Tailor-Made for Licensing: Ira Mayer’s Three Must-See Products at NY Toy Fair

NEW YORK, NY; FEBRUARY 18, 2019—If it’s all about the elevator pitch, these three new products from three first-time exhibitors explain themselves instantly. As do licensed applications. All exemplify classic play value, each with a neat twist. Check them out in person before you leave Toy Fair, or online.

#1. The Door Fort, from Cortex Toys (booth #4245). Inventor Jesse Darr loved building forts as a kid — and now that he has his own child, remembers how his parents would be left with putting everything away once he went to bed. The Door Fort is his answer. Hangs on the door. Open the door, fold it out to three dimensions, Velcro to the door post. Voila!

One major license is already in the works. Easy to picture Darr’s generic Princess Castle as, say a Disney Princess castle, no? How about Thomas? Pretty much name your property. Contact: John Cowan, MD, CEO/Founder, Cortex.

#2. Cubcoats (booth #5974). It takes 13 seconds to demonstrate how a plush character pillow transforms into a machine-washable fleece hoodie — and back again (OK, back takes 16 seconds).

In addition to original designs, they have Mickey, Minnie, Minion, Marvel, and Troll versions, and they’ve just signed Nickelodeon. The product was exclusive to Nordstrom for fourth-quarter last year, but is now available for wider retail. This is beautifully executed. Contact: Brydie O’Neill, VP Product Development; Angela Michael, Business Development/Sales.

#3. VertiPlay Marble Run by Oribel (booth #4135). Yes, it’s another marble run, but with a literal twist: Base boards are wall-mounted and tracks posted on the base pieces. marble-run-vertical-photo.jpgIt’s even decorative, and  the tracks can be moved into different designs. This is so new it’s not on the website yet, but Singapore-based Oribel has offered other vertically-mounted toys for toddlers for several years. This is clearly for older kids in a bedroom or playroom. Contact: Smriti Modi, Growth Hacker (great title!).

Ira Surfs the Trends at NY Toy Fair

Trend Surfing at February 2019 National Stationery, NY Now & Surtex Shows

Applying Psychographics to Jeep Owners and Aspirers

NEW YORK, NY; SEPT 18, 2018—“Thinkers” value quality, reliability and longevity over lifestyle. “Achievers have a ‘me first, my family-first attitude’” and see money as defining success. “Innovators” are skeptical of advertising and are “number one into authenticity.”

What’s it all mean in marketing terms? Luxury market analyst Pam Danziger takes a deep dive analyzing the psychological makeup of Jeep brands with Strategic Business Insights’ (SBI) Patricia Breman. Using SBI’s eight-prong VALS Types (psychographic characteristics) Danziger and Breman examine ownership vs. aspiration to buy, but the analytic style would be well applied to just about any brand.

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Trending Up At NY Now Gift Show

Conference Report: Enough With Millennials — It’s Time For Retail Radicals to Embrace NOW’ers

NEW YORK, NY; August 2, 2018—If you’re not looking at the NOW’ers (aka Generation Z or the Post-Millennials), you’re already behind in the retail and marketing wars, says Kathy Sheehan, EVP/GM of GfK Consumer Trends, a market research organization.

And if you think that the only difference between NOW’ers and Millennials is that the NOW’ers are even more tech savvy, you’re totally going to miss the opportunities for reaching a currently 15-25 year-old cohort that comprises 26% of the population — greater than the Millennials or the Boomers.

Speaking yesterday at the Annual Retail Forum at Columbia Business School —Retail Radicals, presented by The Robin Report, Sheehan outlined the characteristics of this soon-to-be overarching market:

  • In the U.S., NOW will comprise 30% of the population by 2020, 47% of them non-white.
  • Globally — and Sheehan said the U.S. mirrors the global findings — 84% have at least one major stressor; 47% say they don’t have enough free time. Their #1 pressure: Themselves. #2: Money.
  • They are less likely than Millennials were at the same age to aspire to prestigious brands; 48% strongly agree they want “good value for the money.”
  • Security will be imperative — financial security, which manifests itself in NOW’ers’ thriftiness (compared to Millennials penchant for aspirational brands), and both online and physical security.
  • NOW’ers are more attuned to privacy than the members of any other generation, with Sheehan believing that will have major implications for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
  • Similar to Millennials, NOW’ers will continue to delay growing up life cycle events including moving out, marrying, and having kids.
  • Tech proficiency ranks only #6 among 18 perceptions of self among this group, though 68% believe they are tech savvy.
  • Convenience is important to them: 37% say they will pay more for products that make their lives easier.
  • “It’s possible they’ll never go into a physical store.” [That’s a contention every other speaker disagreed with in the course of the day-long event.]
  • Rising values for NOW: Creativity, internationalism, ambition, equality, knowledge, learning, thrift, and social tolerance. Declining values: Sex, being youthful, individuality. “Ten years ago everything was about customization and personalization. Not now, not for this group,” said Sheehan.

