Only two years after a major restructure, this e-com technology provider continues to improve its platform. To describe the business platform of California-based MashOn is no easy feat, but Philippe Benoliel, president and CEO, has it down to a science. “We are a technology company playing in an almost traditional bricks-and-mortar business. On the one hand, we have a strong technology slant because we’re developing software and e-commerce, but on the other hand, we’re dealing with product and physical goods.”
Although the company has been around for five years, for all intents and purposes, MashOn is also a start up. Two years ago, Benoliel and his 26-person team rebuilt the technology solutions provider from scratch.
Prior to that, the company’s primary products were online games. After seeing the attachment gamers had to their characters, the company developed PC-based Comic Book Creator, which enabled gamers to interact with branded content to create their own comics on their computers.
In 2008, Benoliel and his team took that concept and expanded it, first bringing the entire application to the web and then building a creative platform that would enable different audiences to interact with a variety of branded content and create items relevant to them.
“The online component we brought to the market with MashOn can be embedded on websites and packaged with a variety of contents, whether photos, videos, or sounds, to allow end users to create what is relevant to them,” he said.
The key to MashOn’s strategy is in how it removes the risk for licensors while giving them a better ROI. With the economic shake up of the past few years, licensing and merchandising have taken a hit.
“Licensees typically looked at larger retailers as their primary source of income,” said Benoliel. “But with the current state of retail, fewer licensees are willing to pay large upfront guarantees, and large retailers are taking on fewer brands.”
If you’ve got a proven brand like Spider Man, he said, you’re probably doing fine. But if you’re launching a new brand or re-launching an old brand, fewer licensees are likely to come and write a check for a guarantee and then take a risk on producing merchandise. The result is a reduction of royalties to licensors and of merchandise available for new properties.
“The model we came up with is one where we can partner directly with the brand owner,” said Benoliel. “Our creative platform gives us the ability to create product on behalf of the brand owner while giving the end user the ability to interact with the brand, and create their own merchandise based on that brand, within a controlled environment.”
Essentially, MashOn packages its technology with its clients’ contents, and the application lives on the client’s website. “We don’t have to be a destination; we are branding the client’s application for the client’s use,” Benoliel said.
Although only two years into its new platform, MashOn continues to make improvements. Recently, the company extended its creative platform with digital manufacturing capabilities. It can now take a product that has been created or designed and manufacture it as a “one-of”—essentially, it can manufacture on demand.
With this new capability, MashOn can take on properties and create designs while removing the inventory risk for itself and its clients. “We can test out designs in the market, still produce a high quality product, and bring properties to the market that would not otherwise have merchandise,” Benoliel said.
There are six major lines of product MashOn manufactures on demand. First are paper products, including greeting cards, calendars, posters, and photo books, which can be manufactured with recycled paper if requested. Second are vinyl products like device skins for phones and iPads and wall skins.
Third is apparel, which is MashOn’s biggest line. From T-shirts to sweatshirts, blankets to Snuggies, apparel represents more than 70% of the company’s revenues. Fourth are lenticular products, producing images that appear in 3D or that appear to move when the product is moved.
The fifth product line is custom-printed sports balls. The most popular products in this line are mini baseballs, which are used for gifts and even baby announcements. The final line Benoliel describes as miscellaneous, traditional promotional products like mugs, mouse pads, and baseball bats.
“You’ll find one of three things in our stores: products that were pre-designed but manufactured on demand, user-generated creations, and inventoried product,” said Benoliel. “Our e-commerce environment manages the orders for both on-demand and inventoried products; it’s all a turnkey solution for our clients.”
Keep it creative
Beginning September 1, MashOn will release the newest upgrade to its platform: it’s moving from Flash to HTML 5. Although Flash offers many capabilities, it also has limitations.
Flash applications are fairly demanding on resources, and they don’t work on everything, such as iPads and iPhones. By redeveloping using HTML 5, MashOn’s applications will be “lighter” and will work cross-platform.
Benoliel said the transition is a significant step for the company, even though it was a costly investment. “I’m a big believer in standards, especially open standards, which is why we needed to make the investment,” he said. “We’ll be one of the first, if not the first, full-featured application that delivers this technology on any platform, whether a PC, Mac, iPad, or Droid phone.”
In the past couple of years, MashOn has grown 250%. Although execution is key, the creativity and technological acumen of the company’s 26 employees, most of who are around 25 years old, are what have made its evolution and success possible.
“We’re about people who will be proactive, dynamic, innovative, not scared of challenge, and certainly not scared of change,” said Benoliel. “By merging e-commerce with traditional retail, we are bridging a gap; there will always be a need for a lot of creative input.”
The licensing arm of this sporting goods manufacturer is stepping up its game to hit a broader audience. For Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc., selling baseballs, gloves, and helmets each year leads to licensing deals, which often appear on clothing racks and sunglass kiosks.
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The years of experience and emphasis on service at this firm make licensing an attractive option for hesitant retailers. As industries go, the licensing industry is comparatively young and only just truly hitting its stride. It’s proven to be a strong sector even during this great recession, but The Sharpe Company of California isn’t satisfied.
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With the largest source of fairy tale licensed art in the world and a lean operation, this company’s classic characters are reaching out to all ages. Trying to create a lasting connection with consumers is a daunting task. Fads fade away, but some properties have value that can’t easily be duplicated. This is why The Toon Studio of Beverly Hills is confident about the future after acquiring the worldwide exclusive rights to a stable of iconic children’s books and records, representing evergreen characters that include Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, and the Wizard of Oz.
Read more: The Toon Studio of Beverly Hills
This partnership and licensing group restructured to give its properties an even greater competitive advantage. Have you ever wondered what happens on the island that holds the Easter Bunny? How about what a new iteration of the classic movie “The Thing” would look like with 21st century technology behind it? If the answer is yes, Universal Partnerships and Licensing Group is happy to hear it.
