33-year-old software engineer Shraddha Sharma is a movie buff. More so a Hollywood buff and never fails to catch the latest releases. She also likes shopping for products inspired by movies and her recent collection includes Star Wars backpacks, The Last Jedi mug, Game of Thrones t-shirts, phone covers and tea coasters. She also has a red satchel inspired by Beauty and the Beast. She uses these products on a regular basis, often carrying the satchel to work and using the mugs and coasters at her work desk.
Just like Sharma, several professionals are embracing merchandise inspired by movies, sports and celebrities wholeheartedly. Hitherto relegated primarily towards children, the market for licensed merchandise is fast enveloping the youth and adults, those with a zest for sports and movies and a yearning to shop.
“The wide adaptation of pop culture, easy access to global trends and content across genres, high levels of brand awareness, and the increase in average disposable income are major factors why the (licensed merchandise) industry has shifted its focus from kids to adolescents and adults,” says Jiggy George, founder & CEO of brand management and licensing company, Dream Theatre.
Estimates suggest that the licensing market is worth $1.3 billion in India and is growing at a healthy rate of 10-12% every year. Of this, the market for adult merchandise is roughly 45%. India is also regarded as one of the top three developing markets for licensed merchandise, set to grow exponentially in the next five years alongside other emerging markets such as Brazil and China.
“And of the total Indian licensing market, fashion holds much sway, comprising $731 million, followed by entertainment at $401 million,” says George.
With the Indian retail market touted to scale upwards of $1.1 trillion by 2020 (as per Assocham), it will directly impact the demand for merchandise inspired by entertainment and sports, feel experts.
According to brand consultant Harish Bijoor, having a collection of merchandise associated with entertainment, sports or films is perceived as making a lifestyle statement. “There is an entire generation of people who have grown up on brands such as Star Wars and Beauty and the Beast. Today these adults are fascinated by merchandise inspired by such films that are iconic. Shopping for the merchandise elevates their mood and status in their social circuits,” says Bijoor.
“The Disney collection was aimed at adults with memories of Disney and those who still love fantasy,” says Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign, which introduced a special collection inspired by the movie Beauty and the Beast; and which consisted of premium leather bags, wallets, stylish totes and satchels that had the movie characters fused with Hidesign’s leathers.
Experts say earlier, licensing in India was largely rooted in animation and hence what hit the stores mainly focused on school-goers and included toys, kids apparel, school bags and other knick-knacks.
“Character content is no longer focussed on kids. Movies such as Batman, Superman, Hulk or Spiderman are no longer made just for kids but cater to a family audience. Even animation movies have a broader appeal. So a child who grew up watching Pokemon in the early 2000s is today playing Pokemon GO and has a nostalgia connect with the property and a range of Pokemon t-shirts to choose from. Likewise, design programmes of hitherto kids’ properties like Mickey and Minnie (mouse) now have art programmes made for adults that have aspirational quotients,” says George.
Brands look towards merchandise as a noteworthy channel to reach out to a newer set of consumers and thereby expand their target consumer base. Kapur says the Disney collection helped them reach beyond the existing world of Hidesign, “inspired by careers and travel, to the Disney world which is much larger. It’s not surprising that it was a great success, with sell-through that went beyond an average new collection. It shows clearly that a creative collaboration, as long as it fits into the brand value of the two collaborators, works in expanding the customer base through licensing.”
Experts say sports licensing is also driving growth in the adult market for merchandise in India. “We have seen a massive spurt in business for our sports properties like Real Madrid and FIFA 2018 (in the adult space) with categories like apparel, gifts, sporting accessories, bags and more. The adult merchandise market is coming of age in India,” says George.
Mumbai: Smiles are contagious, and no one knows this better than Nicolas Loufrani, who in 1997, created the first-ever 3D smiley. Two decades on, his Smiley Company, which is known for nearly 1,000 emojis and smileys that people share on social media, has big plans for India, which it sees as a market with immense potential.
Says Mr. Loufrani, CEO, “I am here, which indicates that India is at the top of my priorities. We are seeking new partners for more collaborations.”
The Smiley Company will enter new categories here, and foresees volumes coming in from FMCG, fashion, toys, school products, home decor and footwear. The company is already into fashion products in India through its licencees Lifestyle Departmental stores and Archies Gift shops. Mr. Loufrani says the company will introduce new collections in India from its global portfolio. “We want to grow four-fold in three years here to a retail revenue of to $20 million from $5 to 6 million.”
