7 Takes on Licensing Expo 2019

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

Walking Surtex, Stationery, and Home Shows 2016: Design, Product & Packaging Trends

NEW YORK, NY; May 16, 2016—The joy of Surtex, which focuses on art, about half of which is available for licensing, the other half for sale, is its co-location with ICFF, a show for contemporary and avant garde furniture and design, and the National Stationery Show. The three shows crossover with the licensing world on both the design and manufacturing levels, and feature interesting packaging ideas as well. It takes a great deal of walking, but there is a wealth of creativity to be seen and inspiration to be had.

There is also fluidity across the shows in that some exhibitors would be wholly comfortable in different areas — particularly some of the artists found in ICFF and the Stationery Show who might be best served by the Surtex audience of manufacturers and retailers. That’s what makes a 5+ hour walk here fascinating (and I didn’t make it to the downstairs furniture show which in the past has been heavy on upscale living and bedroom offerings, lighting, and the like).

Most interesting finds this year were the first two exhibitors at the far end of the hall on the third level in an area dedicated to emerging designers.

Mike Joyce is an established graphic designer whose Stereotype graphic design agency features a portfolio strong on album art (Katy Perry, Iggy Pop, others) and advertising (Volvo, Visa, etc.).

Swissted Surtex 2016

Mike Joyce and his Swissted posters

His “personal project,” Swissted, started in 2012, combines his “love of Swiss graphic design and punk rock by redesigning old” concert posters into International Typographic Style posters. He takes information such as the band lineup, date, venue, and ticket prices from the originals (which he collects) and creates entirely new designs. He sells museum quality prints on 140 lb. cover stock in multiple sizes from $50 (17”x23.75”) to $150 (36”x50.5”) but is looking to “carry it to the next level” and is open to licensing the work.

Next to Joyce is Airplantman Josh Rosen, who creates vertical garden frames and tabletop “vases” — I hesitate to use the word (he calls them vessels) to house airplants.

The plants are dipped in water for a few hours about once a week. Easy to see the frames or vessels licensed by botanical gardens or other nature-oriented or environmental properties, and certainly sold in those venues. The frames, available 11”x11”, 11”x18”, and 24”x18”, are powder coated aluminum with nylon coated stainless steel cable that holds the plants in place. They retail for up to $135.

Other creative executions:

  • Cardboard six-pack beer carrier with attached greeting card from Beer Greetings. It’s the beer equivalent of the ever-popular wine bag with card on the carrying handle. In this case the card is the side of the package. Retails for $4.95, which is the same as a mid-range greeting card these days. The company has been selling the item direct for about a year and a half and started wholesaling the line about six months ago.
  • Monster Factory has been making licensed Volkswagen children’s play tents for some years (I remember seeing them at Bed Bath & Beyond); now they’ve added a VW van pet carrier, a cooler, picnic blankets, and a pet bowl.

General trends:

  • New coloring books are still pouring forth, despite the fact that the market is reportedly cooling.

    Galison, exhibiting in the Chronicle Books booth, has a recently-released Andy Warhol coloring book with the Warhol Velvet Underground album cover banana on the cover (Galison has a range of Warhol items, including soup cans and a coming Time Capsule kit). Paris-based Omy, distributed in the U.S. by Ameico, has pocket maps, postcard books, fanny packs, pencil cases and other items. Hester & Cook has placemats and placecards. Sourcebooks offers calendars, dream books, and such. The list goes on.

  • Flash drive manufacturer Mimoco, which specializes in licensed drives, says sales of classic Star Wars models have cooled off, though younger fans are still interested in the newer characters.
    Mimoco Star Wars Surtex 2016

    Mimoco Star Wars flash drives

    If Star Wars, its best seller, indexes at 100, the second best-selling line, Marvel, would index at about 75, a sales rep says. The company has confidence that Star Wars has longevity while it expects the Marvel line to drop off over a five to six year period.

About three and a half hours into walking these shows, I was starting to think there were substantially fewer letterpress companies exhibiting than the last few years, and that Brooklyn had lost its cache. Not at all. Minutes later I made it to a dedicated letterpress area in the stationery show—and within about 10 minutes and two or three aisles had come across I Am Here Brooklyn (jewelry), Boundless Brooklyn (DIY paper sculpture kits of water towers, bridges, etc.), Gold Teeth Brooklyn (greeting cards), Umlaut Brooklyn (cards and wine bags), and the representative from French chocolatier Marie Belle, which has a New York store in Soho, immediately informed me (with no prompting) that they now have a store in Brooklyn, too. Not to mention that many of those letterpress firms are located in Brooklyn even if the company names doesn’t shout it out.

On the packaging front, two exhibitors made great use of cork-stoppered glass vials: Japan’s YHM Jewelry, which also has a Brooklyn store but which mostly sells online, uses glass vials about 6” high that have a little greenery at the bottom and eyehooks in the cork from which are suspended necklaces or earrings. It’s a beautiful presentation (and the much of the jewelry is quite nice and very original). Similarly, the aforementioned I Am Here Brooklyn uses much smaller vials for its hammered metal pendants with an initial on them. Again, makes for a nice display concept.

