Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Licensing Expo 08: What We Liked

Licensing Expo came to a close last week. Here are some things we liked:

  • This fall, the Jim Henson Company will air its new show, "Sid the Science Kid," on PBS. The science show, which uses proprietary digital puppetry technology, is aimed at 3- to 6-year-olds, has a sketch comedy format, and covers topics like temperature, estimating, and measuring. In each episode, Sid asks a question like "Why do bananas go bad?" and he and his team set out to find the answer.
  • Peter Rabbit . . . Naturally Better: "Socially Responsible Licensing Inspired by THE Classic 'Natural' Brand." As part of the initiative, Penguin Young Readers Group will release a new line of books, including a baby record book and board books, printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. (Look also for organic Peter Rabbit toys and toiletries for babies.)
  • Scholastic's massive new Goosebumps initiative. We remember buying the original Goosebumps series from Scholastic's "Book Orders" in the 1990s. Things are a little different in 2008: The new 12-book Goosebumps HorrorLand series, launched this spring, is accompanied by a show on the Cartoon Network, multi-platform video games, DVDs, Halloween costumes, and, of course, Web sites (www.scholastic.com/goosebumps and www.enterhorrorland.com) with over 1.5 million unique visitors a month
  • At Nickelodeon's orange-carpeted booth, the SpongeBob SquarePants Hour of Happiness on Tuesday, featuring square cupcakes with bright SpongeBob yellow frosting. Sweet, showy, not a lot of substance--a bit like Licensing Expo itself, you might say.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Licensing Expo 08: The New Consumer

Licensing International Expo 2008 landed June 10 at the Javits Center just in time for the summer’s first heat wave. Outside, temperatures hit nearly a hundred degrees. Inside, brands like Clifford, Goosebumps, and SpongeBob SquarePants were hot hot hot.

In a cooling economy, though, how can retailers make sure consumers choose their brands? In his panel “The New Consumer, the New Retail, and Licensing in the New World,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the NPD Group, offered some insight:

  • For the first time, five generations of a family—a 5-year-old, 25-year-old, 45-year-old, 65-year-old, and 85-year-old—may influence one another’s purchasing decisions. There’s lots of growth in the teen market, and parents and kids share choices in entertainment of all types (you’ll see lots of overlap between the top 10 list of CDs that adults buy from stores and the top 10 list of artists kids download from P2P networks).
  • The number one reason consumers buy a product is a recommendation from a friend or family member. Therefore, since friends and family members are such big influencers, retailers should find ways to market to them even if they are not the intended audience for a given product. “Find a second message for another audience,” Cohen says, citing anti-aging creams as an example: Young women “who say, ‘Mom, I love you, but I don’t want to look like you’” are a secondary, and strong, market for the products.
  • Sell a lifestyle, not just a product. Customization and personalization are key, since the consumer thinks the ability to customize is the norm—think Nike iD sneakers, engraved iPods, and build-your-own Sony VAIOs with customizable colors and textures. “It’s not big dollars, but it’s a big connection point,” says Cohen.
Finally, Cohen showed an image of JFK. “Ask not if you should license product,” he said, “but who you should license with. . . . A picture is worth a thousand words, but licensing is worth 10,000.”