Posts tagged “licensing”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • ‘Law & Order’ canceled by NBC after 20 seasons: The culprit behind NY show’s demise? Low ratings [NY Daily News] – "Law & Order" is going the way of egg creams. After two decades and 451 shows, NBC pulled the plug on the New York-based series to make room for new shows. The series will end May 24. Once a top-10 show, "Law & Order" had struggled in recent years – along with the rest of NBC's prime-time lineup. This season the show is No. 56 overall.
  • ‘Little Orphan Annie’ comic strip skips off into the sunset [Washington Post] – Daddy Warbucks's favorite pupil-less redhead had enough Depression-tested pluck to survive 86 years in daily newspapers, but now the orphan's outta luck. Come June 13, her clear-eyed comic strip will end as her syndicate, Tribune Media Services, sends her off into the sunset. Canceled. "Believe me, this wasn't a decision we took lightly," said Steve Tippie, TMS's vice president of licensing. "But we also felt that 'Annie,' unlike many strips, has such wide, almost iconic presence in our culture that it would serve the character and our business best if we focused on other channels more appropriate to the 'kids' nature of the property." The strip's current artist, Ted Slampyak, said: "It's almost like mourning the loss of a friend."
  • In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Starts to Fade [] – Hello Kitty has been licensed to products like dolls, clothes, lunch boxes, stationery, kitchenware, a Macy’s parade balloon and even an Airbus. But amid signs that Hello Kitty’s pop-culture appeal is waning, especially at home, where sales have shrunk for a decade, the company has struggled to find its next-generation version of adorable. Recent flops include Spottie Dottie, a pink-frocked Dalmatian, and Pandapple, a baby panda. Even the moderately successful My Melody (a rabbit) and TuxedoSam (penguin) show no signs of achieving global Kitty-ness. “We badly need something else,” said Yuko Yamaguchi, Sanrio’s top Hello Kitty designer for most of its 36 years. “Characters take a long time to develop and introduce to different markets,” Ms. Yamaguchi said. “But Kitty has been so popular it’s overshadowed all our other efforts.” …In a ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Slot Music – it’s more than just a new format – Here's SanDisk's ecosystem approach (for digital music, not digital books, but still, it's illustrative). Leveraging their technology, they've begun putting digital music on solid state media (i.e., SD cards and what-have-you) that will go into multiple devices. They are piggybacking on the ecosystem of slots that already exists. I think it fully matures as an ecosystem when other other plays start making products, services, and accessories to support this standard.
  • New Yorker cartoon – “This one, when you open it, smells like the Times.” – Cartoon by Leo Cullum showing a sensory-enriched Kindle. Thanks to Tom Williams for the pointer!
  • Book Display Norms – Jan Chipchase – To what extent does the form, peruseability of books facilitate the behaviours around where they are sold?
  • San Franciscan Reads Finnegan’s Wake Aloud, In Public – In the aftermath of the Finnegan's Wake Book Club dissolution.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Now consumers can get some of that reality-show style in their own homes – Bravo is developing products based on its popular programs, including the “Real Housewives” franchise and “Top Chef,” that will be promoted on the air and sold on Bravo’s Web site. The network will earn licensing fees or take a cut of sales. The line includes bags for $595 from the brand Kooba; designs created by contestants on the new series “The Fashion Show”; “Top Chef”-themed flower arrangements from Teleflora; “Top Chef” branded wines from Terlato Wines International; “Top Chef” knives from Master Cutlery; and online cooking classes conducted by “Top Chef” contestants.

    Frances Berwick, executive vice president and general manager of Bravo Media, said that “the revenue from this is minuscule by comparison to what we think it’ll do for our brand. This is a fun way to satisfy what we’re hearing from our viewers: that they like our shows, that they like our taste,” Ms. Berwick said. “It’s about giving our viewers a greater immersion in the brand.”

Brand lifecycles

Rob Walker had another great piece, Can a Dead Brand Live Again? in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine. He profiles River West Brands, a firm that resurrects and reinvigorates inactive brands, similar to The Himmel Group that I mentioned here recently.