In a spirited Q&A, one audience member commented that social tolerance extends only to those they agree with, otherwise “they’ll shout you down.” (Sheehan was taken aback but acknowledged that this is “an age of extreme polarization.” Another questioner wanted to know if the GfK findings differentiated between urban and rural NOW’ers, suggesting that there would be differences. (The GfK data, some of which was first released about a year ago, is not broken down that way, but Sheehan noted that the similarities in major cities globally are striking.)

Observations from other speakers throughout the day:

  • Every retailer has the same 1 million online customers. A retailer won’t get all of them all the time. But getting beyond that million is very difficult.
  • We’re smart enough to know we don’t know where retail will be in 2 years.

David Strasser, SWaN and Legend Venture Partners

  • From an investment perspective, outstanding management with a mediocre idea is better than weak management with a great idea.

Jill Granoff, Eurazeo Brands

  • People want less shit, smaller homes so they can spend more on experiences. How do we service that consumer with real value and convenience?

Alex Brick, SWaN and Legend Venture Partners

  • People are getting tired of fast fashion.
  • Commenting on the downturn in apparel retailing: People bought too many clothes.

Millard “Mickey” Drexler, legendary retailer who founded Old Navy and variously led The Gap, J. Crew, and others

  • Some customers want convenience, others want value, and still others want curation.

David Katz, Randa Associates

  • Retail radicals that are models for others: Amazon, Costco, Apple, Casper, Best Buy.
  • Retail brands that have successfully reinvented themselves: Best Buy; TJX nameplates TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods; Ikea; Zara.
  • Top 3 retailers in need of radical leadership: Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s.

Mark A. Cohen, consultant and professor.

  • Barriers to retail radicals’ success: leadership, culture, capital, and speed.

Robin Lewis, consultant, publisher of The Robin Report.

  • “There’s a panicked, freaking out search firm looking for a new CEO for Penney.”

Mark Bozek, LiveRocket

  • “If I were running Penney, I’d let it go. Same for K-mart and Sears. We have too many stores anyway.”

Paul Charron, former Chairman, Liz Claiborne

 

Amazon’s Big and Others’ Little Boxes: An Idiosyncratic Take on Licensing Expo

NEW YORK, NY; May 26, 2018—In the end, it’s all about boxes, isn’t it?

Amazon was, is, and will remain The Topic for licensors, manufacturers, retailers, consultants, agents, and anyone else involved in the business of licensing. And what is Amazon about if not boxes?

The headline out of Licensing Expo in Las Vegas this month had to do with Merch Collab, the online retail behemoth’s new program offering design and manufacturing/sourcing expertise for fast-to-market licensed merchandise to be sold on its eponymous website.

But as much as has been written about Amazon’s impact on retailing, that impact can’t be overestimated. Whether Epic Rights’s Dell Furano holding forth on the shift of music and celebrity t-shirt and jersey sales from venues to physical retail to online or Cartoon Network’s Pete Yoder enthusing about the technology behind Amazon Go, the company’s prototype supermarket (and likely all-merchandise) store of the future, to cite but two conversations during Expo, any conversation about retail inevitably turned to Amazon.

A part of that discussion that tends to be underrepresented, however, concerns Amazon’s various experiments with physical retail. Just as many “digital-only” magazines discovered the need to develop physical magazines because that’s what advertisers demanded, so, too, Amazon clearly recognizes that physical retail isn’t going to disappear.

My friend Marty Porter, executive director of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), and author of the Record Plant Diaries, calls this phenomenon “physigital,” and predicts that physical media will cater to the luxury segment of the market while digital will be for the masses. Amazon understands and lives that concept instinctively.

That’s one type of box. In my idiosyncratic take on what was fun and interesting at Licensing Expo, though, there’s another:

Cross Bratz with Shopkins, mix in the unboxing craze, add steroids, and you have Boxy Girls, which debuted exclusively at Walmart via Jay@Play the week of this year’s Licensing Expo. The child gets the doll in a box that has additional little boxes with clothes, accessories, makeup and other items. There are add-on boxes with multiple surprise boxes, boxes with two limited edition dolls plus little boxes, and so on. This is completely of-the-moment. Jay@Play is represented by Cynthia Hall Domine’s licensing agency, Synchronicity.

Cartoon Network (CN) has worked with subscription box licensees Loot Crate and Box Blvd., notes CN’s Pete Yoder, who sees boxes as viable long term rather than a fad, particularly as the ratio of consumables is increased in the mix.

In a larger context, boxes (and unboxing) are part of the trend toward licensing experiences rather than products. CN has been upping the number of live and touring shows it does, says Yoder, especially in Latin America and EMEA. CN launches its first cruise ship in 2019 — cruises have become a staple for Disney — and the network has its CN-themed Six Flags amusement park in China. In the U.S., Adult Swim’s Rickmobile started touring the country last summer; now there’s an Adult Swim music and comedy festival scheduled for Los Angeles this October and featuring Run the Jewels, among other acts.