Unto itself Surtex, which is relatively small, isn’t formally a curated show, but it’s always seemed to attract a high quality of exhibitors. Plenty of seasonal art, children’s, florals; many agents, some of which have a certain consistency of taste across the artists they represent, some of which are totally varied in an effort to have something for every retail need; many new artists each year looking to test the waters. Surtex is as good a barometer of what’s available for licensing for textiles and other goods as you’re going to find. The bonus is that the co-located shows might not be as focused on textile-oriented designs, but are full of licensable ideas — from designs to products to packaging.

The shows opened at the Javits Center here yesterday, and run until 6 p.m. today and until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Next up: I’ll be at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas June 20 (day before the show opens), 21 and 22. I am available to conduct personal tours of the show based on your needs. Two slots remain. For information about the personal tour, please contact me at I’m also leading a workshop, How to Work With Licensing Agents and Consultants, as part of LIMA’s Licensing University on the 21st. My panelists are an all-star team of Gary Caplan, Gary Caplan Inc.; Carole Postal, CopCorp; and Ilana Wilensky, Jewel Branding. To register for Licensing University, click here.


Coke Tastes The Licensing Feeling

NEW YORK; JANUARY 27, 2016 — Coca-Cola’s new “Taste the Feeling” ad campaign “will be focused more on the functional and emotional benefits of Coke the product” rather than the loftier brand equity-rooted celebration of the brand’s “role as a social facilitator and symbol of peace, love, friendship and brotherhood” of the prior “Open Happiness” campaign.

That’s Stuart Elliott’s take in his MediaVillage column this morning. Elliott wrote The New York Times advertising column for 23 years, and has been contributing to Jack Myers’ MediaVillage for just under a year (and it’s great to have his voice back!).

Coke bottle cap tray

One of my favorite licensed Coke products, from Coolgear.

From a licensing perspective, the question is how that new theme will manifest itself in merchandise, and while not mentioning licensing per se, Elliott indirectly addresses the key to a sound licensing program as well as a good ad campaign: emotional resonance.

Elliott wonders “if ads that play up what’s inside the bottle will overlook the specialness of the bottle and the other unique qualities and attributes of Coca-Cola that have contributed to its status as perhaps the world’s best-known (and most-liked) brand. . . . A thirst quencher, yes, but also an intrinsic element of American popular culture and a symbol of American life.”

Licensed Coke products reflect that, and Elliott couldn’t do better than singling out, as he does, the shape of the bottle, vintage ads, the Coca-Cola Santa, and other advertising slogans, as well as songs and movies where Coke has played a starring role. Not to mention the polar bears.

As I told the students in my Branding & Licensing class at LIU Post this week (part of a Branding & Licensing minor inaugurated by the university with LIMA and Beanstalk’s Michael Stone last semester), Coke’s is a classic case study in how licensing can support a core brand. Relative to revenue, licensing is a rounding error at Coke, albeit a highly profitable one. With licensing under the guidance of Kate Dwyer in Atlanta for almost seven years now, Coke tastes that feeling just fine.

Ira Mayer, former publisher and executive editor of The Licensing Letter, conducts competitive research and consults for companies in the licensing business; you can contact him by clicking on the “Contact” button above left.

The Myth of One-to-One Marketing

“One-to-one marketing” is a great catchphrase, but in practice it has always been a myth unless you’re talking about a salesperson working directly with a customer.

When the concept was first popularized in 1993 by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in their book, “The One to One Future,” the phrase was a marketing rallying cry: Traditional mass marketing was losing its impact; it was time to narrowcast, to speak to consumers one-to-one. Peppers and Rogers have built their company, 1to1 Media, on that foundation.

That was early Internet times. The technology wasn’t there, but the wake-up call was prescient: address your customers in a way that makes them feel as though they are being personally catered to.

I argued then (mostly in speeches) and still maintain that it is an illusory tactic. Making people feel as though your message was crafted just for them is a bit of legerdemain. Useful, but not really one-to-one.

Why not one-to-one? It isn’t cost effective. Despite the tools at our disposal now, one-to-one can rarely be implemented other than literally person to person. It’s too expensive to set up systems to truly be one-to-one responsive. Even when it seems obviously do-able.


  • I hadn’t been on Spotify since the first few weeks it was introduced. So I created a new account at the free level — knowing I’d be getting ads — and started listening to classical music. Mostly opera. The ads I got: Madonna. You would think that with all Spotify knows about my listening habits, they’d be the logical ones to craft one-to-one messages. Given the frequency of those Madonna ads, they clearly didn’t have many advertisers to choose from. You’d think they’d create house ads…but how many would they need?
  • Our children are 26 and 29 years old. I haven’t bought children’s clothes at Lands’ End (or much of anyplace else) in many years. So why is Lands’ End — a company I shop regularly — sending me promos for school uniforms? And while we’re on the subject, why didn’t my customer history follow me when I changed my preferred email address? Now the better discounts go to an old mailbox, while the new address gets less favorable offers. (Which raises the further question of what better rates lurk that I don’t know about.)