Last year, the company appointed Dream Theater as its representative to enter into new partnerships. Jiggy George, Founder & CEO, says the licensing industry is at an early stage in India but is poised to grow exponentially. “Our strategy is to be present at more retail chains and forge alliances with fashion and lifestyle brands.”
The Smiley Company is one of the top 100 licensing companies in the world, with over 310 licensees globally. The Smiley trademark is registered in over 100 countries. According to a recent Toluna survey, it has 97% recognition across the world as a symbol of positivity. “Last year, our licensees sold over $400 million worth of products globally across 13 different industries.”
The idea, says Mr. Loufrani, is to “spread smiles throughout the world.”
“When I started developing the digital smiley in 1997 and started the official smiley dictionary in 2001, I had said it was the birth of a universal language. My slogan then was to create a new form of communication that people could use to bring more emotions into their communication and replace words with the images.”
Trends may come and go, but the Smiley face is clearly here to stay. Nicolas Loufrani, the man responsible for taking his father’s creation and making it into a brand, talks about how the Smiley transcended being an emotion to being an icon. The simple yellow face with its unique set of features spreads its message of happiness after years of hard work, effort and strategy. Loufrani, the face behind the face, credits business vision to the popularity of the character. Currently in India, along with Dream Theatre, Smiley is all set to spread the cheer after the Smiley X ONLY capsule collection sold out in record time.
How did the Smiley become pop culture’s biggest celebrity?
Nicolas: “Smiley wouldn’t live without the products, it lives through products and marketing campaigns that are spreading the message. All these brands like Zara, Moschino, or Lifestyle in India, they like the values of the Smiley brand, that’s been around for 46 years spreading this message of the smile.”
The best selling product with the Smiley face on it?
“If I look at it through the decades, it’s always been T-shirts in apparel that carry the smiley. And then in food, it’s the potato chip — the potato Smileys. But last year, it was water. Two hundred million bottles of water with the Nestle group, that was the product of 2017.”
The oddest place you’ve ever seen the Smiley?
I’m very open-minded, so nothing is weird to me. I think even if I was seeing a Smiley on a coffin it would look normal to me. I haven’t seen it, maybe it will be on my coffin…”
What do you think about the smiley on runways?
I always like to create collections with fashion designers and put them on the catwalk. To be in the cooler stores as a way to create very iconic pieces even celebrities would wear. Pop singers are going to wear only very creative pieces, like the line we created with Jeremy Scott. We like to be aligned with the music scene. Music makes us very happy, it brings happiness in people’s life, I think.
So why is the Smiley yellow?
Yellow is the colour of the sun, it gives us life, it’s the colour of the brand. But in terms of the product, it can be anything; black and white, sequins, in colours. But we don’t change its features. We have a very unique way of drawing our Smiley, it’s not like an emoji.
Did the emoji make the Smiley more popular?
Emoji is basically a copy of the Smiley, we have our own art direction. They’ve followed our concept of a universal language for communication. But it was originated by me in 1997 as a project and emoji has taken it to a different level. I think it’s a positive thing for us, I always say when you start an art movement or a fashion movement, it’s the best proof that you’ve created something unique and created an impact on the world.
What’s your favourite rendition of Smiley?
There’s this French designer, after his shows he always comes out with his red beanie hat. So we created a Smiley for him wearing the hat. It’s the collection I wear the most.
If Smiley were a person, who would he be?
That’s me. The original Smiley is my father, a larger-than-life character. The Smiley was launched two weeks after I was born, we’re twin brothers.
In India, where would you like to see it?
Actually, I was asking about charities. We have the Smiley fund, I was asking what are biggest foundations in India. I would like to align with them and our own foundation. And do real good. We spread happiness through our products and the real life aspect of it is doing real good and spreading happiness like that.
The India Fashion Forum 2018 (13th-14th March 2018) was a roaring success with participants across brands, retailers, thought-leaders, academicians and fashion intelligentsia drawn from across India and the world. In a first, The Indian Fashion Forum partnered with Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association (LIMA) to shine a spotlight on the Licensing Business and how it has been on the forefront of driving growth in fashion.