Walker also describes

the Licensing International Expo, an annual event at which the owners of cultural properties – TV shows, movies, cartoon characters – meet with makers of things and try to negotiate deals granting them a paid license to use the properties to add meaning and market value to whatever things they make. It is a good place to contemplate the business potential of “the brand” in free-floating form, unmoored to any product or company that may have actually created it. A surprising number of the symbols represented at the expo held last summer in New York were simply brand logos. Spam, for instance, had its own booth. IMC Licensing was there on behalf of its clients Oreo, Altoids, Dole and Oscar Mayer. At one point I encountered a person dressed up as a can of Lysol, which is represented by the Licensing Company.

In 2004 I ran a discussion panel at the Licensing International Expo. You can check out the FreshMeat column where I related my impressions of the event here, and see tons of photos are here.

The image in the banner above!

Licensing Show ’05

Amazing that my Licensing Show experience was an entire year ago. Times flies. Read about last year’s experience in a previous FreshMeat and check out this NYT story about this year’s event.

At the Licensing 2005 show, which runs through today at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, other cartoon and real-life characters are also in search of comebacks, including Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Liberace.

“Nostalgia is a hit,” said Mike Alic, general manager of the show, as he stood under a depiction of Superman stopping an 18-wheeler from falling off a bridge. “The people running the licensing business had these brands in their childhood, and they appreciate the decreased risk of going with already proven track records.”

Necco, one of the country’s oldest candy companies, is pushing its flagship wafers and Clark bar icons to apparel makers. “There’s comfort with the familiar,” said Ross Misher, president of Brand Central LLC, the Los Angeles-based licensing agency representing Necco.

Kellogg is a partner with 20 licensees to produce products including Norman Rockwell-printed ceramic cereal bowls. The company is drawing from its own century-old archive of more than a million pieces of art that includes works by Rockwell, J. C. Leyendecker and Andrew Loomis, and has a domestic deal for a 1960’s style Tony the Tiger bikini that is already a hit in Japan.

The cereal maker has signed off on licensed stationery and puzzles to help it reintroduce the original Snap! Crackle! and Pop! characters from its Rice Krispies brand, as well as Sugar Pops Pete and Smaxey the seal, the long-retired spokescritter for Sugar Smacks. (Now known as Honey Smacks, and touted by Dig’Em frog.)

Throwback marketing is also being used for toys, with the Care Bears, My Little Pony and the Cabbage Patch Kid characters displayed prominently at the show.

Hasbro is heavily promoting Transformers, the toy robots that first hit the big time during the Reagan era. Interest in the brand had been declining until 2002, when the toymaker joined with the Cartoon Network to introduce three new generations of characters. Hasbro is currently working with DreamWorks and Paramount for a Transformers movie, and exploring deals with licensees to support the movie’s release with apparel, video games and even Transformer bandages.

“We’re bringing it back in a way that dads can relive their childhoods with their children,” said Bryony Bouyer, a senior vice president at Hasbro.

In addition to Underdog, Classic Media is promoting Richie Rich, Peter Cottontail and Mr. Peabody, the time-traveling, bespectacled genius dog. Classic has sought deals to get these and other classic animation and children’s programming back into the mainstream, including making Mr. Magoo a co-star with Tiger Woods in an American Express ad, and having Lassie scare off a cougar in a commercial for General Electric.

Classic Media is also promoting Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, Roger Ramjet and Gerald McBoing Boing , which will have a new series on the Cartoon Network.

“These characters have an emotional tug that sticks around,” said Leslie Levine, Classic’s head of worldwide licensing.

I Love Liberace, a Las Vegas-based company that secured exclusive worldwide licensing rights from Liberace’s estate, has a booth with towels, bags and clothing featuring Liberace kicking like a Rockette. In addition to having trademarked the phrase “Mr. Showmanship,” the company aims to roll out Liberace barbecue sauce, complete with edible glitter.

Much of the old imagery is being revised with the help of new technology.

