Alaya 'That Girl Lay Lay' High Signs Overall Deal with Nickelodeon

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Nickelodeon announced that it has signed an overall deal with 13-year-old social media star and hip-hop artist, Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High.

Known professionally as Lay Lay, Nickelodeon will work with her to develop original multiplatform programming, music initiatives and build a cross-category consumer products business. 

Nickelodeon’s comprehensive strategy for Lay Lay includes developing content for all Nick platforms, supporting her music career and creating an exclusive line of consumer products. The planned products are expected to span categories such as fashion, accessories, publishing and more.

 “I’m so excited to be joining the Nickelodeon family,” says Lay Lay. “I grew up watching Nick and this opportunity is seriously a dream come true. I have the best fans in the world, and I can’t wait to take them on this journey with me.”  

With millions of views across her social media channels, Lay Lay has been writing, producing, rapping and singing since the age of five. At age 11, Lay Lay became the youngest female rapper to sign a recording deal via her very own Fresh Rebel Muzik/EMPIRE imprint. In September 2018, Lay Lay released her debut project Tha Cheat Code following a performance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” The following year, she released the deluxe version of Tha Cheat Code Reloaded featuring “Mama” and “Supersize XL” that have together amassed close to 60 million views on YouTube.

Lay Lay was represented in the deal by Acie High and Eric Mitchell of Fresh Rebel Muzik, Ben Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos, APC and Jeffrey Levin of Jeffrey Oscar Inc.

ViacomCBS recently spoke about their ongoing initiatives for the Nickeloden brand at this year’s Licensing Week Virtual. To hear the full panel discussion, register for Licensing Week Virtual today.

Beanstalk to Extend Bush’s Best Product Offerings

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Bush Brothers & Company, maker of Bush’s, is partnering with licensing agency Beanstalk to extend the brand into complementary food categories.

Categories available for licensing include refrigerated entrees, side dishes and dips, hummus, burritos and chili, among others.

”We look forward to working with Beanstalk and extending our brand into categories that celebrate our bean heritage and quality focus,” says Stephen Palacios, senior vice president, marketing and Innovations, Bush Brothers & Company.

Complementing last year’s launch of Bush’s “Better For You” snacks, the new partnership will help Bush Brothers & Company further expand its product offerings as consumers increasingly look for more plant-based food options.

“We are delighted to work with Bush’s Best, the most trusted brand in beans,” says Allison Ames, president and chief executive officer, Beanstalk. “With a growing trend toward more plant-based and bean-based foods, Bush’s new meal and snack offerings will provide a tasty and healthy option for consumers.”

Beanstalk recently hosted a panel discussion where company leadership shared their brand building strategies for 2020 and beyond. To see the session register for Licensing Week Virtual and view the panel “Consumers, Brands and Retailers: Adapting in the New Reality.”

How Licensees Are Navigating Their ‘New Normal’

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The challenges presented to licensees, and just about every business, have evolved with the COVID-19 pandemic. As retailers have shut down and people have been stuck at home, many licensees have been examining ways that they can redirect their resources to ensure their business can handle these sudden and radical changes.

On day two of the “What Do Licensees Want?” panel at Licensing Week Virtual, licensees from across the spectrum sat down with Marty Malysz, president and founder, Dependable Solutions, to share the new challenges facing them in 2020. Leaders from Picnic Time, P&G and AQUARIUS Entertainment Merchandising joined the discussion to highlight what licensees are looking for during this “new normal.”

As many organizations adjust to the outcomes of the pandemic, panelists were clear that they are using this time to drive new initiatives and implement creative thinking. Scott Goodfellow, global business development, P&G, spoke about the partners he works with and how they have used this time to reassess how they do business.

“A recurring theme throughout the conversation was a call for more simplicity in contracts,” says Goodfellow. “Working with large organizations and many moving parts, the licensees at the discussion asked for more simplified documentation, which they believe would help all parties involved.”

A particular trend for creative strategies looks to be e-commerce. During the panel, the speakers highlighted how important online shopping has been to their business during the stay-at-home orders. As consumers have shifted to shopping on the web, the role of e-commerce proved vital to licensees’ business.

“[E-commerce] really helped us get through this last couple of months,” said Konrad Hoenig, president, AQUARIUS Entertainment Merchandising. “When we first started, we told all our employees that we weren't going to let anyone go. We’re going to figure out a way somehow, some way, to get through this. And fortunately, we were able to do it. I think we were more lucky than smart just because some of how some the stuff took off, but it worked that way.”

