Adding value through brand licensing

If your magazine has strong brand values, then its readers will probably be open to purchasing other products associated with that brand. This can provide incremental revenues, extra publicity for the brand and extra leverage into retail. But tread carefully – associate your prize brand with the wrong product and it’ll all end in tears. IPC’s Andrew Horton outlines their approach to brand licensing.

By Andrew Horton

IPC+ is a division of IPC Media, formed in October 2004. The business is broad, active and growing. We licence our magazines in international markets and this year have launched Wallpaper* in Russia, Golf Monthly in Spain and Woman & Home in South Africa. Our syndication business generates revenues and publicity across red-tops and glossies; brand licensing creates new products from our magazine brands; IPC Images manages hundreds of thousands of pictures in a centralised database and we also have our own in-house photography studio.

What unites these areas, and is the rationale behind IPC+, is the creation of new value through innovative use of IPC’s content and brands. Creating new value is key to our continued success as a publisher and to show what value and how it can be created, I’ll focus on brand licensing.

Brand licensing in the UK is smaller than in the US and is less visible than the character licensing associated with films. But it is growing and that growth promises to be sustainable: we are creating new products from strong brands which have an existing relationship with consumers. This brings value to IPC, to retailers and to consumers.

Value to the publisher

There are five benefits:

* Reinforcement of brand values and development of a stronger brand.
* Increased opportunity to interact with consumers.
* The creation of new promotional platforms.
* Development of a stronger relationship with retailers.
* New, incremental revenues.

Brand licensing enables magazines to reach out to existing readers and new consumers, developing a relationship that communicates and builds on the core values of the magazine. Practical Parenting’s ‘Baby & Child’ book, published with Hamlyn, addresses common parental questions and concerns in an informative, practical way: key brand values are articulated in more detail in a book format.

Books will be launched off other IPC magazines this year that cater to specific consumer needs and interests, both deepening our relationship with existing readers and broadening the presence of the magazine brands.

And this can work for a wide range of magazines: calendars are a staple Christmas purchase and last year we ensured that SuperBike, Railway Magazine, Amateur Photographer, TVTimes and Caravan would live with their readers through calendar ranges that celebrated readers’ passions. Chat, inimitably, forecast readers’ futures through its ‘Chat It’s Fate’ calendar and asked readers to submit their partners to feature in its ‘Best Bums’ calendar.

We are proud of our brand licences and promote these products in our magazines. But the relationship is reciprocal: our brand licences feature subscription offers to the host magazine and we are building means for consumers to feedback to us.

Brand licences can change our relationship with retail. As a publisher we are delivering additional value, in product sales, to our retail partner which is affecting the scope of conversations we have. This provides IPC with a potential competitive edge for magazine distribution. WH Smith stocks market leading Ideal Home and the magazine’s ‘3-D Home Architect’ enabling consumers to redesign their homes via a CD-ROM. Mizz, our teen magazine, has sold over 600,000 Mizz branded watches in outlets such as Argos and H Samuel. Tests are underway in Tesco and Woolworths, working to ensure Mizz watches are sold in outlets selling the magazine and opening up new promotional opportunities.

All this activity generates incremental revenue for our magazines. Our aim is to develop a virtuous circle: create products completely in tune with the magazine brand, extend the reach of the brand through the products while generating new revenue streams. This enables further financing of the magazine brand and our portfolio.

Value to retailers

The value created by magazine brand licensing is not confined to the publisher. In an increasingly competitive market IPC brands can provide differentiation for our retail partners. Selling over 1.4 billion copies a year (42 every second!), consumer magazines have a high awareness amongst consumers: branded magazine products stand out in-store.

This appeal can be built on. In a crowded environment and with competition for attention increasing, retailers are striving to create differentiated product ranges and innovative, visual displays that arrest and appeal.

Our challenge is to work with them using the power of our brands. This is a two-fold process:

1. Partnering with retail to create branded products that meet their needs and are presented innovatively. Key to this is developing our products with retail rather than ‘selling in’ the products once created.
2. Using the unique relationship magazines have with their readers. Magazines inform and inspire, provide information consumers trust and advice they act on. This is a potent mix – a formula for driving sales: the NFO World Group 2002 research shows that, in key retail categories, magazines are the most effective medium for giving consumers ideas on products they act on to buy. Traditionally a benefit to magazine advertisers, it is also one we are building on with brand licensing.

To ensure this value is translated into concrete value for retail partners, IPC+ recently appointed Global Brands Group as our worldwide master licensee. The company’s branding and specialist retail knowledge is second-to-none and we will be working together with retailers in the UK and overseas to develop brand licensing programmes across the IPC portfolio including titles such as Homes & Gardens, Decanter, Practical Parenting and Nuts.

Successful brand licensing & learnings

We are continually learning and applying that knowledge to what products we should or shouldn’t develop, what designs work and don’t and how we can deliver value to consumers. But we do adhere to the following core principles:

* Focus on the brand. Brand licences must evolve consistently and seamlessly from the magazine’s values. We avoid simply ‘badging’ products with our brands. Rather, IPC+ aims to develop products that deliver real value to the consumer and strengthen the magazine brand. This means that publishing and editorial teams are involved from the start and contribute throughout to design, distribution and promotional strategy. Style guides are created which articulate the magazine’s values and detail colour palettes and design guidelines.
* Be honest and absolutely clear on the core value to the consumer. Ensure that the products you create will provide real added value and ask ‘can we bring true value to the market?’ (And it pays to keep asking the question!)
* Work with retail and build a partnership. At the risk of labouring this…it’s key and can be developed at all levels. IPC editors, for instance, join meetings with retailers.
* Work as a brand team. Involvement from editors and publishing is invaluable. Editors, in particular, offer great insights into consumers and are critical to visual design.
* Focus on long-term, sustainable growth. Ultimately, to keep growing the virtuous circle, a brand licence should develop into a brand franchise with new product lines developed and added. This takes time and patience as manufacturing lead-times can be longer than we are used to in publishing. But patience in development pays back in longevity of sales.
* Build. We use a three stage strategy for developing our brand licences. Firstly, develop ‘first-removed’ products that are closest to the magazine brand ie. books, calendars - essentially printed products. Secondly, develop products that use content from the magazine but in a different format and a stage on from print eg. TVTimes board game, DVDs, CD-ROMs. Thirdly, evolve into general, albeit relevant, product categories that are matched to their interests and lifestyle choices. eg. clothing for Mizz or a home wares line for Homes & Gardens.

Using Mizz as an example, we have developed a puzzle magazine but also expanded into watches, toiletries, sunglasses and clothing. This has not been a quick process but we have a range that delivers revenues and supports the magazine brand both now and in the future.

This approach does not preclude moving quickly in response to market needs though. A poster range developed from Loaded images was designed and available to consumers in a matter of weeks. But the overall aim should be to build a range of licences from the magazine brand.

Brand licensing is not easy but, if successful, can deliver new value to the publisher, to retailers and to consumers. Developing a programme is not unlike developing a great magazine: listen to consumers, do the research and establish a clear proposition that translates into unique consumer value. Then focus on great execution.

In brand licensing that means working with retailers as partners and being rigorous and innovative in how content and brands are used and displayed. In this way publishers can build sustainable brand franchises that will support their print brands, deepen their dialogue with consumers and deliver revenues now and in the future.

Global Brands Group is an international brand management company that unlocks the power and profitability of brands through creating and launching innovative retail, integrated marketing, promotion and licensing programmes. Clients include IPC Media, FIFA and Warner Bros.