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Chris Tague tells us about his history with car brands – and why Lotus offers licensing partners a unique proposition.
Earlier this year, Global Trademark Licensing secured an expanded representation deal for Lotus Cars, with the firm’s Emira sports car model added to GTL’s remit.
GTL is working to bring Lotus into categories spanning toys, collectibles, gaming, interactive and lifestyle areas.
We spoke with Chris Tague to find out more about his history with car brands – and why Lotus offers partners a unique proposition.
Chris, thanks for making time. Before we dive into Lotus, how did you find yourself working with brands?
I started out working with luxury brands and products, a role which I fell into really. I graduated from university and there was an opportunity at the Richemont group with Alfred Dunhill. I started and fell in love with extremely well-crafted products and the stories behind them – Swiss watches, Italian leather, that type of thing. There’s a passion there, a lot of skill and although they’re expensive items, you can understand why because so much work goes into them.
“Partners are looking for brands that have an interesting story to tell – Lotus has that.”
Absolutely – and this role was in product development?
Yes, I was in product development to start with but got into other areas because I didn’t want to become too specialist. On that journey I was working with Links of London, who had acquired a few licenses including Wimbledon, McLaren and the London 2012 Olympics. I was asked to work in that area and enjoyed the fact it felt like its own small business unit working across all functions including product development, marketing, and sales.
This took me into licensing, and my most recent role prior to working with Global Trademark Licensing was with McLaren Automotive, heading up their merchandising and licensing business. That allowed me to work with toy companies like LEGO and with computer games.
I was also able to utilise my background in luxury in developing collaborations including Richard Mille, Tumi, and Belstaff. I love licensing when it’s not that traditional ‘send us a cheque to use the name’ approach. It’s best when both parties bring something to the table and work together collaboratively. That’s when you get something original and special.
Does that approach to brand extension steer how your work with partners at Global Trademark Licensing?
Yes, we like to work with partners who really want to do something interesting. With Lotus and Global Trademark Licensing, it’s exactly that. Lotus has an amazingly rich brand with a great heritage and an exciting future. We’re now trying to find innovative partners who are equally engaged and who understand the Lotus brand and offering.
“Lotus is one of the few brands that has an amazing history and heritage alongside an equally promising future.”
You can put the Lotus logo on a product and, of course, it’ll sell a certain amount, but we want to get under the skin of the brand and do something unique and original. It’s about brand building and finding partners that have a genuine synergy. It has to make sense and excite people – but it has to be authentic; it can challenge but it can’t conflict with the brand values of either collaborator.
Before we dive further into Lotus, you mentioned working at McLaren, you’re now doing work with Lotus… Are car brands your focus?
No, I work on lots of different brands. Personally, I love design and well-made product, so cars fall into that as much as other categories such as watches.
When I was working at McLaren, you couldn’t help but get excited about working on that brand with such passionate and knowledgeable people. That experience extended my knowledge of that world, so automotive is now something of a natural home for me because I love the design language in that industry; form follows function.
But we also work with luxury products, interactive, toys… lots of different areas as well with specialists in these areas.
Great. Now, back to Lotus – for any licensees out there that are curious, why should they be excited about the Lotus brand?
The exciting thing about Lotus is that it’s one of the few brands that has such an amazing heritage and history alongside an equally promising future. There are fascinating technical aspects: it has the Formula One history, it’s one of the most well-known Bond cars. It also has one of the most exciting new launch programmes of any vehicle brand out there; the Evija and the Emira being the first.
From a licensing point of view, the combination of all of this gives you great creative potential. Everyone talks about storytelling, and the partners we’re speaking to are looking for brands that have an interesting story to tell; Lotus has that.
Does the strong design identity of Lotus help the brand translate successfully into consumer products?
Yes, it does. There are two aspects to it. One is that licensees want to work with brands as a means of producing something different and telling a story. To be different, a brand needs to have something original, like a distinctive design that people aren’t used to.
A Lotus always looks like a Lotus; most people would recognise it. That’s a unique thing these days as more and more cars are looking the same. Lotus stands out and its design language lends itself to certain product categories very well.
The other aspect is authenticity; collaborations need to be authentic otherwise customers see right through it, so that’s the other key thing you need to give yourself the best chance of success.
Which categories are you looking at for Lotus?
We’re talking to lots of potential partners, but the truth is that if something makes sense and there’s genuine innovation there, we would consider it – but it has to feel right for the brand.
Apparel is a natural fit, as are other luxury products and accessories; categories like homeware or kitchenware might sound like a stretch but if there’s a genuine story and synergy there and Lotus is adding value, it’s all possible!
We’re covering all kinds of experiential brand extension activity at the moment, from Motul garages at Goodwood Revival to Scream-inspired Airbnb stays. Do you see potential for Lotus in live experiences?
I think so because there’s a real enthusiasm for this brand. Fans have a passion for the cars and live experiences literally immerse them in the world of Lotus.
Brands are more to open to these kinds of things now. Before, a licensed hotel room might’ve been seen as a bit tacky or naff, but we’re seen some really strong, innovative and authentic executions in recent years.
Automotive companies are becoming tech companies, if you look at things like connected cars, so imagine you leave a car and your preferred settings – like a preferred radio station – carrying from your car to your hotel room. I’m really excited about the potential in this sector.
Not every car brand makes the successful leap into licensing, so what is it about Lotus that has ensured it has this kind of creative brand potential?
It has unique DNA, a strong identify and a confidence in how it translates that identity across. Lotus does things with passion and for the right reasons.
“Lotus has a boldness. Some car brands play it very safe, but there’s lots of exciting new opportunities around today – look at NFTs, hotels, exhibitions, streetwear.”
Car brands sometimes approach licensing purely for the commercial element and, while they’re not mutually exclusive, if you start from that point, you often make short-term decisions that don’t tend to last. That’s why Lotus has a long-term vision and a patience to execute things well.
Lotus also has a boldness and an appetite to take risks. Some car brands play it very safe, but there’s lots of exciting new opportunities around today – look at NFTs, hotels, exhibitions, streetwear. The brands that are succeeding are the ones taking those leaps forward. Lotus has always been a pioneer; it’s in the brand’s DNA if you look at figures like Colin Chapman, the founder.
Absolutely. Before we wrap things up, you mentioned earlier about your history working in the luxury space. Do you think brands are embracing this sector in interesting ways at the moment?
Lots of brands are playing in the luxury space, but many are having to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. Look at streetwear; brands are embracing this opportunity, being playful with their IP and working with creative forces like Nigo.
Luxury doesn’t just mean silver service and traditional craftmanship anymore; consumers want fun and irreverence. Gucci is a good example; they misspelled their name a few years ago for a collection and launched a playful ‘Not/Fake’ range at the start of the year.
Luxury brands are waking up to the fact they need to be more creative and there are exciting collaborations… one of my favourites from a few years ago was Palace and Ralph Lauren – surprising and creative but it really worked.
It’s a fascinating space and I think we’ll see a lot more collaboration in this sector moving forward, as we will in the automotive space.
Great stuff. Thanks again for taking time out for this Chris; I have one last question – what do you do to fuel your own creativity?
I like to think I’m creative but I’m not at the level of the incredible people I’m lucky enough to work with. I work across categories and surround myself with interesting, creative people. A big part of my job, and one I love is putting talented people together and seeing what happens – it’s all part of the alchemy of licensing!
I get my inspiration from travel, reading and seeing what’s going on in many different sectors. It’s also good to have an open mind and be up for challenging conventions; that’s what I like to do.
Brilliant. Well I look forward to seeing the creative collaborations that come through for Lotus in the near future – thanks again Chris.
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