Want to boost your product's image with a license from the entertainment world? Then first take a hard look at your marketing objectives and targeted demographics. That advice from executives familiar with the business will surely be one of the strategies discussed this month as the industry gathers in New York to attend the Licensing '95 conference and exposition June 20 to 22. Licensing awards to be presented will include the year's top license, licensing agency, licensee, brand extension and promotion. Among the nominees for License of the Year are Lion King, Looney Tunes, Power Rangers, Peanuts, Star Trek and Sesame Street. Surely, one of these would match a brand marketer's objectives and demographics. "If you are looking at targeting kids, you may want "Pocahontas." If your product is going to a wider audience, "Star Trek" has mass appeal," said Theodore Selame, president of BrandAlliance, a licensing and co-branding firm based in Wellesley, Mass., and Los Angeles. "A license associated with a successful TV show gives your product advertising every time the show airs," he said. "The Barney children's show is a good example of that. That type of license can provide some longevity. A license from a motion picture has a little more risk involved. It may be hot for a while when the movie comes out, but the timing is critical." When a licensed character appears on a product, the consumer may buy it because he wants the product itself, or he wants the character, or a combination of both, said Ronald Kareken, partner at Jaeckle, Fleischmann & Mugel, a law firm experienced in the trademark licensing industry. When a parent buys his child a doll that looks like Mickey Mouse, the quality of the product is inherent in the character and the identity of the manufacturer is relatively unimportant, he said. On the other hand, if a licensed character is featured on a radio, unless the radio performs the way the teen-ager expects it to perform, the character won't matter, he said. To determine which license works best for which kind of product, the manufacturer needs to consider the initial objectives of the brand, according to John Raczka, senior director of licensing, Sony Signatures, San Francisco. "Is the goal to build product loyalty, or to build response in core demographics, or to expand demographics by going after younger or older consumers? That will dictate the properties that you will want to focus on," he said. The manufacturer also needs to look at the product attributes to be communicated, he said: Will they be communicated in the property itself or via the artists associated with the property? Another factor affecting licensing choices will be whether the license is to be used for a short-term window to enhance sales during a peak season or whether it is to be a long-term association, Raczka said. An "evergreen"-type property that will last for years is the better choice for brand managers marketing a product that requires a long lead time and/or expensive development, according to Janine Hallisey, vice president of marketing and sales at United Media Licensing, New York. If the product will have a shorter turnaround time, a movie property may be more attractive, but it will involve more of a risk. "You have to be able to get the product on the market in time for the movie launch. If the movie is a hit, you can assume it will stay in theaters a few months. The product cycle would have to be that short. Once the movie is out of theatrical circulation, it may be a little while before the video is released," Hallisey said. Short-term promotions featuring characters from the entertainment world can serve as a "test drive" of the license, said Patti Ganguzza, vice president of entertainment marketing, AIM Promotions, New York, a consulting firm that creates entertainment promotions for the studios. "If it works and moves product, then you know the consumer is responding to the offer you are making. But also the association with that particular theme, character or license has to give credence to its drawing power," she said. "When we do a promotion for Power Rangers, Batman or Free Willy, we borrow the license for a short-term promotion window. We are able to test the license. For example, Jell-O had a "Jurassic Park" promotion in which it was permitted to use the dinosaur likenesses on trading cards. The license is limited to the duration of the promotion," Ganguzza said. "Be sensitive to the primary target of your brand and what that profile is in relation to a particular character," she added.
When the logo of the Free Willy Foundation appeared on cans of Bumble Bee tuna, the result was almost a mixed signal until the proper theme was discovered, according to Ganguzza. The Free Willy Foundation was created to assist with the care and expenses of the whale featured in the first Free Willy movie. Bumble Bee tuna, like other tuna suppliers, is recognized by consumers as a company that catches fish. To dispel the mixed signal and demonstrate that Bumble Bee was conscious of the issues, the theme developed was, "Our tuna is dolphin-safe and whale-wise," Ganguzza said. There certainly is no shortage of licenses available. Among the hot licenses currently on the market are Sesame Street, Barbie, Looney Tunes and Star Trek. Among the licensed properties available from United Media are Snoopy and the Peanuts characters, which has broad demographics ranging almost from cradle to grave; Beavis and Butthead, which appeals primarily to teen-age boys; Dilbert, which appeals to both male and female office-workers; and Marmaduke, the dog, Hallisey said. Among the licenses available through Sony Signatures are World Cup, Three Stooges, Ecco the Dolphin from Sega, Beakman's World and Mutant League, Raczka said. For the fourth quarter, primary licensing opportunities will include Batman, Free Willy II, Power Rangers and Casper, said Aim's Ganguzza. It can be difficult to tell when a license has been overexposed, but the combination of a slowdown in sales and reduced prices is a good warning signal, said Selame of BrandAlliance. In some cases, timeliness is more of an issue than overexposure, Kareken said. A character from a movie that has just been released will be in demand for only a limited time unless it is part of a series of films that provides some continuity for the characters. Inventory management is important when working with a licensed character from a TV series, where consumer demand can reach a maintenance level, not experiencing the bulge in interest one might achieve with a motion picture character with a shorter life span, Kareken said.