At its inception in the mid-’90s, The Licensing Company (TLC) wanted to deliver seamless brand extensions to companies around the world. A way to achieve its goal was to implement a company philosophy where its team always looked at projects with the end in mind.
Executive Vice President Allison Kopcha explains that starting at the end is one of many key differentiators that have propelled TLC to its position of leadership in the licensing industry. “[Licensing] is not just about what brand we can put on an item,” she says. “It is about what consumers want in a product, and creating great products that will sell again and again.”
Establishing that end-product is just the first step in a process to drive retail sales through brand extensions. The next part is to have the global presence and relationships across all channels of distribution – from high-end department stores and luxury retailers to grocery stores and convenience stores – to reach a diversified market.
With more than 100 employees distributed throughout seven offices in cities in the world’s top economies, TLC has achieved the international presence needed to service its iconic customers. Its portfolio includes legendary names such as Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz, Budweiser and Jeep®, to name just a few.
TLC works very closely with its clients to make sure licensed products reflect the brand’s identity. “We work with global brands that have very savvy marketing teams and strong objectives,” Kopcha explains. “We have to line up our brand extension strategy very closely with the brand owners to make sure we are in alignment with their core business and goals.”
The global presence of TLC’s clients means that the alignment might vary by local market. When the company took over Budweiser’s licensing business, it had to reposition the brand’s North American licensed products and develop a new global strategy at the same time. “Budweiser is a leading brand in the United States and has had a licensing brand for decades,” Kopcha explains. “But in other parts of the world Budweiser is a relatively new brand, so we had to work on positioning the brand [for] entering new territories such as Brazil or China.”
Although Budweiser is a premium brand in the United States, the brand has an even more elevated status in new markets, such as Brazil. “Budweiser, the brand’s heritage and the vintage Americana feel to it are very popular outside of North America,” Kopcha explains. To maximize the brand’s potential while keeping the brand’s core values intact, TLC’s team worked closely with Budweiser’s global and local marketing teams to develop the most effective licensing strategies and creative guidelines. “In Brazil, we decided not to enter mass channels of distribution and to focus on a higher level [of distribution] because that is where positioning is for the core brand in that territory,” she explains.
TLC had a similar experience when it took over the Jeep® brand three years ago. “In North America, Jeep® has a very strong toy, gaming and juvenile products business,” Kopcha says. “We partner with Mattel on the electrical-powered ride-on vehicles and we also have Jeep® strollers.” What many people don’t know is that, outside of the United States, there are hundreds of free-standing Jeep® stores and shop-in-shops featuring Jeep®-branded fashion and accessories across Latin America, Asia and South Africa. “Just in Asia there are 113 stand alone stores,” Kopcha says. “The problem is that when we inherited the business, not a single one of those stores had the same look and feel to it. They were all different.”
In an effort to bring cohesion to its international retailers, TLC worked closely with the brand owner, the local markets and outside agencies to develop compelling retail guidelines. “In three to five years, all existing Jeep® stores around the world will have consistent branding, not just the façade, [but] everything, from fixtures to point of sales will maintain a consistent look and feel.”
Some customers are only interested in developing and licensing products that are very close to the core brand’s mission, which is the case with Lysol®, owned by Reckitt Benckiser. “In 2012, we launched the Lysol® Triple Protection Air Filter, a product that would align with Lysol’s® core brand’s mission for health positioning,” Kopcha says.
With all of the products competing in the same category, TLC knew Lysol’s® filters had to have a point of differentiation and offer a unique selling proposition, or the brand owners would not be interested in doing it at all. “We launched the first-ever product to be certified by the Asthma and Allergy foundation of America,” Kopcha says. “We worked closely with the foundation as it developed the criteria for certification and testing of Lysol® product to earn their certification. We feel this really reinforced Lysol® core positioning as a proponent for healthier living.” The filters were launched exclusively at Menards initially and will be rolled out to other national retailers next year.
TLC’s leadership position has been recognized with many awards. In 2012, the company was awarded Licensor of the Year at the Licensing Show for its work with Jelly Belly®. “We’ve worked with Jelly Belly® for eight years, since the licensing program was in its infancy,” Kopcha says. “We have done everything from set the strategy and creative vision to recalibrate as the economy, the industry and consumer trends have changed.”
TLC measures its success just as its clients do: by looking at its global presence and its bottom line. “We have products that are sold in more than 100 countries and we are doing collectively $3.8 billion dollars a year in retail sales,” Kopcha adds.