Licensing for Europe is significantly different from licensing in other areas of the world. “What’s really different about Europe is it’s a much more complex market in the way that it consists of a large number of unique countries,” the Coca-Cola Co.’s Global Licensing Manager Marsha Schroeder points out. “Each country has their own language, as well as their own government and different terms for importing and exporting products. There are very specific retailers by country, and also there are some specific trends by country. For example, something that may work really well in the United Kingdom may not work well in France, and vice-versa.”
One thing that is true the world over is that Coca-Cola becomes popular wherever it is introduced. It is that popularity that makes licensing products with its logos and slogans so successful.
“We continue to place a lot of emphasis on design as a way for us to differentiate our products in the market and also different tiers of retail,” Schroeder remarks. “We also continue to focus on innovation across the licensing business.”
A concept that is proving successful is bundling Coca-Cola with products bearing its logo and slogans. Brand Packaging Solutions, a company based in the United Kingdom, is creating gift sets that feature bottles filled with Coca-Cola combined with Coca-Cola-branded accessories and homeware items, such as glasses or bottle openers with the Coca-Cola logo. The company then sells these to retailers in the United Kingdom.
“Their business has been really strong,” Schroeder reports. “They’re the leaders in this space with the packaging and bundling of different items.”
Coca-Cola Worldwide Licensing has a “wish list” of companies it would like to have as licensees. “As part of our business planning process – it’s really an ongoing exercise – we have lists by category of where we have needs for different products or brand extensions,” Schroeder reveals. “We also have our wish list of different partners we would like to work with or who we feel is the leader in that category and would be a great partner to work with.”
The company examines potential licensees carefully. “When we meet with new partners, we spend a lot of time upfront understanding and evaluating the licensee’s capabilities and determining if their product fits within our strategic platform – where they sell at retail, and how their products are executed in the market,” Schroeder says. “Then when we bring them onboard, we spend a lot of time educating them about the brand – providing strategic direction – and really making sure that we’re having conversations on a regular basis and soliciting feedback to find out what’s working and what they need from us in order to be successful.”
Among the recent products developed by Coca-Cola Worldwide Licensing are two innovative styles of glassware from industrial designer Thomas Meyerhoffer. “When I was asked to do a modern interpretation of a Coca-Cola glass, I thought: How do you update an icon?” Meyerhoffer said in a statement. “I visited the archives at Coca-Cola at the start of the project and realized that Coca-Cola has always created a design story around the unique drinking experience. I wanted to follow that tradition and create a new simple story around the brand’s heritage.”
The results of Meyerhoffer’s efforts are called the heritage glass and the arciform glass, which refers to an arch. Both glasses feature the Coca-Cola logo. “The heritage glass is one that is really a beautiful, modern version of the iconic bell soda glass,” Schroeder explains.
The glass initially debuted at Colette, a boutique retailer in Paris. “Colette is a heavily influential retailer that is really known for setting trends in fashion,” Schroeder asserts. “We hosted a launch event this spring with Thomas Meyerhoffer at Colette to kick off the release of the glass.”
It also is available in Paris at Printemps department store, and additional distribution of the glass is planned for the future.
The arciform glass is based on a fishtail advertisement from the 1960s in the Coca-Cola archives. It currently is available exclusively on the Home Shopping Network (HSN).
Another innovative licensed product is manufactured by Italian downhill ski manufacturer Bomber Ski. “Our collaboration with Bomber Ski, a premier partner in the ski category, fits well with the company’s goals of encouraging people to move and be active.” The first two designs are inspired by the Coca-Cola Co.’s archive. One features a retro 1960s print pattern in red and white, and the other is a 1950s-era ad for the “Ice Cold” campaign, which features a Coke bottle in a winter landscape.
Five styles of products have been developed, which include snowboards, helmets, goggles and other skiing gear. Bomber Ski is the official supplier of the U.S. and Canadian ski teams. Its skis are hand-crafted in a small race lab in Italy and built by a master craftsman who has more than 32 years of ski-building experience, the company says. Because of this, the company’s products are priced in the premium range.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting partnership for us, and I know especially in territories where skiing is so much a part of everybody’s lifestyle – such as Austria and Switzerland – the sales have been strong,” Schroeder says.