BuzzFeed had one of the more curious booths — certainly for those of us who aren’t regular BuzzFeed addicts (that includes me). Visitors toured its big red box of a booth, with only the name out front by entering a series of doors that led to rooms that had displays and might also be housing BuzzFeed execs for meetings in action.

There wasn’t much to fill you in on exactly what the rooms represented (I went through three times at different points in the show, uniformly hearing people mystified and curious) until you read the thick newspaper-like handout that explained the rooms were themed to popular BuzzFeed channels — in particular the foodie Tasty brand room, which had a display of kitchen utensils and a chef preparing pancakes and other goodies. Turns out the line of Tasty-branded utensils are also a Walmart exclusive.

Shout out to BuzzFeed for the best swag of the show: When you got to the end of your self-guided tour there were bags on pegs and shelves from which to select whatever items you wanted — multi-colored measuring cups and whisks, cosmetics cases (or maybe they were pencil cases?), glass water bottles, miniature yo-yos…Eric Karp is heading up the licensing effort.

And moving beyond boxes. Way beyond boxes:

The dinosaur roaming the show entrance near the Universal booth and scaring the bejesus out of unsuspecting passersby was presumably promoting the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie opening June 22. I say presumably because no one was indicating what he was about, despite a handler upfront in dinosaur-wrastling get-up and a handler in the back keeping people away from the giant tail. The guy inside this costume wielded it phenomenally well.

Lenovo’s Jedi Challenges, available since late last year but offering demos at the show to attract other properties is the first augmented reality game I’ve seen that defined the genre for me: Jedi Challenge Expo 2018Put on the goggles, extend your lightsaber and you’re jousting lightsaber to lightsaber with a Jedi. Or in local mode, with another player. Asked whether the Star Wars relationship with Disney bodes well for Marvel and other Disney franchises down the road, a spokesperson suggested that “it’s easy to imagine” such a scenario but for now they are “concentrating on Star Wars.” That said, more software is needed to justify the expense of the $199 headset, but the play value is pretty incredible.

Walking malls in recent months conducting licensing tours, Hotel Transylvania photo booth Expo 2018I’ve been struck by the variations on the classic photo booth — booths that upload to Instagram, selfie booths (contradiction in terms, no?), booths that feature licensed properties. At the show, Sony Pictures had an interesting iteration with a screen featuring characters from its upcoming Hotel Transylvania 3, opening July 18. Facing it, when you moved, the character mirrored your moves. Your image appeared in the corner near the movie character. More traditional: When Grumpy Cat wasn’t available in person for a photo, you could step in an old-fashioned photo booth and pose next to a preprogrammed Grumpy Cat.

On the promotional side — and what is Licensing Expo if not a promotional event? — kudos to WWE and, especially Sesame Street (see photo up top for your humbled blogger and friends), for the photo ops in the show’s registration area. Great way to talk into a show.

 

The booth garnering the most speculation was perhaps that of Jonathan and Drew Scott, known for their HGTV Property Brothers home-fixer-upper TV show. The booth referenced Property Brothers but the license being offered was Scott Brothers.

Scott Brothers Expo 2018

I assume Property Brothers is owned by the network and that the Scotts want to control their own licensing. (That’s akin, so to speak, to the situation many chefs featured on, say, Food Network, find themselves in: Network owns the show and controls licensing rights, but savvy chefs have retained the rights to their individual names.) The Scotts’ booth — a large, multi-tiered, beautifully outfitted affair — was packed when the brothers were on hand, and not very populated the rest of the time, save for a few staffers.

Licensing Expo is not just about entertainment, though it can feel that way. There are heritage brands, literary properties and artists along with fashion labels, sports properties, and others. Capezio Expo 2018Among the heritage brands new to the show this year were two fourth generation members of the family that founded Capezio, the classic dance apparel and footwear brand. While the brand was once licensed to a wider audience, it has in recent years been more limited to the dance community. Reimagining the brand through licensing is the plan.

The Licensing University program sponsored by LIMA orients hundreds of newcomers to understanding the benefits of licensing, the structure of the business, the trendlines and more.

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Gary Caplan, Ira Mayer, Katy Briggs

I had the honor once again of leading the opening “Basics of Licensing” panel with “godfather of licensing” Gary Caplan, of Gary Caplan Inc., and Hallmark’s Katy Briggs. Thanks to you both, and to LIMA’s Marty Brochstein for inviting all three of us to participate.

Knights hockey team popup 2018Finally, at the airport leaving Las Vegas, there was a great pop-up booth dedicated to local hockey team the Vegas Golden Knights, who made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Sporting goods stores in Fashion Show mall were also festooned with Knights merch, but the pop-up was a great unintentional last impression of the show!

Looking for a licensing assessment to assist with strategy and new business development? I’ll help you identify the white space for your licensing program through competitive analysis. Visit www.iramayer.com for details.