Partnerships will continue to play a vital role in bridging the gap during these challenging times. Panelists noted how flexibility and openness are vital as the industry as a whole comes together during the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need everybody to be open to creating that partnership to allow us all to serve the consumer, and not force all the burden on them, which eventually will hurt sales,” said Paul Cosaro, chief executive officer, Picnic Time.

Learn More

To hear the full panel discussion, register for Licensing Week Virtual today.

‘Sesame Street’: Doing Well by Doing Good

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Since 1969, “Sesame Street” has found sustained success as a value-driven property that aims to not only entertain but also educate. Classic characters such as Elmo and Cookie Monster have helped guide families during challenging times for more than 50 years. Now, in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, "Sesame Street" feels more vital than ever. The values and mission of the brand are being brought to life to help children understand the world in 2020.

During a fireside chat at Licensing Week Virtual, Scott Chambers, senior vice president and general manager, Sesame Workshop, highlighted how, while the mission of “Sesame” hasn't changed, the work “Sesame” continues to do is still significant and just as successful.

"Our model really hasn't changed, and we have always worked the same," says Chambers. "It starts with developing, or with identifying what kids need most. It then goes to developing curriculum that addresses and supports those needs, and then we produce content around that curriculum. Then, we leverage the latest media technology to get that content in there, in their hands and in their homes."

Helping Guide Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the last few months, Sesame Workshop has brought the brand's ethos to the world by bringing a voice to the most prominent issues today. “Sesame Street” has brought its compassion and understanding to problems that are at the forefront of families’ minds. 

While working from home, performers and staffers for “Sesame” have been creating content and partnerships that highlight the company's mission. Initiatives, such as Caring for Each Other, were developed from people's home offices to share information on key topics children are coping with, such as COVID-19.

"We quickly developed Caring for Each Other, which was really our response to the pandemic, and it's an initiative that develops and distributes content to parents, kids and teachers that critically focuses not only on hygiene, which is an obvious need, but also on key topics that quarantine families needed help with the most," adds Chambers.

Educating Children on the Biggest Issues Today

Today, as people around the globe protest the injustices of systemic racial inequality, “Sesame” is also working to be an active participant in the conversation. "Sesame Street" developed the "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism" CNN townhall for kids and families. 

"Obviously it's something that ‘Sesame’ has been doing for 50 years, but even we are now galvanizing around that topic and trying to figure out exactly what more we can do to help, and I think that many people are going to do the same, and, hopefully, maybe even join ‘Sesame’ in those efforts," reports Chambers.

Finding the Right Partners to Help

"Sesame Street" hasn't gone their mission alone either. As the company has expanded through the years, it has worked to find partners who abide by its mission and are looking to help spread “Sesame Street's” message. Over the last few years, partners such as Farmers Insurance, Champion and Squarespace have worked with “Sesame” to bring beloved characters to their initiatives. For Chambers, these partnerships were not taken lightly and required a lot of thought.

"I would say, over the last five or six years, we've really focused on partnerships and rethinking how that could help us," says Chambers. "It has taken a lot of thought, and it's a painstaking process, quite frankly, that requires a lot of soul searching to not just identify the partners that we think would be a good partner with ‘Sesame,’ but also that [align with our] messaging and timing."

Learn More

To hear more from the fireside chat, register for Licensing Week Virtual to listen to the complete recorded panel discussion.

Taking a Stand: How Social Causes Have Shaped Characters and Entertainment Licensing

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On day two of Licensing Week Virtual, experts from all over the business shared their take on how the evolution of entertainment has changed the licensing business.

In the long term, perhaps the greatest disruptor of the characters and entertainment category is the world of digital and social media, which connects consumers to their sources of entertainment – and to brands like never before. From the impact of COVID-19 to the highlighting of social issues, brands are being asked not only to entertain their customer base, but to stand for something, and to only work with licensees that share those same values.

The imprint that digital media and new forms of entertainment have on the licensing industry is immense. Online discourse shapes the world’s opinion on licensed properties and products, along with the brands that produce them. Every step in this new form of licensing is more crucial than it has ever been in the past. There is no longer room for mistakes when it comes to creating a character or entertainment property that will appeal to the masses. There needs to be a continual dialog between the brand and its audience in order for the brand to stay aligned with the values of its consumer.

“The digital-to-physical medium has changed immensely, but the calculus behind taking beloved brands and bringing them to folks in different parts of their day on products hasn’t changed much at all,” says Eric Karp, senior vice president, global brand licensing, BuzzFeed. “The big shift, in terms of the medium migrating from print to broadcast to the web, is the fact we are custodians of brands and can have an active dialog with our audience, let them know about the products, get their feedback before and gain insights after the fact so that when we do it again, we can deliver to them even more interesting products.”

