What makes a character mark licensable?
It’s very easy to think that character design alone determines the success and failure of a character brand and how many licensing and marketing agreements you can get. In reality, the first criterion for marketing opportunities is massive exposure before anything else. Licensing agents and manufacturing companies are often opposed to acquiring properties that look nice but don’t have massive exposure.
Assuming we have reached the popularity of a certain brand of character (for example, Dandy the Lion), we have won 70% of the battle with the people who grant licenses. They would have been convinced that Dandy the Lion is worth licensing. These are really our first clients. We need them to feel that Dandy the Lion is worth licensing before they bring it to market.
The next obstacle that we will have to cross would be the final consumers, our secondary customers. They are the ones who determine the longevity of our brand and the real buyers who will convince licensing entrepreneurs that Dandy the Lion is worth licensing and that it is worth continuing to license. Your purchase rate, power, and frequency will determine how long more W&W products can remain licensed.
Now, there are many categories of merchandise on the market when it comes to character brands.
Just to name a few:
– stuffed toys
– wood toys
– children’s clothes
– story books and activity books
– table games
– electronic toys
– product animation
– product promotions
– eg breakfast cereals, sandwiches, baby food, etc.
– store and franchise concepts
– and more
Very few character brands have been able to close a licensing deal for each of the categories listed here, with the exception of perhaps some of the main Disney characters and Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, and this was likely due to their own investments. It is almost impossible to expect to have licenses for each category, even if you are one of the best brands. In addition to luck and the search for suitable partners, you also have to consider the positioning factor of the brand. This is due to the fact that not all character brands are suitable for licensing for all categories. It all comes down to brand recognition and identity.
For example, The Simpsons is extremely famous and popular, but would you ever get a license for an educational product? I doubt it.Parents wouldn’t associate something like The Simpsons with something educational, unless you had a creative license to put a twist on the educational factor.
With the previous establishment of licensing and marketing in a broad aspect, I would now like to briefly discuss how to determine if a character can and will be licensed from 2 perspectives: the business perspective and the visual perspective.
1. How to determine if a character mark is distinctive enough for commercialization from a commercial point of view?
Any character mark will be distinctive and attractive enough for licensors to obtain the license as long as it has achieved sufficient exposure. I’d like to use Mr. Bean as an example here. Mr. Bean doesn’t look good. In fact, in my opinion, it’s downright ugly! But it has garnered enough exposure around the world for licensors to pick it up and stick its cartoon double on all kinds of products. The same can be said for many other character brands that are on the market today.
2. How to determine if a character brand is distinctive enough for merchandising from a visual point of view?
As mentioned above, it will be difficult to create a character design that fits all categories due to the fact that there are branding issues to consider. However, it is quite possible, on the merit of character design, to create a design that fits most categories. However, I would like to mention that the character designs only form the basis of the licensed merchandise. Much more depends on how manufacturers use the designs with their products. This applies to the brand assurance and product integrity strategies that a licensor will need to implement to ensure the integrity of character marks.