Licensing Industry Awaits the “Next Big Thing” in Character Licensing

As I explore in our “Licensing: Billion Dollar Character Franchises” global briefing, the astonishing popularity of Frozen clearly proved that there is still scope for new properties and expansion of existing franchises. While Disney dominates the licensing world with its 11 worldwide famous licences each selling more than US$1 billion of branded products, there are also other properties that have been expanding their reach globally. Looking beyond the most licensed – and obvious – categories may potentially help businesses to secure a billion-plus dollar status for their franchises.


Key Findings

Domestic versus international character-based licences

While global perennial properties such as Mickey Mouse and Star Wars have penetration across almost all geographies, both licensors and licensees should also be aware of locally-grown franchises and determine their strategies accordingly.

Children population: Key for character licensing

With the exception of a number of properties such as Hello Kitty and Star Wars, the majority of the most popular character-based licences are aimed at children aged up to eight years. Reaching 978.4 million in 2015, Asia Pacific is home to the world’s largest population of 0-14 year-olds, almost double the size of the next largest region, the Middle East and Africa, with 553.6 million.

Disney: World’s top licensor

With retail sales of licensed merchandise sales reaching US$52.5 billion worldwide in 2015, Disney boasts having 11 different franchises, including Disney Princess, Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, Winnie-the-Pooh, Frozen, Monsters, Spider-Man, Toy Story and Cars, each selling more than US$1 billion of branded products. In 2015, Disney unseated LEGO to become the world’s most powerful brand.

How to create an evergreen property?: The holy grail of licensing

The astonishing popularity of Frozen proved that there is still scope for the development of successful franchises. Presence in right brand platforms, fan base, well-placed retail strategy as well as music, family appeal, pre-school targeting and careful timing could hold the key.

Look beyond the obvious

Categories where licensing penetration is already high could be an obvious choice for many licensors which can also be deemed as risk-free. Yet, as much as they might be attractive to invest in, they might also be oversaturated. The solution might as well be looking at areas where licensing penetration is relatively low.