September 8, 2021

5 Highlights from Licensing Expo 2021

This year’s Virtual Licensing Expo 2021 was one for the books! Though the event was entirely online, that didn’t stop the licensing community from coming together to discuss some of the industry’s biggest trends and insights, as well as share awards and networking opportunities. Team Brainbase had a wonderful time manning our Expo booth and we loved getting to catch up with many old friends and making many new ones.


Here are our top 5 highlights from Licensing Expo 2021, including our favorite events and key takeaways:


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

At the Collaborations & Partnerships panel event, we learned about what makes a licensing collaboration successful, and what to look for in a licensing partnership. 

Successful licensing collaborations usually start when two companies recognize they have similar values and ethos. Many panelists described this as an “organic” fit.  After all, consumers can tell when a partnership or product isn’t genuine, and this can actually hurt your brand perception. 

Each brand should consider what value they add to the deal, and establish clear goals from the start. This is where communication is key! Collaborating brands are telling a “story” together when they create a product or customer experience. In order to authentically sell that story and emotion, it’s important they first understand each other, align on strategy, and communicate their expectations.

Additionally, the panel explored how partnerships can empower brands to work past traditional brand challenges. Some of these challenges included maintaining a clear brand identity, reputation for quality, and longevity of brand awareness. The panel’s advice? Form a quality partnership, rather than just an easy or convenient one. This can help both parties take on these challenges together, giving their partnership a special sense of meaning and challenging each other to continue to stay relevant and connect with consumers. 


Nostalgic Content Never Gets Old

At the Heritage and Nostalgia panel, we heard from industry leaders whose brands have routinely withstood the test of time. This is because these brands understand the importance of providing their audiences with a truly authentic feeling of nostalgia. While trends within nostalgia-themed licensing often come and go (think vintage fashion trends), the nostalgia associated with brands like Dr. Seuss, or MGM’s James Bond, are far from passing fads. Rather, these brands have become a source of comfort and inspiration spanning generations of families over many years. 

One key to success lies within the fact that many people have a strong affiliation of growing up with some of the iconic nostalgic IP discussed in the panel. However, one challenge to overcome includes re-engaging these people in a modern setting. Events are a powerful way to help transport people back to their childhoods, recommended Robert Marick, the EVP of Global Consumer Products & Experiences at MGM. These events can be as simple as using social media to remind consumers of the anniversary of a movie, for example. The panel also recommended limited edition art, something that lines up well with the current rise and popularity of NFTs.

All in all, consider the sense of wonder your audience had when first experiencing your brand in their childhood. Then, consider how your collaborations and brand awareness can tie people back to those happy times.


Create Memories & Experiences

At The Live Experience panel, we heard from brands who are successfully creating immersive experiences for their fans and consumers. 

Why are in-person experiences so important? Live experiences, like shows, interactive exhibits, and even digital activities, creates a sense of engagement that can reach people on a deeper level. They make people feel like they are truly a part of the brand, and they invite fans to share their experiences with one another, as well as bring more people into the fandom. Not only is this great brand exposure, but it is also excellent community building and can create more satisfaction associated with your brand.

Don’t limit your idea of what live experiences can be, and push your team to be creative. For example, the panel talked about retail space for cannabis where people could try out the products, as well as an online educational platform for national parks. The sky’s the limit, as long as consumers are offered a new way to interact with the brand and one that helps them experience your brand in a new way!

Since COVID-19 shut down many in-person events, brands have been getting creative about interactive events. One great success story was shared by Sherry Liu, VP of Strategy & Business Development at Nickelodeon. She talked about how Paw Patrol Live had to become a live-stream event during COVID. So, the team added a special interactive experience where children watching could create their own avatar during the show, which would help them feel like they are part of the Paw Patrol. 


The Endless Appeal of Animation & Anime

Animation is on every streaming service platform these days. We learned a lot about the global appeal of animated IP during the Animation & Anime panel. 

One interesting insight is that Anime is globally popular, and one of the most pirated forms of content. Because of this, Anime is actually a strong customer acquisition point for streaming platforms! Anime and animation is also a genre with many, many sub-genres, which means there’s a lot of room to discover new content and materials to stay endlessly entertained. This increases the longevity of the IP and results in live events like Anime conventions.

The panel also covered the role of licensing in children’s animation. Generally, parents want to bring memorable experiences to their kids using toys of IP they recognize. During the preschool age, parents tend to focus on providing educational resources for their kids, which translates into the licensed items they will purchase. For example, parents may be familiar with an animated IP that helps kids learn to recycle, brush their teeth, and learn basic responsibilities, and then wish to buy their child a related book series or computer game. Once kids are older, such as in elementary school, the kids have more of a say in which IP and products they want their parents to buy for them. 


Themes at the Expo: Authenticity, Memorability, and Creativity

Across all the panels and events we saw, our last takeaway is to always keep in mind why consumers and fans are so passionate about your brand. Typically, it’s because they connect with your IP on an emotional level.  As you embark on your licensing journey, remember how important it is to remain authentic, provide engaging and memorable experiences for your customers, and continue to think outside the box to wow them when they least expect it. 

Happy licensing everyone, and see you at Licensing Expo 2022 next year!

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