Licensing: The secret weapon in an Indian marketer’s arsenal
Source: WARC Exclusive, May 2021
Licensing offers Indian brands many opportunities but Dream Theatre’s Jiggy George says it is ignored by leadership teams and their strategy.
Indian marketers can use licensing as a way to test the market and launch in non-core categories.
Through licensing, Indian consumers can tap into the brand promise and reputation of the mother brand.
Successful licensed brands reflect years of investment and the core brand’s performance.
Why it matters
The global licensing industry is estimated at nearly US$300 billion with an annual growth rate of 12% but most Indian marketers have not explored this option because companies in India prefer to produce and market themselves versus partner via licensing.
Licensing is an excellent tool for Indian brand owners to protect their IP and reinforce branding while reaching new consumers.
At the same time, licensees save as no resources are needed for brand building with a market-ready brand.
The sophisticated online medium in India offers the best solution for licensing with better control of piracy.
Are you an Indian marketer with a strong brand that has brand extension possibilities in categories outside of your core business? Licensing could be your answer to bridge this challenge.
Why create a new team and distribution when you could license the brand to someone who has these capabilities and intent?
For years, I thought it would be great to see the Indian mega-brand Amul license its distinct flavor of butter to a cookie manufacturer and launch Amul cookies. Then, Amul decided to do it in-house, perhaps due to it being an extension of the brand’s food business and because of its distribution network.
It’s not to fault Amul’s management decision but it could have considered partnering in this category with an established player like ITC foods or Parle and keeping their focus on dairy products.
Licensing is one of the potent tools in the arsenal of a marketer that checks many boxes, beyond the obvious one of revenue generation. I also believe it’s a closely guarded secret that has not unlocked its potential in India as it’s not in the MBA curriculum or on the menu cards of marketers.
I call it a closely guarded secret as there is more than meets the eye. Consumer durables like a hairdryer, toaster, headphones or perfumes are usually licensed products. Consumers unaware of this are tapping into the brand promise and reputation of the mother brand. It’s also the outcome of years of investments made by brand owners in their core business. So the brand owner invests in building its core business and licenses the possibilities outside the core.
This is also true for entertainment brands. Lines get blurred as properties may start with one medium and move to others. They could have started from comics (like DC and Marvel), movies (Lucas and Star Wars), books (Harry Potter), toys (He-man), games (Pokémon) or design (Hello Kitty). Regardless, the fact is that owners have made investments worth millions of dollars in the content to then make extensions for their brand and leverage consumer products via licensing.
The more successful licensed brands reflect years of investment and performance of their core brand. It’s akin to sport – we are less likely to be bothered by a million endorsements/extensions from a sportsmanlike Virat Kohli as long as he keeps winning on the field. This is also the reason why Air Jordans are timeless and so too Kanye West and his brand Yeezy with Adidas. The design aesthetic is great but it’s unlikely to have worked if their body of work was not inspiring. We are tapping into the trust and performance of the “mother ship”.
Understanding the concept better
Simplistically, licensing is like a simple lease agreement. The owner of a brand (licensor) leases the intellectual property to a third party (licensee) for a designated time and geography and for a fee. This fee is usually like royalty on sales and a minimum guarantee model.
The global licensing industry was estimated at US$292.8 billion in 2019 at retail and is growing at 12%annually.Therearemanykindsoflicensing.Fromcorporatelicensing(likesofCoca-Cola,HarleyDavidson,Ford) to collegiate licensing (Harvard, Yale, etc).
Indiaranks18thintheworldwithUS$1,864millionatretailwitha0.6%share.Characterentertainment,corporate, and fashion are its top three categories.
Besides the obvious benefits of revenue, licensing allows marketers to test market their brand in geographies before they actually spend resources for a full-fledged launch. It allows marketers to protect their IP and reinforce their brand positioning. It also allows a brand owner to extend its offering to new target consumers, for example, many cannot afford an Amani suit or Fendi bag but they can buy the perfume.
Similarly, one may not be able to purchase an MF Hussain or Raza artwork but a mug embellished with the splendour of their designs would be our cup of tea.
Licensing also reinforces brand equity and authenticity. Bourbon brand Jack Daniels extending into chocolates or barbecue sauces is an example.
Beyond all of this, licensing is the transference of emotions of trust, pride, and humour of the mother brand to the licensed offering. This explains why sporting teams license their brand into merchandise and why fans sport them with pride.
