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License to Thrill

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Twirlywoos (CBBC, Ragdoll Productions, DHX Media) – “Twirlywoos are four small, bird-like characters who are inquisitive, enthusiastic and always looking to learn something new about the world”.


Having heart and a buoyant spirit in the face of inexplicable adversity – Two key traits for not only maintaining but growing a successful brand. Staying relevant in such a saturated, digital world is becoming increasingly more difficult.

This year has seen a momentous leap in the number of brands, licensing better and better products/services, in order to ‘keep up’. Stalwarts such as Star Wars, Minions, Mr Men & Little Miss, Peppa Pig and Pokemon have all shared great success stories and continue to cultivate their reputations as ‘AAA’ licensing brands. However, new IP’s entering the fray have shattered expectations and, in some cases, captured people’s hearts internationally (here’s looking at you Great British Bake-Off/Emoji Company).

As we’re swiftly approaching 2016’s terminus, I thought it befitting to reflect on the year (with a fresh set of eyes), collating what I think are some of the stand-out performers behind the years endeavors. The following may not be the best, but they certainly turn heads…


Cheetos: There’s No Such Thing As Paw-Fect…?

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Chester Cheetah: Suave, Sophisticated… Cheesy?

Having grown up as a child in the late 90’s/early 00’s, Cheetos were a huge presence in the school lunchbox department. You’d be the envy of your mates if you rocked up to the dinner hall with a bag of Cheetos in-tow! It was the cool uncle of savoury snacks, encapsulating the soul of an urban jungle king with a dangerously smooth attitude.

As an asset of both Frito-Lay and PepsiCo, Cheetos primarily sold in the United States but enjoyed international exporting success, particularly here in the UK (under Walkers) with “Stunt Double” (1999), featuring a bumbling, clumsy *celebrity endorsement* from Gary Lineker.


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A ‘Cheetos’ Guide To Fast Fashion

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Channeling the eccentric ethos of Cheetos’ into the licensing sphere, no stone has been left unsold by Frito-Lay. Products of every conceivable form have been given that ‘Dangerous Cheetah’ look.

The collection ranges from the ‘bog’ standard “Toilet Paw-Per” (Approx £6.39), all the way up to the ludicrously expensive “Eye-of-the-Cheetah” set of 2 earrings and ring (Approx £15,996).

Nothing says ‘luxury’, like the smooth talking swagger of a cartoon animal with sunglasses and an industriously sophisticated (yet layed back) attitude.


Ordnance Survey: Making Britain Colourful Again

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Flickthrough guide

Every once in a blue moon, two completely unrelated things are lashed together and mixed into a winning formula. This is one such concoction.

Published by Lawrence King, in accordance with Ordnance Survey topographical standards, this vestige of wayfinding gold is your ticket to colourcode/decorate/deface/cherish what remains of ‘Great Britain’. Following on from what can only be described as a ‘mildly annoying year’, you may well thank yourself for highlighting every public footpath in Cumbria, as you start your new life ‘off-the-grid’.

Yes! It’s refreshing to see geography thrust into a format that lets the imagination run free whilst also maintaining that informative aspect of reading traditional maps. It’s a *nostalgic* reminder to a time before Google Maps, where long car drives (are we there yet?) and getting lost down a private road in the Welsh Valleys were a common occurrence!

In an age of apps and ‘smart’ tech, it’s refreshing to see that print is indeed alive and kicking!

Price: £19.99 (Lawrence King)


The Halo Franchise:

Halo, managed/developed by 343 Industries (subsidiary of Microsoft Studios) has gone merchadise crazy this year! Their master licensing partnership with Mattel (Mega Bloks) signed earlier this year (February) has already begun to see fruition in the form of their latest model/figure sets, listed here. 2016 sets part 1 / part 2.


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With the build-up to Feb 2017 and the release of Halo Wars 2, I can only see another strong year for both Mattel and Microsoft Studios. There is already a huge core fanbase established here in the UK for Halo, not only professionally, as displayed at the UK World Champs, but grassroots fandom on display at Comic-con events throughout Great Britain.


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Mega Bloks – 2016 Reinforcements

It would seem to be a no-brainer to ramp up licensing efforts for the dying embers of Q4 and the Christmas rush, followed by a strong HW2 themed release Q1 next year!

See beginning of ‘Halo’ section for full details on 2016 product releases.


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3D printing – Bring your Halo 5 Spartan to life!

343 Industries have teamed up with 3D printing company Sandboxr, creating beautifully ornate models for players that own Halo 5: Guardians. All armour and weaponry unlocked in-game are available to be molded onto the model.

The attention to detail on each of these figures is staggering, perfect for keeping your desk tidy, Covenant-free and flying the flag for the UNSC.


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Destiny Mega Bloks – Fight The Darkness!

Since Bungie sold the Halo rights to 343 Industries back in 2007, they set a course for a new direction. A vision of a galaxy far, far (further!) away. Destiny was born.


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Since becoming one of the biggest console launches of all time, Destiny has earned way over 300 awards and nominations, setting the foundations for a massive licensing/merchandising push this year.

Bungie struck a deal with Mattel (Mega Bloks) to license their creations. I’m sure the travellers light must have guided them into this fully fledged product series, featuring sets that touch base with all of the (base) game locations and enemy types.

There’s no doubt that hugely popular player items from the game, such as the majestic “Gjallarhorn” rocket launcher, compact “Pocket Infinity” fusion rifle and the ancient Hive “Thorn” hand-cannon will continue to be integral linch-pins in getting new fans interested in Destiny, through retail merchandising / point of sale (PoS).

Sets listed here


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Parting thoughts

There you have it. Certainly not the crème de la crème of licensing, but peeling back the fancy banners and glitzy buzz-wording reveal a core philosophy that resonates with both existing and new consumers; perceived value/worth.

If you can create an overarching narrative that supersedes the individual tales involved (e.g. believable canon/lore), mixing that with a well-designed (both relevant or irrelevant) product, the resulting sales of said product/merchandising line should increase. People will take it to their hearts and be more inclined to indulge in your product/service.

On the other hand, plenty of products have been (in my opinion) truly atrocious yet gained a cult following. For example, famous memes from the likes of American Psycho, Aliens, History Channel and ‘dat boi‘ have been so bad that, in hindsight, they’re actually brilliant (and beyond human comprehension).

Embrace the weirdness?


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