Licensing 1Social media influencers are carving out their own lane in the licensing industry. By Bianca Herron

The use of licensing as a marketing and brand extension tool has increased rapidly over the last 30 years. This includes new media over the past decade, which has sent shock waves through traditional media, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

According to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), licensed merchandise sales grew more than 4 percent last year to $262.9 billion. Licensable properties come from a variety of sources, including fashion, sports, music, celebrity, corporate/brand, and entertainment and characters, which is the largest segment of licensing.

Entertainment and character licensing, which includes primarily films, television shows, videogames and online entertainment, accounted for 45 percent of licensing sales, or $ 118 million, in 2016, according to LIMA.

Feeling Success

What makes all licensing successful, however, is the brand’s ability to tap into consumers’ emotions, says LIMA’s Senior Vice President of Industry Relations and Information Marty Brochstein. “Licensing is only effective if it plays upon an emotion that’s generated in a target audience,” he explains. “For example, it might be a really cool celebrity, a favorite sports team, trusted brand, or a cute character.”

This is why nontraditional licensing brands stemming from new media, especially today’s social media influencers – a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach – are “products of their time,” Brochstein notes. “Ten years ago we didn’t know what a social media influencer was, an app, or a streaming service,” Brochstein explains. “It’s logical that an increasing number of properties are coming from places we consider to be non-traditional. In 20 years, something coming from a streaming service or a social media influencer will be considered old school.”

He cites YouTube sensation Jake Paul as an example. Paul rose to significant fame on the now-defunct video application Vine. He began posting videos in 2013 on the platform and by the time Vine was shut down, Paul had 5.3 million followers and 2 billion video plays. He was later cast on the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark. “Paul has turned himself into a brand by doing wacky things in his daily video blog on Vine and then Youtube,” Brochstein says. “So these quote unquote unconventional sources for licenses are unconventional for the moment, until they become mainstream.”

Pug Love

You don’t get more than a billion YouTube views and over 9 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter without having something special. And that’s exactly what Doug the Pug has, as the small canine has charmed his way into the hearts of people worldwide.

Doug’s owner, Leslie Mosier, saw this when she adopted him as an eight-week-old puppy. “Not only does Doug have a large dedicated following, but he is an adorable pug,” Mosier says. “Pugs are an incredibly popular breed across the world that continue to gain attention and popularity. Making products that not only showcase Doug’s cute face, but also his relatable and funny brand, makes for a very merchandisable figure.”

Remarkable Brands Inc. is the worldwide licensing company for Doug the Pug. Founder Stacey Reiner notes that when the New York City-based company first began presenting Doug the Pug, the world of social media influencers were just starting to come to the forefront. “It took time for people to understand the power of Doug,” Reiner recalls. “However, once they heard Doug the Pug has over 11 million social media fans, over 1 billion Facebook video views, a best-selling New York Times book, a list of celebrity friends and continuous shares and likes across his social media channels, companies began to see Doug the Pug as a brand, not just an adorable dog.”

Remarkable Brands was able to commercialize Doug the Pug via licensing because of his “extremely loyal” fans. “We always wanted to ensure that the merchandise certainly captured Doug’s fun-loving personality,” Reiner explains. “Therefore, we look to develop partnerships with best-in-class licensee’s as well as retailers that capture his likeness, his impressive wardrobe and his love of food. We currently have a host of Doug The Pug items that can be found across several retailer accounts.”  

Mosier notes that nontraditional licensing, especially in regards to social media influencers, has become a hit in today’s society because celebrities “are made on the Internet.” “The Internet is the newest and most effective form of advertising, and influencers are able to reach millions of people with the click of a button,” she says. “While an influencer can certainly have their own merchandise line of T-shirt’s on a web store, to be able to direct their fans to a brick-and-mortar store is not only effective, but more beneficial for the licensor since you are now reaching both your typical foot traffic and the entire internet.”

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