Read more: Universal Partnerships and Licensing Group
The licensing division behind one of the world’s most beloved brands outlines how it keeps its property fresh and appealing. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find someone over the age of 20 who hears the word “soitenly” and doesn’t think of The Three Stooges. Such brand penetration is an obvious boon for C3 Entertainment, Inc., the company started by the Stooges in 1959 and the current owner of The Three Stooges brand.
Read more: C3 Entertainment
This agency helps retailers, licensors, and licensees discover the creative and financial benefits of brand licensing. As the world continues to shrink from a business perspective, many retailers have had to change their strategies to find a competitive advantage. Companies are realizing that the biggest asset they have is not their manufacturing process, their formulation, or their distribution practices. It’s the value of their brand.
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With one of the most recognizable brands in all of sports, this membership organization of professional golfers is seeing increased sales of licensed products around the world. When it comes to golf, no one brand has more recognition than the PGA Tour. During the last decade, the organization has worked to take advantage of its global brand awareness through an active licensing program that markets everything from apparel and accessories to video games and travel experiences.
“We were ranked as the 52nd largest retail licensor in 2009 with overall retail sales of our various marks at more than $660 million,” said Tim Hawes, SVP of retail licensing. “That says a lot about the global acceptance of our brand.”
Formed in 1968, the PGA Tour has had an active licensing program in place since the mid-1980s that ramped up the international focus of its licensing program in the last seven to 10 years. The sport has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of viewership and demographics, as 700 million households worldwide have the ability to view PGA Tour events. In addition, golf has broken through the stereotype of being a rich, old, white sport.
“One interesting component of the golf demographic is that it is more diverse than people often realize in terms of age and ethnic breakdowns. Golf, and especially the PGA Tour mark, penetrates various segments extremely well,” said Hawes. “Over the last 10 years, a democratization of the sport has resulted in increases in our female, youth, Hispanic, and African-American fan base.”
The PGA Tour takes a broad approach to licensed products and services because the sport’s outdoor, lifestyle nature gives it a universal appeal. Think about it: how many sports can a 12-year-old and a 75-year-old play together and have a good time? In the US, 100 million people consider themselves golf fans, and 30 million actively play. That creates decisions at a buying level beyond just buying clubs and balls to apparel, accessories, and services that are much broader than any sport golf competes with.
The foundation of the PGA Tour’s licensing program is traditional apparel and accessories. Around the world, it has approximately 100 licensees making everything from outerwear and headwear to divot tools, with 25 to 30 licensees focused on apparel. It also has a relationship with EA Sports, which makes the PGA Tour’s Tiger Woods golf game easily the most successful golf video game on the market.
The organization is exploring entering the youth club market, but it has traditionally avoided licensing equipment like balls, shoes, and clubs. Hawes said it would be inappropriate for the tour to begin licensing those products.
“We are a membership organization, and our members use all forms of equipment. Our brand acts as a seal of approval, and to associate with any one equipment brand wouldn’t be proper,” he said.
Other new channels it is exploring vary. For example, The Tour Club is a private national club combining golf and international travel that people can join and get access to premium vacation destinations and residential facilities for golf-centric vacations and tournament-related products like event tickets, VIP tours, and clinics. PGA Tour Experiences is another source for golf vacations, corporate events, and access to PGA Tour Academy instructional centers.
Beyond the nucleus of the PGA Tour mark, the organization has a portfolio of about 35 brands with a lot of value and recognition. Its tournament brands include the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, and Nationwide Tour. It manages ancillary brands like the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola. When the PGA Tour forms licensing partnerships with licensees, the organization works with its partners to foster a synergy between where the licensing partner believes products will attract the target audience and where the PGA Tour wants them to be sold.
“We have targeted relationships with licensees in certain distribution channels. Perry Ellis International makes private label PGA Tour clothing that is sold in 4,000 mid- and upper mid-tier department stores. Other partners are in the green grass channel, or golf clubhouses, only. Others sell only to tournaments,” said Hawes. “For us, a key element to value is understanding the expectations and strengths of the licensees in terms of their distribution channel and making a program that maximizes the opportunities in the channel.”
Top of the leaderboard
As the licensor, the PGA Tour creates value in each of its marks that the licensees license and take to the marketplace. The tour creates value and recognition in the brand by delivering valuable content to consumers through TV programming on the Golf Channel and its two network partners with thousands of hours per year in TV programming. The tour has a substantial promotional program through print media partnerships with USA Today, Golf Digest, and Forbes, and it has a partnership with XM Radio that boasts more than 1 million listeners per week.
“That all adds up to our brand being delivered to a lot of consumers on a global basis, which then makes people want to associate with the products and the brand,” Hawes said.
The organization also takes advantage of its clear leadership online. The tour’s website is easily the most consumed and viewed golf website on the Internet, and last year the organization partnered with Global Value Commerce to launch a redesigned official online store that included expanded functionality, a broad selection of merchandise, and competitive pricing.
Despite the ongoing challenges in the retail space, the PGA Tour is focused on introducing its brand to new arenas of consumers. Hawes said the tour has around 20 projects in various development stages where its family of marks can create an acceptance with new consumers by virtue of it sports, golf, and lifestyle affiliation.
“There will always be turnover in a market and economy like this, but we can offset that turnover with the development of new products and services we bring to market to keep ahead of the growth curve. Our business has kept growing, and our team is focused on business development to be sure we stay ahead of that curve,” he said. “As consumers have more access to our brand through TV and the web, there is more demand at the retail level. We are confident the next few years will be a big period of growth for us at retail.”
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