After a 19-year hiatus, Superman is expected to hit movie theaters next year with a healthy helping of computer-generated imagery. And the jingle “Everyone knows it’s Slinky” is now available as a cellphone ring tone.

TV Guide is offering 1960’s-era TV theme songs over cellphones, with wireless trivia games as well.

FreshMeat #22: License To Shill

FreshMeat #22 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh
                \\/  Meat

Can’t have any pudding if you don’t read FreshMeat!
We make no mention of the huge bottle of Yoo-hoo beverage
Last month I flew to New York to attend the Licensing
International tradeshow
. If SpongeBob is going to end up
on a box of cereal in the next two years, this is where
that deal is likely to go down.

I had been interested in attending this tradeshow simply
because I saw it on a morning news program (Today, Good
Morning America, etc.) a few years back. I don’t think I
even caught the name of the show, I just remember being
awestruck by the visual impact of the show itself. It was
a colorful chaotic jungle of familiar brands promoting
themselves, with guys in KISS costumes and Strawberry
Shortcake outfits wandering around. I decided to someday
attend this magical event. Eventually I figured out what
the show (and the business itself) was called – licensing!
Expecting a new and fascinating facet of culture, product
development, business, and marketing, I arranged to attend
as a speaker, organizing and moderating a panel on
consumer trends

With a bit of ethnographic curiosity, I set out to learn
more of what this community/practice/business is all
about. Typically, my work starts with products, with the
cultural aspects moving to encompass issues of brand. I
was prepared for a shift in focus, with this show starting
with the brand, but I was surprised to discover that in
licensing one doesn’t even deal with “brands,” but rather
“properties.” I’m sure some brand theorist could explain
the difference and we’d be enlightened, but let’s just
marvel for a moment at the lingo. I think culturally we’ve
internalized the distance between the marketing word
“brand” and the cowboy word “brand” because it is a bit of
an uncomfortable connection. But now the entities in
question are actual things that can be exchanged (or
licensed) rather than simply labels that are burned into
flesh to signify ownership. Fair enough.

The tradeshow was interesting, to put it mildly.
Immediately you see that everything imaginable is
available for licensing. I thought I was prepared for
this, I mean if one more person tells me that Martha
Stewart and Ralph Lauren are brands, I’m going to shriek.
Okay, got it. But the licensing business takes it further.
Did you know that John Wayne and Andrew Weil (the bearded
purveyor of wellness) are both brands, er, properties? I’m
not talking about a conceptual sense of property-ness, I
mean they are owned, managed, marketed and ready for
licensing. Other brands/people/products that are also
properties include: Andy Warhol, Antiques Roadshow, Buzz
Aldrin, Chicken Soup for the Soul, CSI: Miami, Dairy
Queen, National Enquirer, NYPD, Siegfried and Roy, Bozo
the Clown, Village People, Terminator 2, Rocky, and
Shrek 3 (yeah, 3).

And so the tradeshow is overflowing with displays that
showcase known and unknown properties. In some cases the
company themselves will be in attendance (i.e., Nickelodeon
with SpongeBob) and in other cases there are holding
companies and agents with boring neutral names (i.e.,
Equity Management Inc. or IMC Licensing) some of whom have
an amusing combination of properties making up their palette
(Zippo, Mr. Clean, Crayola, Andrew Weil, and Pennzoil in
one case; Midway Games, Terminator 2, Village People,
Musicland Band and U.S. Secret Service in another) and
others with quite obvious specialties (IMC had a booth
touting Jello-O, Kool-Aid, Planters, Oscar Mayer, Kraft,
Tabasco, Manischewitz and others – although it appears
they also manage other licenses, such as the science-
fiction show “Red Dwarf”). And in other cases there are
up-and-coming (hopefully) properties that most of us
haven’t heard of.

It gets more complicated. For example, American Greetings
(the card company) hired the consumer products division of
Nickelodeon (the TV channel) to handle Holly Hobbie for
them. Nick is part of Viacom, a huge conglomerate, and
they have enough horsepower that they can take on business
handling other properties for other groups. It seems like
there was business going in every direction. Property
owners looking to sign up a licensor, agents repping their
portfolios, licensees with products looking for
distributors, and every possible permutation.