Executives from all over the characters and entertainment space discussed the impact this has had on their brands’ development and how the role of the world online will only have a larger impact on licensing within the characters and entertainment category as brands move forward.

The World’s Evolution

It’s no secret that the world is going through quite the change right now. From a global pandemic to massive protests in the spotlight all over the planet, most of the world is going through a lot at once. Companies that will thrive during this time of upheaval will take note of this and evolve in response.

“I’ve talked to a lot of licensees, and I’ve seen a lot of licensees who are taking this opportunity to rethink and retool,” says Scott Goodfellow, global business development, Procter & Gamble. “They’re looking down the road 18 months and saying, ‘The world has changed, whether we like it or not. We don’t know what it’s changed to, but if we’re inconsistent with that, we won’t be around long.’ We’re doing it at P&G, and you should do it too if you’re not.”

As much as some would like to simply pretend these upheavals aren’t happening and continue with business as usual, doing so could become a detriment to business as a whole. The brands that will survive will take these situations and use them to rework their brand to serve as a place for their consumers to turn to.

Doing Good

A thriving brand listens to its consumers, even when it may not be easy to do so. Brands in the characters and entertainment category should focus on giving consumers what they need, whether that be a sense of relief, a fighting spirit, a distraction or something else entirely. The key is to listen to what your consumers need.

“We develop brand trust by listening,” says Taylor Carson, vice president, marketing and licensing, Group Nine. “We listen to our communities and let them tell us what they want to see, what they want to hear, what they want to learn from us, and, ultimately, how they want to take action. Now, more than ever, transparency isn’t just a trend or a buzz word, it’s vital to a brand’s existence.”

Whether your entertainment brand takes a stance on the Black Lives Matter movement, you have a character that represents the LGBTQ+ community or an influencer involved with your brand donates proceeds from a licensed product to aid in COVID-19 relief, now is the time to take a stand. Along with it being the right thing to do, a brand’s livelihood depends on taking action during these unprecedented times.

Learn More

To learn more about how brands are transforming during this unique time and how your brand can flourish even during times like these, register for Licensing Week Virtual. Presentations from the past two days will be available on-demand for one week, and three more days of fresh content are still to come.

Let’s Get Physical: Taking Digital Brands to the Physical World

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Day two of Licensing Week Virtual continued to break ground and bring together the industry’s brightest to share best-practices, tools and insight on a variety of topics.

On Tuesday, June 16, an informative panel discussion led by Stu Seltzer, president, Seltzer Licensing, broke down the keys to converting a digitally successful brand into on-shelf success. Panelists included Eric Karp, senior vice president, global brand licensing, BuzzFeed/Tasty; Taylor Carlson, vice president, marketing and licensing, Group Nine (Popsugar, The Dodo and Thrillist); and Scott Dunn, talent manager, Walter Geoffrey The Frenchie.

The panelists shared case studies from their own personal experiences building successful programs for brands with roots in digital. With one million books sold across nine languages, BuzzFeed’s Karp highlighted the publishing program for Tasty, explaining how an on-demand cookbook program was brought to life in only two months.

Carlson shared a similar success story with her example of the PopSugar ready-to-wear collection at Kohl’s, emphasizing the importance of listening to one’s audience before heading into product development.

“In moving a brand from digital to physical, what we really focus on is a partner that’s looking to elevate the customer experience and how to grow their digital relevancy,” Carlson said, adding that the Kohl’s campaign led to a 300-percent increase in traffic to Kohls.com.

Dunn shared his experience overseeing the campaign for popular pet influencer Walter Geoffrey, detailing the pup’s journey and how fans ultimately inspired the product development process.

Seltzer asked panelists a range of questions that uncovered key strategies for success, including how to build brand trust and how to determine brand purpose.

“We develop brand trust by listening,” said Carlson. “We listen to our communities and let them tell us what they want to see, what they want to hear, what they want to learn from us, and, ultimately, how they want to take action.”

Karp highlighted Tasty’s successful Rainbow cookware range and how the brand was able to win at retail.

“Traditional marketing and merchandising rules shouldn’t be thrown out the window just because we are the digital folks,” said Karp. “You need to have product that’s attractive, that’s priced right, that has fantastic shelf space and is marketed well.”

All panelists shared their brands’ core mission of spreading joy and making life easier. Another universal strategy discussed was the vital role of customer feedback.

“The fact that we’re able to deliver products and actually get live input and feedback from the folks who already love the brand, we have the ability to fine-tune these lines and to make the changes that are necessary to make better and better products to them,” added Karp.

