Start your next Brand Licensing strategy today

Guest Blog 4 minute read
Words Oliver Dyer. Illustration Sam Norden. Skew Studio.
Start your next Brand Licensing strategy today
TLDR: The world has changed since your strategy was reviewed. Audit your brand, assets, market and relationships to come out fighting in 2021 with leadership, teams and partners aligned behind a better offer to the market.""


I’ve seen a licensor set fire to £150k with a badly targeted licensing strategy. The IP was hugely attractive to licensees, hungry for an opportunity with the then emerging mobile game brands. Some great product had been developed and sold into retail but failed to chime with the core audience for the IP. Why? Because the product was targeted at a consumer the licensor /wanted/ to appeal to rather than the actual core audience their own analytics pointed them towards.

The immediate results were avoidable losses but the long term damage done was to the relationships with licensees burned by a rocky launch. It’s a licensing industry truism that you only get to launch once, meaning that buyers are hugely resistant to revisiting an IP that’s already been rejected by the market, even if the core IP is performing well in other areas.

Skew were retained by the licensor and asked to fix it. Our first challenge was to guide a brand team away from a mindset that blamed the previous agency rather than looking inward at their own objectives. I pushed back hard against the brief, advocated for a strategic review and met a lot of resistance. Despite having burned time and money going the wrong way, leadership baulked at the prospect of a strategic audit. They wanted new assets not a new direction. A quick, tactical fix to share with frustrated partners not a pause to reflect. There have been a lot of quick tactical fixes in 2020.

The time to reflect is NOW

In many parts of the industry budgets are down, redundancy consultations are sadly in progress and teams are going back into furlough. Whatever your strategy was twelve, eighteen or more months ago, there’s no way it accounted for where you are now.

The spring fairs across Europe are going to be virtual and, if ‘The Festival of Licensing’ is anything to go by (amazing achievement though it was), for some, ‘virtual’ will mean that the motivation to refresh their brands offer will be /greatly/ diminished.

You’ve done amazingly to adapt tactics to a rapidly changing situation, now a window of opportunity has opened up to reflect. Take it. Take the time to go back to the roots of your brand and it’s place in the world. Some themes that you might explore when starting an audit process like this include;

  • Questioning your brand’s DNA. When done rigorously, a well crafted DNA should hold up to external change. It’s worth revisiting when considering new opportunities for brand extension.
  • Matching DNA to consumer need. Are you still targeting the same groups? What role does your brand play in their lives now?
  • Understanding the competitive needs of the market, the gate keepers, brand teams, licensees and buyers.
  • Considering external insight. What are the aesthetic and behavioural trends that your commercial partners care about?

Ready, steady GROW!

Unsure if the time is right to review? Here are some red flags that your strategy may be out of date.

  1. Decisions are taking longer and getting harder to make. Internal and external stake-holders are not aligned on some or all of these themes, clogging up every decision.
  2. Opportunity stasis. You see lots of potential avenues the brand could pursue but a clear rationale to select one over another is elusive.
  3. Educating the market. You intrinsically understand the opportunities your brand represents but can’t articulate a clear, compelling story.

Whatever the reason, preparing your pitch to sell into the market in 2021 starts now with your strategy. Here are some quick wins you can do remotely over lockdown to get things moving.

  • A team workshop on the brand DNA and its transferable attributes. Take a look at Miro to facilitate this. It’s really fun.
  • Competitor analysis. Reach out to me and I’ll share Skew’s templates to help with this.
  • Asset review. Spot the gaps, trim stuff that not been used in years and plan what you need to appeal to your new consumers and grow your relationships.
  • Trending. Resource intensive to do well - but there’s a lot you can do yourself. An absolute belter for lockdown is a sweep of T-Graphics. Pick your target market and review page one of the graphic T’s at your key retailers sorted by date or best seller. It’s a simple litmus test for what your retail partners consider graphicaly strong right now.

Who honestly knows what 2021 will bring. Whatever happens, this is an incredible time to question some of the core transferable elements of your brand, to really focus in on new opportunities and line up the organisation behind a better strategy that will land authentically with post 2020 consumers.

Contribute to our ongoing research by connecting with Oliver Dyer here.

Oliver D, Skew
Written by
Oliver Dyer
I make Fan Brands, connect brands to fans and make creative that fans of brands love. Some people call this 'Licensing', those people are wrong.

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