But it’s hard to see the dealflow – mostly you just see
people in suits and costumes, and a countless number of
booths. Check out my photos from the show (including scans
of some of the artifacts I picked up) here.
I spent several hours walking the floors with my
colleagues, looking at as much as we could, until we
reached total property burnout. Although this was an
industry show, the tactic was to seduce us as consumers. I
posed for pictures with SpongeBob and Patrick, and Mr.
Peanut, and the Care Bears, and more. I sampled the Krispy
Kremes covered in candy fish-shaped sprinkles (for some
to-be-released film). I grabbed free manga, stickers,
postcards, and peered at the current Lassie. After all
that, here are some of my observations.

It seems that many previously dormant properties are back!
Or at least, that’s a common phrase. Holly Hobbie is back!
Trollz are back! Although, in fact, Trollz are an update
of Troll dolls (small toys with long stiff brightly
colored hair), so strictly speaking they may not really be
back. Fido Dido (mostly known for 7-Up ads in the 90s)
appears to be back, and so are Davey and Goliath, those
earnest clay purveyors of biblical insight.

One surprising pattern was a variety of properties or
artifacts that showed a large number of different
feelings, moods, or attitudes. Sesame Street had a single-
sheet magnet featuring 12 different Muppets with
associated moods – Oscar as “crabby”, Elmo as “ticklish”,
Cookie Monster as “hungry”, Guy Smiley as “smiley”, etc.
and a separate magnet, reading “I’m feeling” that can be
used as a frame to be placed on top of the characters to
display your mood to the world. This was very similar to
the “feelings poster” sometimes used in therapy.

Anther example was Mood Frog who appears without labels,
but has a range of facial expressions suggesting anger,
boredom, nausea, confusion, etc. The Fear’s are, as you
might imagine, afraid of very specific things: dirt,
germs, cooking, flat hair, and veggies. Another line of
products featured a grid of baby faces with a variety of
moods: cranky, quiet, sleepy, happy, poopy, and so on. One
property featured cartoon girls with different attitudes
(I don’t have the specifics, but something like “The Shy
Thinker” “The Clever Go-getter” etc.) that presumably
tapped into something that the target audience could
identify with. I guess “The Breakfast Club” (a film that
segmented high school kinds into tidy parcels like The
Jock, The Nerd, The Criminal, The Princess, and The
Basketcase) lives on in one form or another.

Choosing a mood is already a mode in current products and
features, especially online. For example, Moods on (a blogging site popular with the younger
crowd) offers the following default set of choices
(inviting you to add more as needed): accomplished,
aggravated, amused, angry, annoyed, anxious, apathetic,
artistic, awake, bitchy, blah, blank, bored, bouncy, busy,
calm, cheerful, chipper, cold, complacent, confused,
contemplative, content, cranky, crappy, crazy, creative,
crushed, curious, cynical, depressed, determined, devious,
dirty, disappointed, discontent, distressed, ditzy, dorky,
drained, drunk, ecstatic, embarrassed, energetic, enraged,
enthralled, envious, excited, exhausted,
flirty, frustrated, full, geeky, giddy, giggly, gloomy,
good, grateful, groggy, grumpy, guilty, happy, high,
hopeful, horny, hot, hungry, hyper, impressed,
indescribable, indifferent, infuriated, intimidated,
irate, irritated, jealous, jubilant, lazy, lethargic,
listless, lonely, loved, melancholy, mellow, mischievous,
moody, morose, naughty, nauseated, nerdy, nervous,
nostalgic, numb, okay, optimistic, peaceful, pensive,
pessimistic, pissed off, pleased, predatory, productive,
quixotic, recumbent, refreshed, rejected, rejuvenated,
relaxed, relieved, restless, rushed, sad, satisfied,
scared, shocked, sick, silly, sleepy, sore, stressed,
surprised, sympathetic, thankful, thirsty, thoughtful,
tired, touched, uncomfortable, weird, working, and

Similarly, IM (instant messenger) and web forums both
offer a huge set of smileys (or emoticons) as this
screenshot from the IM program Trillian suggests:

The thrust of this multiple-mood approach seems to be two-
fold: first, just like a line of toothpaste with multiple
flavors and features, we can find the one that suits us
best, and second, the display of so many different
feelings at once appeals to a certain vain sense of our
own emotional complexity.