To watch the complete session, “Digital to Physical: Bridging Online Brands to On-Shelf Success,” register for Licensing Week Virtual.

What We Learned from ViacomCBS’ Keynote Panel at Licensing Week Virtual

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Tuesday’s Licensing Week Virtual keynote – hosted by Pam Kaufman, president, ViacomCBS Consumer Products – brought together a panel of experts from Penguin Random House, Just Play, Family Dollar and Kellogg’s to discuss innovation and leadership in today’s consumer products space. 

The outbreak of the coronavirus continues to place the world in an almost-constant state of change. In particular, the consumer products space has had to innovate, evolve and respond to rapidly changing consumer trends. With lockdowns lifting in certain parts the world, the panel looked at how consumerism changed as life, as we knew it, was put on hold.  

“The initial impact for retail, which we did not expect, was a surge in purchasing, for toys in particular, so, products we call ‘boredom busters,’ which consist of games, puzzles, building sets, outdoor, crafts and activities,” said Geoffrey Greenberg, co-president, Just Play. “In Q1 alone, the toy industry grew by 8 percent. Games and puzzles were up 55 percent, building sets 20 percent and outdoor sports 22 percent. Traditional toys started to immediately slow. I think parents were concerned about providing things that would have extended play periods for children, and instead, looked for ways for families to interact. In the early days, consumers were uneasy, and they sought comfort and security of trusted well-known brands, which was great for Nickelodeon, as we've seen huge growth in that area. The Top 10 licensed properties represented 20 percent of industry sales in Q1 alone, so we're seeing huge growth there as well.” 

These major growth areas for global licensee Just Play are signifiers of an increase in family time and licensed product purchases, but from the viewpoint of retail, how did consumers in lockdown also cause a surge in educational shopping? 

“We know over the last few months, things like toys, bikes, above-ground pools have really worked well within the industry,” says Andrew Tucker, vice president, general merchandise, seasonal business, Family Dollar. “Consumable goods have worked well within the industry, but also, we know mom is trying to make living very comfortable for her family and for her children at home. Educational items have worked well. So, books, writing instruments, those have been some strong segments that we've seen across the industry.” 

As schools have closed due to the pandemic, many families are also turning to other educational items such as activity books and workbooks to ensure children learn during these unprecedented times. According to Felicia Frazier, senior vice president, children's sales, Penguin Random House, parents are also turning to books to shed light on issues such as diversity and racial equality.  

“The industry is having a phenomenal year,” adds Frazier. “We are up 10 percent or almost 10 million units to the register, and that is, again, going back to what is happening in the family home and what is happening with school closings. The first surge that we saw in increase in sales and units came from things like workbooks and activity books, and then, as the family settled in, it migrated to, you know, classic titles and backlist and trusted brands, and I think we can see that across the board and say that Nickelodeon [is one of] those trusted brands that mom leads into. And now as the conversation is changing and parents and families have to find a way to talk about race and talk about diversity and acceptance, we're seeing a tremendous lift in our titles that help parents and kids and moms and families have that conversation through storytelling.” 

While consumer products thrived, so, too, did consumables. Kellogg’s’ major challenges came from tackling the increasing demand, as consumers looked to core, traditional family brands to provide a semblance of comfort at home. 

“Our biggest challenge is meeting demand,” says Zion Doran, senior director, integrated promotions and partnerships, Kellogg’s. “So, we took a lot of steps to meet the high consumption and high demand, but I will say, I'm very proud of how we responded and our ability to be agile with how we market and talk to our consumers pretty much overnight.” 

This is what the expert panel saw amid the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. To gain in-depth insights into the future and learn  how brands are innovating in the consumer products space – from plushes with facemasks that reduce children’s anxiety to providing comfort through brands and adapting to consumer feedback – watch the full session with ViacomCBS by registering for Licensing Week Virtual

Licensing Week Virtual’s Explosive Opening Day

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Licensing Week Virtual kicked off on Monday, June 15, providing a breadth of new, online opportunities for the licensing industry. The theme of the day was brands and lifestyle, bringing out some of the most well-known executives in the licensing industry who shared tips and strategies via online keynotes and various panels. From listening to speakers to networking and “walking” the virtual show floor, there was something for everyone in the industry, and the event is only getting started. Here’s your recap of the first day of this inaugural event and all it had to offer.

 

Keynote: Kraft Heinz: Leveraging More than 100 Years of Heritage

Kraft Heinz’s Chris Urban highlighted the group’s approach to using brand licensing to build on its existing consumer relationships during his insightful keynote address, moderated by Amanda Cioletti, event and content director, licensing, Informa Markets.

