Licenses have become indispensable for many companies and are increasingly contributing to total sales. Kathrin Brandhorst, Country Director of Universal Consumer Products Germany talks to Luna Journal about marketing license topics.

You are currently in charge of the successful franchise topics of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment in-house. Which topics do you include in your portfolio? What has to be considered when marketing license themes?

Our best-known licenses include the “Jurassic World” and “Fast & Furious” franchises which have inspired entire generations for several years with their action-packed movie sequels. Besides the most successful 3D animation film “Pets” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, our portfolio also includes the “Minions”, which have become cult. In addition, there are lots of classics such as the “Jaws” or “Back to the Future”.

In addition to sensitivity during the market launch and the right timing, the right cooperation partner must be selected for each product segment. Marketing is ultimately only successful if original licensed products are developed according to the target group and come enter the market in the correct price range.

Are the licensed products aimed at the same target group as the movies

It is in the nature of things that the licensed products are primarily aimed at the fans of the respective film. But an age-appropriate conversion reaches an extended and quite attractive target group which is too young for some films. Thanks to Lego Duplo , for example, children can still immerse themselves in the world of the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” and replay the adventures of dino whisperer Owen and his dinosaurs or develop their own game themes.

Licensors often have a product catalogue that provides information about the respective licensed products. Which customer inquiry was the most unusual and at the same time the most interesting for the awarding of a license?

The top priority is always to offer every consumer and fan the right product. It happens that the requested license does not fit to the proposed product and would thus lead past the target group desired by the licensor. It does not always have to be licensed products that are designed as mass-produced articles and are very successful. Expensive product highlights, of which one already knows at the beginning that smaller quantities are sold, are conceivable. They appeal to wealthy clients and can be used well in the media.

An example of a very successful licensing is the cooperation between “Minions” and “Puma“. In close cooperation a very special collection of products for children and adults (shoes, clothing & backpacks) was created.

Licensed products must offer content that goes beyond a cinema film or a TV series. How do you achieve this?

The potential of the brand to make content available over a longer period of time is essential for the decision to even license a cinema film. A single movie is usually not enough for this. Long-standing examples of the property are necessary in order to remain attractive for both retailers and consumers. We achieve this through film sequels, long-term TV series, DVD releases and online content. In addition, licensees continually receive stimulating license style guides to regularly bring new and innovative collections to the market.

Your licenses include Fast & Furious. The Fast & Furious saga was first launched in 2001. What is the secret to the success of the action saga? Why is this topic interesting for licensed products?

One reason for this is that “Fast & Furious” is about friendship and family in addition to cars and speed and thus appeals to a broad audience. On the other hand, “Fast & Furious” offers a lot of content at various marketing levels: the “Fast & Furious Live Show” is currently touring the USA and Europe, a spin-off will come outin 2019 and the ninth part of the saga will start in 2020. In addition, there will soon be a TV animation series for children.

What has to be considered when marketing such a license?

In order to maintain the attractiveness in years without the support of the big screen, for instance in the time between the films, licensors and licensees must pull together. For the licensor this means that he regularly offers content. To ensure success, we work together with the appropriate cooperation partners and develop licensed products that successfully convey the play pattern and the look & feel of “Fast & Furious” – and thus bring the storytelling of the films to the children’s rooms in a way that suits the target group.

How did 2017 go for you and the marketing of your licenses?

2017 was a very exciting and successful year for us. The theatrical release of “Despicable Me  3” was one of our highlights and gave our franchise around the Minions a great boost. Universal Consumer Products Germany was founded in Munich in October. This will enable us to respond increasingly to the needs of retailers and licensees in German-speaking countries and to continuously provide new impulses.

What is interesting about the license business? To what extent does the licensing business influence a company’s sales figures?

If the business with the licenses were not lucrative, we and the licensees would invest neither time nor money in the costly process of continuously producing new content and style guides. Apart from business, it is an indescribable feeling when we manage to translate the fascination and emotional attributes of the respective licenses into play pattern and make it possible for children to bring their screen heroes into the children’s room.

Do licensed products for children work out better in the market than those that are thematically aimed at adults?

This individually depends on the respective license and its marketing. The majority of our topics are aimed at children. But there are also topics such as “Jams” or “The Big Lebowski”, which are clearly oriented towards adults.

Your areas of responsibility can be divided into the product categories Softlines, Hardlines, Consumables and Retail. What are the differences between the individual categories?

The category “Softlines” covers the clothing sector in the broad sense. Included are accessories, shoes and handbags. It also includes the home decoration area.
Hardlines are toys as well as Back to School and Stationery. This means everything around toys, school, handicrafts and office supplies. It also covers party, consumer electronics and camping/outdoor.

Consumables are products that are used up and – in the best case – bought again and again. This includes the entire food sector, sanitary and cosmetic products, pet products, customer loyalty programmes (e.g. the “Despicable me 3” campaign at REWE last year) and promotions (e.g. the Chiquita campaign for the Minions movie). We also speak actively with the trade to present our topics and agree on overarching actions.

Are unisex topics like the minions more profitable on the market than licenses aimed at one gender?

The “Minions” are the world’s most successful unisex license. This is, on closer inspection, hardly surprising, because the Minions have meanwhile attained cult status and inspire every generation with their naive cuteness, their courage and their team spirit. Of course, this license is profitable, but here, too, attention must be paid to which product category appeals to which target group. Only in this way can the “Minions” remain successfully established on the market as a brand and the associated licensed products.

What is the current situation on the licensing market?

We are very satisfied. However, we are not resting on our laurels and have already set targets well beyond 2020. We continue to look beyond our usual licensing business and offer content that goes beyond cinema films or TV series. We cultivate our partnerships sustainably and work with long-term brand cooperations that clearly support quality and market positioning.

You want to focus more on the German-speaking market with your licenses. How do you plan to put this into practice?

Through the Universal Consumer Products Team in Munich, we now have the opportunity to be directly present for our cooperation partners. We know the market-specific requirements and can work together with the companies and the trade very personally and directly on site.

How do you see the future potential of licenses for retail?

Germany is lagging slightly behind Europe in the area of licensed products. We use this upside potential to produce attractive licensed products through interesting cooperations. We are sure that we will write many more success stories with our licensed products.


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Image: Universal Consumer Products Germany – Kathrin Brandhorst