For a licensee, it saves them the resources of brand building by leaning on a market-ready brand.
Why has India not fully realised the value of licensing?
I believe most marketers have not explored licensing as a possibility in their marketing plan. With corporate brands, there are many opportunities and it’s largely a function of the leadership teams and their strategy. Indian companies prefer to produce and market themselves versus partner via licensing. It’s rarely in their consideration set.
So an iconic brand like Royal Enfield in India produces all their non-biking gear, apparel and helmets with an in- house team while Harley Davidson uses licensing to globally extend its brand.
Unless it’s a tactical promotional tool – why not stick to your core business and license non-core to strong licensees who will create great products and distribute to the target audience? Then use marketing effectively to build on marketing events and legitimise the merchandise?
My belief is that very few brands have the luxury of self-activating in all their relevant categories.
I would further clarify by saying that one should build brand extensions via self-activation if it’s in the same business of food, personal products or fashion.
Again, this is a decision based on how big the categories are and how much resourcing should be thrown into this extension. Some fashion brands have acknowledged licensing in categories like fashion accessories, recognising the value of focusing their in-house teams, COGs, marketing and operations on their core apparel. Brands like Levis and Pepe license innerwear and accessories to licensees who produce and distribute under license.
Dream Theatre’s consulting project for Bennett & Coleman looked at extending their publishing assets into other categories. With valuable inputs from their editorial teams and business head, we built the architecture for the brands, licensed Femina to Shoppers Stop that now carries apparel and fashion accessories in over 60 stores. The team has now ventured into salons.
On FMCG, we have seen some food licensing of Cadbury’s Oreo with ice cream.
Opportunities for effective licensing in corporate and fashion
If one looks at the opportunity for India’s entertainment-licensed brands, the good news is that India ticks two of the three boxes for a successful licensing business. First, Indian consumers know about entertainment, corporate, fashion and even collegiate brands.
We have a vibrant entertainment economy and it’s fairly inexpensive to consume entertainment brands. It’s fairly affordable for consumers to access a gamut of channels, with smartphones now providing even more access to brands.
Another factor influencing our knowledge of brands is travel, with more Indians travelling for leisure than ever before pre-COVID-19.
Second, our consuming class in India is significant.
However, the third component of this three-legged stool is still half-baked – retail.
There is a direct correlation between the growth of organised retail and the growth of licensing as a business. Most retail in India is disorganised, with scattered mom-and-pop stores that make licensing challenging and limit it.
Firstly, most of this scattered trade has restrictions of size and don’t present the best environment for licensed products, ie display and range.
It’s challenging due to a lack of addressability and lots of royalties are underreported; the business is much larger than is reported by licensees.
The third challenge is piracy, which is linked to the lack of addressability.
In India, it’s also unlikely that you will find pirated products in any organised retail outlets but only because the footprint is still very limited.
Online in India is very sophisticated and better than many countries in the world. It offers a “last mile” reach to fans and is the best solution for licensing.
However, online majors are more incentivised to increasing resellers versus protecting IPs. Most brands face huge piracy online and the takedown of pirated products by the platforms leaves much to be desired. In fact, it’s more challenging to prove that you are a legitimate brand on a platform like Amazon and Flipkart than listing a pirated product as a reseller/distributor.
The genesis of online retail and the growth of this business in India has been fuelled by private equity money. The goal was to build a habit with Indian consumers through discounting versus convenience. Being value seekers, Indians have been enjoying these discounts and services and this has placed a big burden on the producers of merchandise (prospective licensees). The pricing makes it challenging to load royalties. If price is most important and if piracy is rampant even on the online platforms, then pirates win.
The market has also not grown due to a lack of investment of brand owners. Most of the licensors believe that just because their brands resonate in major markets like the US and Europe, they should work in India without effort. This is true for some brands with global investments in India but for the rest, it’s a lazy strategy.
Most of these owners make no effort to protect their IP or marketing. For them, it’s the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma: if the market is still not giving huge returns, why focus resources?
There is little effort to bring down piracy (especially online which seems more in their control) or legitimise strong licensees via any support.
In all of this, there is always hope. The brand owners who invest early and deep will capitalize, akin to the Japanese and Korean companies that have stayed invested in many Indian businesses. It’s too big a market to ignore and organised retail will continue to grow and so will addressability. The prominent licensors will invest and push platforms to legitimise their offering. More important, they will be forced to have a flexible and differentiated strategy in this market.