The panel discussion titled “Fashion Licensing: Driving Growth Globally and In India” had the luminaries of the licensing industry participate to highlight the role of licensing in fashion. Moderated by Jiggy George, Head of LIMA India & Founder and CEO of Dream Theatre, Ms Maura Regan Executive Vice President , Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association delivered the opening statement and the eminent panelists included Nicolas Loufrani, CEO of The Smiley Company, Sanjeet Mehta – Executive Director, Consumer Products, Disney India, Girish Kumar, Trading Head Shoppers Stop, Vivek Bali, COO, Sephora, Manohar Kamath – CXO and Head Myntra Fashion Brands and Shweta Pandey Director-Counsel, Head Legal & Member, Board of Directors, Target. The discussion was a engaging, interactive session and highlights included advantages of licensing versus creating own brands, the solid contributions of licensing in the e-commerce businesses, how licensing across fashion, entertainment and celebrity pods is helping retailers offer new products and connect with their consumers, challenges in the Indian industry and how retailers and brands can leverage licensing along with their own brands to create a strong product portfolio.
The Indian industry, over the years, has warmed up to the idea of licensing. The fact that it is moving to new genres and shifting focus from kids to adults, owing to shows like Game of Thrones, Batman, Superman and host of other big franchises is a testament to this. At the helm of the licensing industry is Jiggy George, Head of The International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association and Founder of Dream Theatre. Exchange4media caught up with George who shared his insight on the licensing industry, the reasons behind IPs not being able to leverage success in the merchandising front and more.
How has the journey been with Dream Theatre and how has venturing into jewellery and digital licensing helped the brand?
As a company, we have always been in the forefront of driving change. We’ve been growing the market from being a kids-and entertainment market to a more encompassing one. We’re driving the strategy for Angry Birds which was India’s first successful digital property, not based in the TV, to become one of the hottest licensing properties in India with a slew of products and FMCG promotions. We also explored new areas of licensing like a jewellery collaboration with Mrinalini Chandra for Candy Crush – a collaboration that brought together a new age digital property with India’s jewellery legacy using craft techniques like Meenakari and Jaali. In yet another first, we represent two YouTube phenomenon, ChuChu TV and Gummy Bear for global rights.
Being the pioneer in the industry, can you tell us about the kind of growth that the licensing sector has witnessed? How much is the industry pegged at?
It’s a sea change! The pre-licensing era was the pirated, parallel imports days without any active legitimate licensees or play in the market. And today, along with Brazil and China, we are the emerging market of the world in licensing, valued at US $1396 million of retail sales as of 2016. It’s a market teeming with opportunities across multiple licensing genres and a solid base of property owners, licensors, representative agents, licensees, retailers and allied firms at play.
While there is a latent demand for products, has retail addressed the penetration and have knock offs reduced?
One of the tick marks for licensing to success in any market is organized retail and this is one place India lags behind woefully. Organized retail is still less than 10 per cent of the market and therefore there is a massive gap in demand and supply of authentic licensed products. The result is piracy. India now has a strong set up of licensees which are able to create world class products at prices that work for India, but we still have a long way to go to reach every consumer and every fan. E-commerce has managed to address this to some extent; licensing will really flourish with the growth of retail.
What are the reasons behind IPs not being able to leverage success on the merchandising front?
India has had some great success stories with home grown IPs like Chota Bheem which also has a very successful licensing program. While there are some massive hits of local IPs on TV, most of them have not been able to leverage the same success on the merchandising front. Licensing needs a long term vision and strategy and needs to be a part of the blueprint when a property is being created.
More often than not what we see in India is that after a property becomes a hit on TV, its quickly extended into licensing as an afterthought. For instance, Dream Theatre is the global licensing partner for ChuChu TV, but before embarking on the licensing journey, we worked closely with the team to set the vision, the strategy and got the property license ready. This deep dive into planning the licensing objectives, life -cycle and the strategy is what most Indian IPs lack and are therefore not able to reach their full potential.
How does licensing help in elevating campaign presence?
Licensing based campaigns are clutter breaking and effective. We are so used to seeing the same principles and communication strategies at play for years that they are now falling on blind spots. Using licensing to align the communication message or product DNA can really help create stand-out communication, more-so in the digital space and this is one area which marketers and agencies need to push harder. Licensing has delivered solid results in promotional licensing across FMCG players versus same old generic promotions and it has the same potential for delivering the message and achieving the objectives for marketing.