Incorporating Coca-Cola’s logo elements is not always literal. Some beach products licensed for Europe and Latin America only employ elements of the logo. Although some men’s and women‘s flip-flops from Sugar Shoes, Coca-Cola’s largest licensee, feature the full logo on the top of the flip-flop and on the fabric band that goes over the foot, others have beach scenes with the logo only on the strap. Sugar Shoes’ line of Coca-Cola-branded flip-flops and sneakers are available at independent specialty stores in Europe and Latin America.
Similar subtlety is employed in beachware from AMC Textil. The company’s clothing collection of board shorts and fashion-forward t-shirts use stripes and beach scenes with the Coca-Cola logo as just one element of the design. “The branding with the Coca-Cola clothing collection tends to be more subtle, and very fashion-forward,” Schroeder explains.
In one photo, a model leans against a surfboard that only has Coca-Cola’s dynamic ribbon device – abbreviated as the DRD in company jargon – which is below the Coca-Cola lettering in the company’s iconic logo and is a trademarked design element of it.
The Coca-Cola clothing collection will be available in specialty boutiques in Brazil and selectively in the United States. The refreshment from summer heat that Coca-Cola provides also is evoked in beach towels with detailed Coca-Cola graphics from advertising and comic books. Licensed to manufacturer Home Source International, the towels and a Coca-Cola-branded fabric beach tote from the company named 24/7 are available on HSN.
Music is one of the most direct routes to reach teenagers and millennial consumers. “As we focused on our core consumers – being teens and millennials – we considered different strategic licensing opportunities that bring these types of lifestyle products into play,” Schroeder says. “So we’ve looked at categories such as music and technology, which are very important to teens and millennials.”
Coca-Cola Worldwide Licensing partnered with Bigben Interactive to launch in July at European retailers a variety of music accessories including alarm clocks, multimedia towers, turntables and Bluetooth sound systems, all featuring the iconic Coca-Cola logo colors.
“In Europe, Bigben Interactive is a leader in the design and distribution of audio equipment, the production of gaming accessories and in videogame publishing,” Schroeder says. “They have a lot of credibility in this space.”
Section 8, a manufacturer of audio equipment, is launching a range of audio accessories including cases, ear buds and wireless touch sensor headphones that are controlled with the swipe of a finger over the same type of touchpad that is found on smartphones.
Telecom Lifestyle Fashion B.V. has produced protective cases for smartphones, tablets and computers with the logo. Upcoming from the company are Coca-Cola headphones, earbuds and speakers.
Besides music and technology, fashion also is a way of staying relevant to Coca-Cola’s key target demographic of teens and millennials. “The fashion apparel business has been very strong for us and continues to drive overall growth,” Schroeder notes.
“It’s important to stay relevant within pop culture and with the youth of today as a brand,” she says. “For 127 years, Coca-Cola has always played a very relevant part in popular culture and connecting with youth. That’s part of our history and heritage with the brand, and we continue to move that forward.”
It was Coca-Cola, after all, that in 1971 taught “the world to sing.” The song struck such a chord with viewers when it was featured in a Coca-Cola television commercial that it went on to radio success as a pop song. Even though the name Coca-Cola was removed from the lyrics, it still reminded listeners of how the popularity of a single product can unite the world. Since that iconic commercial, the song has been used other times over the years.
Schroeder cannot reveal upcoming licensed products yet. “Collaboration remains an important part of our business,” she adds. “We have some exciting collaborations in the pipeline for 2013 and beyond.”
The company will not part with exact figures for its licensing. “Our business has been very healthy,” Schroeder declares. “While we are still experiencing a tough global economy, our global licensing business grew 15 percent last year, and we’re expecting double-digit growth again for 2013. Our overall licensing business is very strong and continues to grow.”