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Practice Patience

Practice Patience

"Don't chase the buck. Have patience," said Howard Roffman during The Big Interview at Brand Licensing Europe in October. That's all very well with a brand like

"Don't chase the buck. Have patience," said Howard Roffman during The Big Interview at Brand Licensing Europe in October.

That's all very well with a brand like Star Wars which has shifted billions of licensed products and is embedded in popular culture. But it's timely advice and he wasn't the only one to advocate it during Brand Licensing Europe's Licensing Academy.

In his keynote address Michael Acton Smith, creator of Moshi Monsters and founder of Mind Candy, talked of having patience to get the product right before you start to market it.

"Get your audience to fall in love with the game," said Acton Smith. "Then use marketing to fuel the fire."

During a lively panel discussion, Claire Shaw, formerly of Classic Media, talked of waiting until the very best brand collaboration becomes possible, even if it takes years to pull off. Patience to allow a property to build critical mass is a strategy well rewarded in examples such as Entertainment One's Peppa Pig and Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer.

But the licensing market isn't easily patient.

Questioned recently about doubling up a licence for a brand, one agent told me: "We had to because we are under such pressure at the moment to sign more deals."

Potential partners are quick to flock to a hot new thing. Its inherent optimism makes the licensing industry push ahead, fuelled by the constant knowledge that retailers want something different.

On the whole however, the industry is responding to the period of consumer caution with the attitude of a swan–lots of hard work going on beneath the surface and a serene air of patience and confidence above. Retailers are pro-classic and risk averse. Creators are parking new ideas and shelving those they aren't totally confident can succeed.

The Brand Licensing Europe show reflected these sensibilities but it also demonstrated the power of brands and characters to provide excitement, color and genuine commercial advantage to potential partners. Classic brands were out at show in force from film studios like Sony and Disney with its tried and tested franchises. TV companies demonstrated huge efforts backing fewer new properties. From preschool standout properties such as Mike the Knight (HIT Entertainment), Poppy Cat (Coolabi) and V&S's Everything's Rosie, to live action hits such as Nick's "Victorious" and new comedy series arrivals like "Gumball" from Cartoon Network, there is steady brand building going on, backed by strong licensor support. The Chupa Chups style guide has proved outstanding in its inspiration to new partners, The Smurfs demonstrated their power to turn everything blue, Abney and Teal from Ragdoll broke out from the preschool norm and even lesser known brands on the show floor, such as the exquisite Kimmidoll, could stop you in your tracks.

For the moment, while "caution" is still the watchword, perhaps it's good to follow more of Roffman's advice.

When asked for some of the secrets of Star Wars' success in consumer products, Roffman admitted that Lucas Licensing has a good history of saying "yes" to the right products but also advised the audience to "be deliberate and be measured."

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