NEW YORK — Companies ranging from Mattel to Pretty Ugly Inc. — and the characters that represent them — are preparing for the annual Licensing International Expo June 19 to 21 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. Many brands, from the Cartoon Network to Hallmark, share the goals of introducing extensions, finding new licensing partners and meeting with retailers.
"Most brands are seeing that they need to find new, innovative ways to reach consumers," said Michael Stone, president and chief executive officer of brand consultant firm Beanstalk Group, who plans to attend the show to promote clients such as Universal Studios, Vespa and the World Wildlife Federation. "So I think now is a great time to be in the business of licensing."
Many other firms and executives agree, including John Oliveros, licensing director of Hallmark.
"The marketplace has never been more crowded," he said. "Consumers have never been more demanding. In times like these, you've got to be creative if you want to compete."
Oliveros said Hallmark had built a huge creative staff, which has added more than 23,000 illustrations, designs and photographs to its collection every month.
"We cover a wide array of categories and are open to licensing our general designs and characters to most industries — except cigarettes, liquor and gambling," he said. "Our current licensees range anywhere from all kinds of textiles to puzzles, candles, clothing, tin cans — the list goes on and on. Since we have been in business 98 years and have been collecting and creating designs and artwork since 1927, you can imagine the amount of intellectual property we own. The show has been pivotal in our business and the leads actually equate to about 30 percent of our business."
Mattel is sure to have a big presence at the licensing show. Richard Dickson, senior vice president of marketing, media and entertainment worldwide for Mattel Brands, said Barbie would again be there in full force.
"We are aggressively going into the young adult market with Barbie," he said.
Dickson is building on the 48-year-old doll's ties with the beauty industry. Barbie already has a relationship with MAC Cosmetics as the face of a collection of makeup inspired by her, but that has catapulted the doll into a new relationship with Bonne Bell to create a beauty collection slated for the mass and midtier markets next year.In addition, Dickson said there would be new young adult T-shirts featuring retro Barbie art, accessories and a new high-end jewelry line with Alan Friedman called Barbie Rocks. The line, he said, was "very high end" and would appeal to an older, more established Barbie fan.
"We really use this show as an opportunity to meet with our licensees about what's coming from Mattel brands," Dickson explained, noting that there would be plenty of presence at the show from other Mattel divisions such as Hot Wheels and Polly Pocket. Dickson said he was on the lookout for deals to create products for Disney's "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" brands, and would introduce a new layette collection that Mattel is making for Fisher-Price.
Christina Miller, vice president of consumer products for Cartoon Network Enterprises, said she would be looking for ways to present the "Powerpuff Girls," an animated series about kindergarteners with superpowers, as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
"I see so many ways to present the 'Powerpuff Girls' in a higher-end way," she said. "We already have a really great global deal with Zara, which sells a kids' line. But I am sure we can make a big spike in this brand for 2008."
In addition to the "Powerpuff Girls," Miller said the company had found a strong niche in the junior market for its "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" brand, which has an exclusive deal with retailer Hot Topic to sell everything from T-shirts to accessories highlighting the characters from the cartoon. For spring 2008, Miller said the company would increase the product categories for Foster's in hopes of widening its retail base.
At Crayola, the crayon maker, Diane Baldovsky, manager of licensing, said the company was getting really involved in pushing the Crayola brand into the technology industry, recently introducing colorful clock radios and innovative, kid-friendly digital cameras.
"It's so important that we stay contemporary," she said. "That's why we also have a video game coming out with Nintendo."
Baldovsky said she usually uses the show as an opportunity to meet with current licensing partners to get them up-to-date on new product categories, which include cobranded deals with Disney and Nickelodeon. She said she was always on the lookout for new apparel deals, and food and home decor products.At Pretty Ugly, the maker of Ugly Doll, which is sold at specialty retailers such as FAO Schwarz, the MoMA store and Barneys New York, Alita Friedman, director of sales and operations for the firm, who calls herself the "director of all things ugly," said she saw her brand as a great TV series and hoped to meet with entertainment companies. She said that this idea would go well with the launch of the company's book series with Random House, which will hit stores in spring 2008.
"For the most part, we really have been holding back, so we don't grow too fast," she said. "We really want to keep this as a very specialty-based brand."
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