Apart from the fact that it just doesn’t make economic sense to have every sales effort tailored to every individual based on their activity on a site or in-store purchase history, many of us have multiple family members logging in and browsing/purchasing, which understandably confuses the vendor’s system.

Netflix has sought to solve that problem by establishing separate accounts family members can use. While Netflix’s recommendations for my wife and me still often reflect other family members’ viewing preferences, it’s a start. Maybe Netflix is still drawing on older selections prior to setting up the separate accounts. Meanwhile, Amazon used to be dead-on with books recommended for me (especially in more arcane subject matter), but not so much anymore.

I’m hardly the only one mystified by the lack of coordination between viewing/purchase history and the recommendations I get. Joe Queenan wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal recently, “Those Recommendations Don’t Compute.” I don’t expect one-to-one, but we should all at least receive loosely relevant when it’s online. The expectation online is different than, say, with a newspaper — a medium I still enjoy browsing precisely because I get to see things I wouldn’t search for or otherwise see — or even TV, where the expectation is still mass-targeted ads (destined to change eventually as well for all but the biggest event-viewing experiences such as the Super Bowl, where the ads are content in and of themselves).

On the plus side, my friend Andy tells me he got a promotion from Pandora pointing out that he’d listened to 800+ selections in a particular genre. The music network then suggested Pandora lists he should check out, and they were indeed relevant. That said, he summed up the concern many of us have about moving our listening from physical to online media: “maintaining the continuity of ownership.” That, however, is subject for another day.

Awesomeness Seeks to Bridge ‘Connectivity and Commerce’ For YouTube Stars

“They call themselves ‘creators,’ we call them ‘influencers,’” says Dreamworks/AwesomenessTV’s Jim Fielding. Dreamworks owns Awesomeness, which is a marketing engine for young (often very young) makers of YouTube videos. There is also an Awesomeness social media community for the tweens and teens that marketing engine targets.

Fielding, who spent more than a decade with Disney Stores, including four years as President, and then served as CEO of Claire’s, knows his audience — and old media types like me are decidedly not in his sights. Fielding’s mission: “Connectivity and commerce,” he says — to help those “creators” establish strong direct relationships with consumers as well as a strong retail presence.

From a viewer perspective, Awesomeness is an umbrella for YouTube channels that cater to these demographic groups. The nomenclature is awkward, though: Awesomeness refers to its social media offering as a network while it prompts those coming to its website to “Watch our channel.” But the “channel” is an aggregation of 91,000+ existing YouTube channels as well as those generated specifically by Awesomeness. And again, admittedly, I’m not the target, but I find the AwesomenessTV interface confusing for trying to find a specific creator’s work unless they happen to be featured. (Much easier to get there directly through YouTube.)

Semantics and my own navigation challenges aside, the channel signs creators with existing YouTube followings and uses its marketing expertise to propel them to higher levels of viewership. Licensing can become part of the package — that’s part of where Fielding figures in — though as in other entertainment realms, the creators often retain those rights for themselves, or their managers/agents/parents/lawyers or other handlers.

Still, the power of that umbrella is considerable. “Discovery might have 300,000 viewers for a very successful video,” Fielding told me at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas last month. “We put a video up yesterday that had 1.5 million views in three hours.” Awesomeness adds 24-32 “pieces of content per week, plus longform” videos. Awesomeness also creates videos for brands looking to engage its audience of tweens and teens.

While many see the shelf-life of these videos as extremely limited, Fielding points out that search can bring viewers back to old episodes. He cites as an example “Life So Rad,” a series created for retailer Kohl’s. When the third season went up, viewers sought out the first two seasons, which they found even though those older shows were no longer highlighted on the site.

That can be a blessing and a curse, since the fashions a Kohl’s might be featuring in a season one episode probably don’t exist by season two, let alone season three. Still, it signals that much sought after level of engagement.

Among the more successful of Awesomeness’s stars are:

  • Amanda Steele, who started posting YouTube videos when she was 10 and is now 16. Her subjects: beauty and fashion.
  • Ingrid Nilson, who has been making videos for seven years, was a judge on Project Runway, and has three million YouTube subscribers and at 26 is earning 6-7-figure endorsement and other marketing fees.
  • Tyler Oakley, a humorist, author, and gay rights advocate who used his social media celebrity to raise $1 million on his birthday for The Trevor Project, an L.A. non-profit that provides a safe haven for LGBT and questioning youth in times of crisis. On the more “commercial” side, he stages pajama parties on college campuses, where $250 VIP tickets include meet ups.

The company will support a new “creator” by backing production of 6-12 episodes. “If there’s the right engagement we’ll do more,” Fielding said.

Fielding sees the biggest threat to these celebrities’ longevity in how long they will be willing to produce two to three videos a week. “Most of them started by making selfies,” he notes. The more visibility they get, he adds, the more sophisticated the production values get and the more time it takes to produce even 2-3 minute clips.

The bottom line, says Fielding: “The fans will tell us when [the Awesomeness creators/influencers] aren’t relevant.”

Contact: Jim Fielding,