FN Platform: Licensing Lessons

Las Vegas is heating up.
International footwear brands have touched down in Sin City for FN Platform, a three-day conference where experts convene to discuss the most pressing industry issues. It commenced with a discussion on one of the trendiest topics today: licensing.
From celebrity collaborations to the successes of master licensing projects (think Vince Camuto’s partnership with Jessica Simpson), this business strategy is a cost-effective way to introduce a new business vertical. But it’s not to be entered into lightly.
Below are some of the most pressing lessons on licensing:
Steven Ekstract, publisher of License Global Magazine, on essential current market trends: We’re in the business of pop culture, so wherever that resides — celebrities, sports, fashion, the Internet — makes up our world.
Where are the trends? With youth I’d say [it’s about] YouTube, which is certainly giving TV a run for its money. A lot of celebrities are coming up through YouTube now, which has made it a trend to focus on if you’re looking to license. It’s one of the few growth businesses we have in America, and every nation around the world wants American pop culture. They may not like our politics, or how we run our country, but [what they do like] is our fashion, music and sports. It’s not local anymore, it’s global.
Daniel Siegel, VP of licensing worldwide at IMG, on the right time to partner up: The right time to license? Expand carefully, be into things your following would expect you to move into. People can try to go too far too fast. It’s important to understand the goals of the business [that wants to license].
Steve Mandel, director of global brand licensing at Skechers, on challenges: Don’t overdo it. [Skechers] is in an enviable position of being in 170 countries, and it’s an unbelievable footprint to have. It is possible to go too far and step outside the brand DNA. We’ve seen examples of companies that have gone too far.
Footwear is a very sensitive industry. If we do an apparel brand that doesn’t fit right, it can damage the brand, and it can take a while to get out from under that.
Stephen Heller, president of licensing and business development at Total Apparel Group, on finding the perfect fit: Look for product categories that are complementary to the celebrity. You always want to stay true to who they are. Celebrities who aren’t designers first are really just putting their name on something and relying on the licensee designer to represent their aesthetic.
Licensing is like a marriage: You want the right partners. An off-brand message or taking the brand in a new direction that doesn’t work can be highly sensitive.
Daniel Siegel: This underscores the terms of the agreement. The No. 1 problem since the Recession is overpromising and under-delivering. We’re (in reference to the panel) problem solvers, but this is almost impossible to fix.
Steven Ekstract: Retailers can be very unforgiving. You only get one opportunity, and they can’t afford to take another chance. The last thing you want to do is end up in the discount bin.
Everything is a brand. We’re all on social media — we’re all a brand. Be careful with your brand.

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