|Tony Lisanti, editor-in-chief, License! Global|
One of the most important strategies–and perhaps ubiquitous challenges–in brand licensing today is how to establish and sustain a brand franchise.
Whatever the type of brand or property, every licensor is focused on the key elements that define a franchise and its strategies for growth because, at the end of the day, that's the information every retailer and licensee needs to know.
It's the same for every retailer or licensee as well: it needs to be able to communicate its core attributes and its raison d'etre. Consider what has happened over the past several months with such venerable retailers as Best Buy and J.C.Penney that have executives asking just what exactly do these retail monikers–or franchises–mean to investors, licensors and consumers.
It's this type of analysis and understanding that separates successes from failures, winners from losers and innovators from wannabes.
There are several articles in this issue that provide some insight into the attributes that define a brand franchise, beginning with the exclusive story about DreamWorks Animation. "New Team, New Dream" focuses on the strategies of newly appointed Chief Brand Officer Michael Francis, which are all focused on building the studio's brand franchise. There's also the exclusive anniversary tribute feature to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, represented by Character Arts, which exemplifies key attributes of a true brand franchise; FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment is quickly building its "Tree Fu Tom" preschool series (co-produced with the BBC) into a global franchise; and the exclusive case study on Disney/Marvel's Avengers, which began with a five-year plan and one superhero character and is now being extended into a year-round brand and tentpole for the future.
Here are 10 key elements of a brand franchise exemplified in our June issue articles:
- Multi-platform or 360-degrees–A property must have multi-platform content that includes theatrical, television, publishing, gaming, etc. because just one channel is not a strong enough position in the market.
- Customer engagement–A brand must connect with customers regularly, if not 365-days-a-year, in order to have top of mind awareness. Social media has intensified this aspect of brand recognition and involvement. Consider the exposure Coca-Cola has gained with social media.
- Global expansion–Whether it's "Tree Fu Tom" coming to the U.S. or DreamWorks expanding its brands into theme parks and hotels in Russia and China, new markets are key to expand audiences.
- Retail-centric–DreamWorks hired a former retail exec to spearhead brand development and growth, as have other licensors, because understanding the needs and retail dynamics of brick-and-mortars and e-commerce requires constant dialogue and planning in order to establish a cohesive brand franchise licensing program.
- Multi-category–A successful brand must expand beyond basic product categories in order to connect with broader, more diverse consumer segments. For example, the Avengers property is taking its characters into the junior's market for the first time this back-to-school season.
- Merchandise differentiation–Every product must be unique in some way, whether it's color, design, packaging or something else. ABC is pushing the limits with products for its TV shows such as "Dancing With the Stars," "Revenge" and "Castle."
- Live events–Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer property, based on the original television special, is expanding live events to 20 cities, reaching new audiences and strengthening the franchise.
- Best-in-class licensees–The profile of Albert Milhado, chief executive officer of footwear giant Leomil, underscores the importance of strong and creative licensees with a global presence.
- Marketing support–Nickelodeon unveiled a 1,000-square-foot store format within Toys 'R' Us' Times Square flagship store that features its brands, some of which sported a New York City theme. It's this type of promotional mindset that creates excitement and interest.
- Exceptional people–Or as a former Walmart executive often put it, "ordinary people doing extraordinary things," including building strong partnerships.