More corporate marketers will see licensing as a better tool to test the market and launch in non-core categories. Focus will be a key consideration where brands stick to categories in which they have the expertise and optimal resources. Less will be more, where they capitalise on their brand value by using licensing as an effective tool to reach their target audience.
It’s only a matter of time.
Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre
Jiggy – who is also the head of the India chapter of Licensing International, the global trade organisation for the licensing business – previously held senior management positions in Turner Broadcasting and Viacom, where he set up the licensing business for both companies.
He started his career as a fashion designer and entertainment journalist. He has a master’s degree in management studies and significant experience in sales (TimesofIndia), marketing (MTV and Pogo), licensing (MTV, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros), and project management (Turner and Sesame Street).
Agency will develop licensing business in India and South Asia for football club.
Dream Theatre is to develop the licensing business for Liverpool FC in India and South Asia, covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The deal will give football fans in India access to a range of licensed products across categories including apparel, sporting goods, accessories, gifts and novelties and eyewear, as well as activity in the lifestyle sector.
Liverpool is one of the most popular English Premier League clubs in India and has been named as one of the most trusted football clubs in India across successive seasons.
“We are very proud and thrilled to be working with Liverpool Football Club, the Champions of Europe,” said Jiggy George, ceo and founder of Dream Theatre. “The club has such a strong legacy and a very passionate fan base in India.
“Dream Theatre will forge long-term partnerships with licensees and retailers with one aim: drive value for our partners and delight our fans and consumers with authentic products that are world class, affordable and accessible.”
Mike Cox, svp merchandising at Liverpool FC, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Dream Theatre to our global football and retail family. Relationships like this are incredibly important to the club to ensure that we can bring LFC closer to all our supporters who are based across the world, not just at home in Liverpool.”
Brand agency also tasked with developing Premier League club’s licensing business in South Asia.
English soccer giants Liverpool have teamed up with brand management and licensing agency Dream Theatre to develop their merchandise business in India and South Asia.
The deal, which as well as India covers Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, will see Dream Theatre work with licensees to create a comprehensive line of products and services for the Premier League outfit.
The 3rd edition of India Licensing Expo (ILE) 2019 – India’s largest brand licensing exhibition began on a rainy note at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre, NESCO. However, this didn’t dampen the mood indoors, as the conference kicked off with Marty Brochstein from Licensing International lighting the traditional lamp.
The opening address was delivered by Ms. Ritu Marya, editor of Franchise India. Martin “Marty” Brochstein along with Jiggy George, Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre and Head, Licensing International, India delivered the opening keynote on The Future Trends In Brand Licensing & Building new Labels.
Marty took the stage first and spoke about some of the key global statistics and India’s place among its peers (#18 in 2018 – up 2 spots from #20 in 2017) with $1.59 billion sales in retail. He spoke about how these days many brands are digitally native, given the changing landscape fuelled by the technology disruption and all-pervasive nature of e-commerce. However, 76% of business is still done in brick & mortar stores. He then briefly touched upon the growing importance of “experiential licensing” riffing off Ms. Ritu Marya’s comment that “people have enough stuff they crave experiences” He also shared some examples of successful collaborations done by brands like Nike & Netflix (Stranger Things) and Vans and Warner Bros. (Harry Potter). He concluded his presentation by highlighting the importance of being more socially conscious especially if one wants to be relevant to the younger audience.
Marty was followed by Jiggy George Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre India Pvt Ltd., who shared his thoughts on licensing trends from an Indian & Asian context.
He echoed Marty’s sentiment that the future of licensing lay in ‘experiences’ and that brand owners should pay heed if they are to survive in this new-brand-a-day market.
These days when everyone is “looking down” instead of “looking up” Jiggy shone the spotlight on a few key trends/opportunities for the licensing fraternity to take note off.
The rise of digital brands like Youtubers – Ryan from Ryan’s Toy Review who has 19.8 million subscribers, ChuChu TV which has over 10 channels and 39 million subscribers, and influencers like Lilly Singh & Bhuvan Bham who are raking in the moolah by being topical and completely in sync with their followers. So is digital content the new brand opportunity?Are digital influencers the new celebrity? Jiggy then delved deeper into the discussion around building franchises that last like a Superman, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and even homegrown IP like Singham which has managed to transform and re-invent itself its latest avatar being Little Singham!
