Virtual.

Aardman Announces Senior Appointments

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Independent animation studio Aardman has announced the promotions of Alison Taylor to director, distribution and business development, and Rob Goodchild to commercial director.

These newly created roles in the sales and marketing arm of the business form part of a departmental restructuring to consolidate all the studio’s sales, marketing and brand management expertise. Taylor and Goodchild will be central to providing market insight, financing, distribution and licensing for Aardman’s portfolio of brands, which includes both its own IP and third-party properties represented by the company.

Taylor, currently head of sales and acquisitions at Aardman, will be responsible for driving the financing, distribution and long-term content exploitation strategy for each brand. She joined the broadcast and development department in 2004, advancing through the sales team before being promoted to head of sales and acquisitions in 2016. Since then, she has led the international distribution team and is responsible for global distribution of Aardman’s series such as “Shaun the Sheep” and “Timmy Time” along with third party distribution for children’s properties such as “Digby Dragon” (Blue Zoo Animation) and “Brave Bunnies” (Glowberry / Anima Kitchent) across all content platforms. Taylor also played an integral part in securing Aardman’s first Original with Netflix, “Robin Robin,” with financing content for new and existing brands being a key part to her new role.

Goodchild joined Aardman as U.K. licensing manager in 2008 before progressing to head of licensing. In that time, he secured major partnerships for all of Aardman’s key brands supporting global business growth, particularly in Japan and Chinaas well as working to deliver innovation-led projects such as “The Big Fix Up,” a new Wallace & Gromit immersive story told through AR (augmented reality) in collaboration with Fictioneers. In his new position as commercial director, Goodchild will assume strategic responsibility for the selling and marketing of the studio’s services including third-party commercials and short films, the rights exploitation for all Aardman brands, and defining new business opportunities such as the development of IP and animated content for third party brands, theme parks and attractions. He will be tasked with delivering revenue across different categories and markets, influencing growth in key territories across Europe and Asia. Goodchild also directs the development of Aardman’s branded interactive business, working to increase its presence in the gaming space and with pioneering companies to grow Aardman’s output in new technologies including AR and Blockchain.

“Behind each of our beloved brands is a wealth of knowledge across rights, distribution, sales and marketing that, over recent years, has allowed us to start very successfully representing third party brands in addition to our own IP,” says Sean Clarke, managing director, Aardman. “The restructuring of our Sales and Marketing arm is the natural next step in maximizing this industry-leading expertise, to continue to realize the full potential of Aardman’s IP alongside developing our studio service work for third party brands. Alison and Rob will make a formidable partnership, working alongside Lucy Wendover who will continue to lead the Marketing and Brand team.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger Invests in Genius Brands International


Genius Brands International has announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is starring in and co-producing the new animated children’s series, “Stan Lee's Superhero Kindergarten,” elected to receive warrants to purchase shares of the company’s common stock as an advance against his profit participation in the show. Any further payouts will likely be in the form of cash payments.  

 “We are grateful to have Arnold, not only as a co-producer, but also as a warrant holder, which is a tribute to his belief in both the series and Genius Brands,” says Andy Heyward, chairman and chief executive officer, Genius Brands. “Not only is Arnold a legendary entertainer and a leading voice in promoting children’s education and fitness, he is a uniquely accomplished investor who brings the perspective of having been Governor of California, the fifth largest economy in the world. I can think of no better or smarter partner.”

Created by Stan Lee as one of his final projects, “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” which will premiere in 2021 on Amazon Prime in the U.S., is co-produced by Genius Brands with China’s Alibaba Group, Lee’s POW! Entertainment, and Schwarzenegger’s Oak Productions. Schwarzenegger, who also serves as executive producer, lends his voice as the lead character in the series. Co-creator of Deadpool, Fabian Nicieza, who has sold more than 100 million comic books worldwide, is scripting the series. Genius Brands’ Chairman and CEO Andy Heyward, Paul Wachter, CEO of Main Street Advisors, and President of POW! Entertainment, Gill Champion, also serve as executive producers.

“I am honored to help realize Stan’s vision of creating a children’s cartoon series that not only entertains with superhero adventures, but also imparts valuable lessons about the importance of health, exercise, nutrition, anti-bullying and diversity,” says Schwarzenegger. “Andy Heyward is one of the industry’s most respected producers of children’s programming, and working together we will be able to bring to life our shared vision of ‘content with a purpose,’ which parents can enjoy alongside their children while taking comfort in the moral and educational focus.”

The Point.1888 to Rep Rachel Ellen Designs


The Point.1888 has signed an exclusive deal with leading greeting card and stationery brand Rachel Ellen Designs.

The Rachel Ellen Designs brand can be found in more than 300 countries around the world and stocked leading retailers in the U.K., including garden centers, department stores and independent gift retailers.

“To be partnering with a brand like Rachel Ellen Designs, who have a clear brand style and direction, and a mass-market appeal across many customer demographics, from all ages of children right up to grandparents, we’re delighted to have been chosen as the partner to help the brand,” says Janine Richmond, commercial manager, The Point.1888. “We will be working with the fabulous team at Rachel Ellen Designs to expand the brand’s reach within existing and new retailers, create new products in different categories that have yet to be explored for the brand Including apparel, accessories, puzzles, games and publishing, allowing the Rachel Ellen Designs team to continue to do what they love best, which is creating new designs!”

The Point.1888 has already begun its brand immersion phase, which will then be followed by further research and competitor analysis before the team can engage with its network of retail contacts.

“I am genuinely so excited to begin working with the team at The Point.1888,” says Rachel Church, Rachel Ellen Designs. “They have a totally refreshing approach to licensing, which Is very different to anything I have come across before.  I think their company values are outstanding and their passion and enthusiasm shines through, all such important factors, especially in these times."