Europe’s premier brand licensing showcase rolled into London last week, and was bigger, and glitzier than ever. As marketers we all know the power of brands. But licensing proves the point: licensed brand merchandise sells at a premium and delivers far higher margins for businesses. In a world of diversity and increasingly niche interests, the likes of Marvel, Star Wars and even Mickey Mouse have universal recognition and provoke a lot of love.
The global toy market was worth $90bn in 2018. In Europe one in every 5 dollars spent was on licensed products, with seven being sold every second. TV shows and movies continue to drive the licensing category, and the recent sale of Entertainment One to Hasbro for $4bn demonstrates the increasing importance of owning valuable IP.
The big players of the entertainment world were all out in force for BLE. The lavish displays and intense meetings taking place everywhere you looked demonstrated the intoxicating allure of deal- making.
It was intriguing how symbiotic the licensing world has become. Content providers need network or SVOD distribution deals. Manufacturers need the strongest IPs. New movies need brand partners to help promote them. Brands need product placement to attract the consumers’ interest. Which came first: the toy or the movie? This should be an easy question for someone who grew up in during the first throes of Star Wars’ massive success. But with the LEGO Movie 2 and Playmobil movie out this year, and Trolls World Tour coming next, it’s no longer clear.
Spotting trends is an important part of shaping or creating your IP to deliver maximum effect. These were some of the interesting areas I noted to watch out for in 2020 (thanks to Trend Bible and NPD for their presentations):
- Sustainability has gone beyond an interesting viewpoint to a mainstream demand from parents and more increasingly, kids themselves. The amount of plastic in toys is concerning the consumer, and cheap disposable high street fashion is starting to be rejected. Getting sustainability right used to be a manufacturing concern, but now increasingly responsibility is being taken by company designers and strategists with the focus as much on purpose as the end product.
- With the Tokyo Olympics taking place next year, expect Studio Kawaii to be everywhere, with a specifically quirky Japanese style being applied to everything from cereal boxes to high-end fashion wear.
- In a world stuffed full of caped crusaders, the action figure toy market has been strangely static. This perhaps reflects the growing gulf between the age of moviegoers watching comic book movies with darker themes and the age of kids who usually buy action figures. But one bright spot has been the stellar rise of Funko. Their bobble headed collectibles are bought by older kids and even adults in growing number. This shows that the future for licensing could be in growing this exciting category amongst older audiences.