With the ICC Cricket World Cup on, how could one not speak about the HUGE opportunity in sports. Not just cricket but even E-sports, which has spawned such franchises as Fortnite and PUBG. There are 250 million Fortnite users around the globe! The Marshmellow performance on Fortnite saw 10 million viewers, 300 million dollars were spent every month on Fortnite merchandise.
To round it off after sharing his thoughts on curated brand experiences like the Cartoon Network tie-up with Marriott and Cher’s collab with Sofitel, Jiggy flew around Asia to highlight some interesting examples of how some of their exports are influencing the youth in India like Pokémon (Japan), K-Pop & Hello Kitty (Korea) and more. He concluded by posing a challenge to Indian designers to create our own design aesthetic which will resonate with the world.
To cap off the day Jiggy won the Brand Licensing Leader Award (Agent) You can watch him get Jiggy with it
India…India….India…India. That is something you won’t be hearing in this 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Coming to the sore point about our country’s participation in the global event, even though we have a population of more than 1.3 Billion of which more than 50% fall under the age of 25. It baffles me why we cannot have a team capable enough to make it all the way. Again, I am not trying to demean the efforts of the existing players and in no way suggesting they are incompetent. It is more to do with the environment and facilities that are almost non-existent. We have never been part of any world cup although the team did qualify by default in 1950 after all the other nations in our qualification group withdrew. However, we withdrew prior to the beginning of the tournament.
There has been some progress lately and we are seeing a shift in sports preference from the newer generation and thanks to the huge investments in football by Reliance, the ISL has grown considerably popular and viewership has increased year on year. The audience with the exposure to the various European leagues fixtures and UEFA’s various formats have accepted football as a viewing sport and the matches have made itself a talking point amongst youngsters, with each one choosing a team which they associate. The fan base for each team has considerably increased especially the teams from England and Spain and the largest followers being for Real Madrid which stands at 77.3 Million across all digital platforms.
FIFA brings in great interest in football and most fans are for Argentina and Brazil, with Portugal, England, Germany, Spain and Italy being the other countries. We see great enthusiasm and match screenings are the new way to catch up with friends. The world cup truly gets people together irrespective of your country’s participation and this particularly holds true for us. SET India the broadcast partners for the world cup has used this as a campaign idea and created an amazing connect with the audience using the idea “Meri Doosri Country”.
Russia 2018 will be a defining world cup for two of greatest legends to grace the field; Messi and Ronaldo. It will probably be their last world cup and both with their respective teams will try their very best to lift the golden trophy. One team that will be missed is Italy and it is still something the fans need to overcome. The world cup has always seen Italy’s participation and this will be the first time in 60 years that the Azzuris have not qualified considering they are 4 time champions and have players of exceptional quality. Of the other teams Brazil is always the crowd favourite because of the way they play, its pure magic. They will this time be out for revenge against Germany for the humiliating defeat they suffered at home turf in 2014. Germany the current holders will try to do a double. The team looks in good shape apart from a few ageing players. My dark horse is the Belgian side A.K.A Red Devils. They are the side to watch out as they have players with exceptional talent and good both in attack and defence. Let us hope to see a fantastic battle between the teams and I am hoping my doosri country wins.
On the merchandise front we have been witnessing this change from early 2013, when we first decided to take a shot at the FIFA world cup 2014. We were unsure of how a cricket crazy country would react to the merchandise though we knew that as an aspirational sport the merchandise would sell coupled with the interest in football. Our bet paid off and we did some unbelievable sales. This gave us confidence to look at football offerings more closely. We now have Real Madrid and of course FIFA 2018 merchandise in the market with more categories activated.
2018 FIFA World Cup Russia has a whole host of authentic licensed merchandise ranging from Apparel to Bags, Sippers, Footballs, Footwear, gifts and novelties and more with prices beginning at INR 299. The Alcis 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia fan wear range comprises over 550 products with T-Shirts, Polo T-shirts, Shorts, Track pants, Tracksuits, Hoodies, Jackets, Sweatshirts, Jerseys and Caps. The range starts at INR 399. The merchandise is available from 1000+ apparel stores and large format stores like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Max Retail, Central, Globus, Sports Station along with leading e-commerce platforms.
So while you will be watching the biggest sporting event from 14th of this month, do show your love for the assortment of merchandise we have put out for you. Help us create more fanatics and support our cause, which is none except it makes good business.