With the trend 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 their iconic brands to the world of licensing. Urban discussed Kraft Heinz’s strategies to use this retro trend to their advantage.

For more information on the licensing journey of Kraft Heinz, the products underway and the strategies the brand will take to expand its consumer products program with the help of its agency Brand Central, watch the full keynote by registering for Licensing Week Virtual.

 

Panel: What Do Licensees Want?

Steven Heller, founder, The Brand Liaison, moderated the “What Do Licensees Want?” panel, which 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 panelists discussed taking licensing risks, looking for insight and learning when you’re new to the licensing industry. They also shared personal stories about creating successful licensing programs, outlined the opportunities presenting themselves through e-commerce, discussed licensing strategies and more.

To learn more, please watch the full keynote by registering for Licensing Week Virtual.

 

Panel: Stop Living in a Silo: Why Everyone Needs an E-Comm Strategy

Jeff Lotman, owner, Global Icons, moderated a discussion about 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.

Michael Carlisle, principal, The Wildflower Group and Matt Bonaccorso, director of global video games and robotics, Discovery, chatted with Lotman about the temporary closures of brick-and-mortar stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which 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. 

In addition, they discussed building a brand through e-commerce, understanding fans through data and more.

The panel provided a deep dive into the 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."

 

Panel: Consumers, Brands and Retailers: Adapting in the New Reality

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 panel discussed how brands can best handle a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s pressing social issues and an ever-evolving retail landscape.

To learn more about the changes in digital, consumer 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.

 

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

Brands and Lifestyle Categories Evolve to Meet New Consumer Trends

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During the first day of Licensing Week Virtual, industry leaders highlighted the growing importance nostalgia and creative thinking will play in licensing across the brands and lifestyle categories.

Licensing is a people business. From the connections people make at conferences (virtual or otherwise) to the fans who love brands, individuals are the driving force to the entire industry. That axiom has proven more important than ever now as the world has shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown.

While every business adjusts to this “new normal,” it is the human connection that looks to be a main driver into the future. During the open keynote of Licensing Week Virtual, Chris Urban, vice president, general manager, Mealtime Stories, Kraft Heinz, highlighted the importance of the individual consumer for a brand such as Kraft.

“Everything starts with the consumer; understand their ever-shifting habits,” says Urban. “How has this pandemic changed the consumer behavior? What’s here to stay? How much will revert? Everything happens with the consumer.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly shifted how consumers think about brands and how those brands reach their fans. For some brands, its reinforced the core beliefs already engrained in the company, and for others, it’s been a wakeup call to pivot how they approach licensing.

Seeing New Potential in Licensing

An example of that change in thinking can be seen from brands in the restaurant field. Michael Stone, chairman and co-founder, Beanstalk, highlighted how his restaurant brand clients have seen a renewed interest in licensing as a way to reach consumers even as eating out has all about stopped due to the pandemic.

“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,” says Stone.

Tried and True Brands Bring Comfort

Another key trend to come out of Licensing Week Virtual is the growing impact of classic brands. The common theory is that faced with uncertainty, consumers looking for comfort will turn to brands that stood the test of time.

Brands such as Kraft Heinz, which is celebrating its 100th year anniversary, are front-of-mind with consumers during these uncertain times. Having spent years building consumer trust, classic brands like Kraft Heinz have built up the brand equity to bring peace of mind to consumers who grew up with them.

Nostalgia Is Here to Stay

These well-worn brands are also being carried down from parents to children in ways that keep consumer preferences in the family. During a Q&A at Licensing Week Virtual, Jennifer Staley, vice president, licensing, Bioworld Merchandising, said that entertainment brands, specifically, are now being shared to new generations as fans grow up and have kids of their own.

“Parents grew up with a particular entertainment brand, and they want to share that with their children,” Staley said.

Learn More

To hear more about the trends for 2020 and beyond, register for Licensing Week Virtual now. Presentations from the first day of the event will be available as recordings for the remainder of the week.

Design Plus Adds Laughing Brand to its Portfolio

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Design Plus, the boutique licensing agency that represents Famous Food Brands, has announced that they have added The Laughing Cow and Babybel to their exclusive list of clients.

“[I’m] so proud to represent Bel Group in the U.S. and Canada and to launch at a time when laughter is much needed,” says Carol Janet, chief executive officer, Design Plus.

Design Plus has promised licensees “magical ingredients, creative platforms and a one-and-only look book,” according to a statement.

“We are very excited to enter the U.S. market working with such a fantastic licensing agency,” says Patrick Tamburlin, global licensing manager, Bel Group. “Carol has immediately understood our brands and their licensing possibilities. Can’t wait to begin.”