What is the way forward for Dream Theatre and your recent venture Mojostar?
For Dream Theatre, we see massive potential of the overall business in India and will continue to consolidate our leadership position in Entertainment, Sports and Lifestyle. 2018 will see a special focus on growing Lifestyle brands and DTRs in retail and a lot more engagement at retail. On the international front, we are in discussion with a few iconic properties which we will be announcing soon. Our quest for doing more, pushing the envelope, bringing the best of international to India and vice versa will continue through 2018.
In India, there is an obvious market opportunity for celebrity brands but the authentic approach to celebrity brand creation has not yet matured. And this is where Mojostar is laser focused and envisages creating three to four celebrity partnered brands in the next five years.
In early February, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan dazzled Australians by appearing in a black fishtail-style gown with a perfectly fitting lace bodice embellished with gemstones. The former beauty queen was attending the launch of a Longines boutique in Sydney in her capacity as the Ambassador of Elegance for the Swiss premium watch brand. Rai has been the face of Longines since 1999 and more recently, the endorser of French cosmetics brand L’Oreal since 2003. Likewise, her Bollywood counterpart Shah Rukh Khan can boast of South Korean automobile giant Hyundai retaining him as their ambassador for two decades (and more).
Brands are often seen changing their celeb ambassadors as the seasons change, bringing in currently reigning icons and younger faces to portray the brand’s evolving qualities. Why then do certain brands prefer continuing their association with a particular celeb for years together?
Brands are all about the long-term, about consistency; and if the celebrity too can be ‘long-term’, it’s a rare phenomenon, says advertising and branding veteran Ramanujam Sridhar. He says Hyundai (for example) have acknowledged the value of Shah Rukh to the brand’s launch, success, and growth. “Shah Rukh has been involved with the launch of the company when it was not so well-known here and SRK was the big brand. His ads ‘Should I or Shouldn’t I’ certainly made waves. His charisma and appeal to women helped the brand as he did commercials with Preity Zinta. It’s a tribute to the resilience of the star and the consistency of the brand owners that the association has endured,” says Sridhar.
Just like in any partnership, long-term associations, especially when they continue to stay relevant, are always good for a brand, says Jiggy George, founder & CEO of brand management and licensing company Dream Theatre. According to George, the brand and the celeb must continue to evolve and echo the same DNA. “The celeb’s performance equity must continue to grow in such associations and if that is not the case, the association can run the risk of being out-of-touch,” says George.
Moreover, having the same ambassador enhances brand recognition and recall, say experts, as the celeb becomes the signature of the brand, helping the message to get delivered faster to the consumer.
However, the drawbacks of the same face for a brand are too many to be ignored. Long-term associations with a celeb can do more harm than good, says Kaustav Das, CEO of creative agency Ralph & Das.
Firstly, says Das, the brand’s fortunes get inexorably linked to the celeb’s fortunes. If the celeb faces a controversy or his or her performance sinks, it impacts the brand. “Secondly, celebs age and their personality matures over time. But brands have to evolve and stay fresh all the time. Celebs cannot necessarily evolve to comply with a brand’s re-set vision,” says Das, who feels that hiring celebs ‘’is the conventional wisdom of lazy marketers.”
Having different ambassadors helps maintain freshness in a brand’s communication, say experts, “As new celeb endorsers address changes in consumer preferences. It also helps to send out a new message or advocate a novel product or service with a new celeb.”
Do mascots like the Amul baby or Air India maharaja stand a better chance over celebs then?
“Perhaps”, feel experts. Das says the mascot can evolve. “A fine example is the V-Guard kangaroo evolving after 40 years. Or the Qantas Airlines kangaroo that has undergone changes over the years.”
Mascots can never get into controversies, says Sridhar. “But the challenge is that they have no appeal of their own and it has to be entirely created. But brands like Amul have managed to do it over the years.’’
Mascots can also be used to convey topical messages (like the Amul baby) “without having to resort to long-term planning, coordination, shoots, etc. But mascots have to be created and invested in over decades to turn legendary,” says George.
Having the same ambassador enhances brand recognition and recall, say experts
A celebrity or a mascot becomes the signature of the brand
But having different ambassadors helps maintain freshness in a brand’s communication