For Joel Barnett, there’s more to licensing a brand than just placing a name on a product and putting it on store shelves. Barnett, the owner of Irvine, Calif.-based boutique licensing agency Brentwood Licensing, believes in understanding the needs of his clients and what makes their brands unique.
“Being a small agency, I personally am able to deal one-on-one with our great clients and brands, and I’m also out there going to trade shows and talking to licensees,” he says. “I have the ability to react quickly to clients’ needs and believe in coming up with creative ways to drive licensing to make a product unique.”
For two of Brentwood’s clients, Barnett’s approach to licensing is paying off in new products that are helping them reach new audiences while remaining true to their unique and independent spirit.
“One thing Joel brings to the table is that he takes the time to understand what a brand means and what markets it can be sold to, and a lot of people don’t do that,” explains Catesby Jones, founder of clothing retailer Peace Frogs, which has 20 store locations. “It takes time to build a licensing program, and he understands what our brand means and how to position it in the marketplace.”
For Jon Kurtz, founder and co-owner of apparel and gift brand Dog Is Good, Barnett’s personality, character and contacts also distinguish Brentwood Licensing. “Joel brings connections we don’t have, knows people in the industry and was able to get us noticed,” he says. Barnett first approached him about licensing opportunities after seeing Dog Is Good products while on vacation in Hawaii. “I evaluate the character of the person as much, if not more, than other factors, and liked Joel. He understood our brand and thought we had a good, positive message.”
Barnett founded Brentwood Licensing in 2006 and has more than 20 years of licensing, sales, marketing and business development experience, including Disney and Wish Licensing.
Several recent licensing agreements led by Brentwood Licensing will help Peace Frogs – a “positively peaceful comfort clothing” brand founded by Jones in 1985 – reach a broader audience beyond the world of apparel and retail.
“This is truly a brand that appeals to all ages, men and women, which not every brand does,” Barnett says. “The brand can cover almost any category, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The brand is distinguished by its bright, colorful art and logo – a frog flashing a two-finger peace symbol. “We’ve developed a very loyal following,” Jones says. “We have a great art staff that creates hundreds of designs and we get a lot of feedback from current customers who tell us what they want and basically help design our clothes.”
New licensees include Westland Giftware, which is producing 60 SKUs including salt and pepper shakers, mugs, cookie jars and collectible figurines for Peace Frogs as well as the new Peace Turtle, his shelled counterpart. Another new licensee is The Petting Zoo, which is producing a line of plush toys featuring the Peace Frog character. Barnett is also pursuing licenses in the pet segment for future items.
The pet market is one of the largest licensing segments for Dog Is Good, an apparel brand that “celebrates the remarkable bond people have with dogs,” says Kurtz, who co-founded the company in 2006.
One of the brand’s largest licensees is PetEdge, a worldwide supplier of pet supplies, grooming and other products that is producing 100 SKUs using Dog Is Good’s logo and award-winning artwork. “PetEdge’s goal is to take the Dog Is Good brand and bring fun, ideas and expression into the pet market,” Barnett says.
Recent licensees outside of the pet market include Hot Properties Products, which is producing a set of magnets; and paper napkin makers Design Design and High Cotton, producing floor mats, wall art and other gift items. Future markets targeted by the company include veterinary scrubs, picture frames, stationery and greeting cards.
The brand is also expanding to incorporate cat and horse owners, with “Horse Is Good” and “Cat Is Good” licenses now being pursued. “There’s a recognition by many that the market for dog, cat and horse lovers is huge and the pet category continues to grow, counter to many other categories and industries right now,” Kurtz says. “Many companies know there’s a big audience in pets, and we offer a positive message.”