Elsewhere at the show, girls with attitude were prominent.
This movement got a lot of press earlier this year when
David & Goliath (not the churchgoing boy and dog, but a
clothing company) caused controversy with a clothing
displaying slogans such as “Boys are Stupid – Throw
Rocks At Them” (read more here)

We saw attitude (the very cute Dog of Glee encouraging
you to “have a nice day buttface”) and mean girls galore.
“Angry Little Asian Girl” and “Emily the Strange” were two of
my favorites (probably because I had the opportunity to talk with the
artists and creators of the property, get a sense of who
they were and what their characters were about for them).

A lot of characters involved cats. Some were swanky
princess type cats, skinny, with a Parisian posture,
perhaps with a tiara. Some were emotional (“Sad Kitty
speaks for everyone who has ever experienced heartbreak,
disappointment, and the general hardships of life. Sad
Kitty cries the tears of all mankind!”) while some
companies offered a huge range of cat properties to suit a
variety of moods and attitudes (The Grinning Cat, Blue
Mood Cats, Tribal Cat, Three Hip Kittens, Flower Cat, Rain
Poodle, Art Cat, The Guitar Cat, Tropical Kitty, Dead
Kitty, and Lucky Cat all come from a San Francisco company
called Tokyo Bay).

The aesthetic of Japanese anime is a powerful influence,
with many different animated characters that typically
have flared legs, short bodies, big heads, big eyes, and
sometimes rather adult physical development. Homies and
Mijos come from da ‘hood. Previously infantile Troll dolls
are now sexed-up Trollz. Petz includes Catz and Dogz. And
there’s something called “Rock Hard Fairies” which claims
that “Fairies Just Got Cool!!”

Another tactic was to anthropomorphize whatever hadn’t
previously been given the breath of life (or big cartoony
eyes). We saw an elevator car and Doggy Poo, to name but

And finally, some properties were cool and funny simply
because they were foreign and literally didn’t quite
translate. A whole segment of the floor was operated by
the Korean Culture and Content Agency featuring Big Ear
Rabbit (“The Fundamental Concepts is the adventurous
travel by the boys with complex in their individual
surrounding with Big Ear Rabbit, Roy who is centered with
them and the boys are finding out their good point rather
than their own demerit. This is the story telling method
to be estimated by the boys themselves in the process of
hearing the story clearly, but is different from the
direct story telling method that the esteemed fathers told
their children the instructions.”), Ayap (“Dews in the
cave gathered into the magic bead for a thousand years,
and he was born there…He is good and pure. When he drinks
dews collected in the magic bead, his power rises a lot so
that he can help other people who are at a crisis. He
likes diverse kinds of sports. His is a sport-mania.”) and
JaJa (“She is the girl who always goes on a diet. We’re
trying to develop ‘A diet characters’ mainly for the ages
between 17 to 30, young females who strongly want to be
healthy and beauty. Providing a pleasant infotainment
contents throughout funny diet stories.”).

It’s not clear what lessons there are to be learned here –
no matter how many interesting, creative, and resonant
properties I encountered, I left the tradeshow muttering
about “too much crap.” It was overwhelming. Perhaps the
lessons could be found by looking at patterns over time:
what properties survive, what clever licensing deals get
struck (will there be John Wayne pet food? Or Homies
tampons?), and how do the established brands like Sesame
Street and SpongeBob evolve over time to stay current. In
order to assess those types of things, I may have to go
back next year!

My photos (including scans of handouts) from the Licensing
show are here.


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