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Anna Knight, VP of Licensing at Informa Market, gives us the lowdown on the firm’s upcoming events and explains why licensing jargon should be dropped to make the industry more designer-friendly…
Anna Knight, VP of Licensing at Informa Market, gives us the lowdown on the firm’s upcoming events, and explains why licensing jargon should be dropped to make the industry more designer-friendly…
Hey Anna – always fun to catch up. First off, most people we speak with say they fell into licensing; was that your experience or was this always on the cards?
Hi Billy, nice to be caught up with!
I guess you could say that I am like most people in that, yes, I also fell into licensing, but that was only after I fell into events first. I actually graduated in languages, so it was quite a sideways step, but I absolutely loved it. I worked in every type of industry, from air traffic control and health and safety, to pharmaceutical ingredients.
In 2015, I started running events and teams – rather than just marketing them – and in 2016, I started running BLE. I loved it from day one and I can’t see myself running events in any other sector now.
I’m a marketer by background, and licensing is just one element of marketing, so there’s loads of natural synergy there for me. It’s so creative and inspiring and never, ever boring. I have met – and continue to meet – the most interesting people through this industry. I am truly spoiled.
You guys have a suite of amazing industry events – what are some of the major ones coming up? And should the industry’s creative communities be checking in?
Thanks Billy. For a taster of things happening in specific sectors, I really recommend joining the License Global webinar series, which are completely free and a great starting point. We had a brilliant session on kids and content consumption in March with Gary Pope, Mark Kingston and Jon Gisby. On April 29th the focus is on gaming and esports, both of which have massive potential in licensing.
Then we have our first Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, which is being held as a virtual event from June 9th to 11th; it’s a European based event looking at major licensing trends – everything from what retail needs to do in the future to how different and digital content is now produced and disseminated.
The events that focus on content – so the webinars, conferences or summits – are great for learning about what’s happening in the industry, for understanding the challenges that exist and, as a creative, how you can solve those challenges and be part of the conversation.
Our two big trade shows are Licensing Expo in Vegas in August and BLE in London in November, and here our focus is on delivering inspiration – you’ll see upcoming launches of IPs and brands, as well as tons of products and product designs… Loads of work that will provide inspiration for designers moving forward.
What I want to see is design and designers to be involved in the process from the start, because licensing works best if the design is outstanding.
Absolutely. Now, I’ve chatted with the brilliant Helena Mansell-Stopher of Products of Change about how the shift towards sustainability starts with design. Fortunately for the design world, you guys have a whole strand of the Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit devoted to the subject. What can we expect from that?
We do, the entire second day of the Summit is devoted to sustainability and is being curated by Helena at Products of Change.
Rikesh Desai, Licensing Director from BBC Studios, has been leading a work-stream across business including Hasbro, LEGO, Viacom CBS, Discovery, The Natural History Museum, Brands In Limited and Asda. He’ll be presenting the POC White Paper at the Summit joined by members of that group to discuss how we can implement from designer and manufacturer through to retailer.
“Instead of using terms like the licensing industry, licensor and licensee that only we understand, we need to make a concerted effort to start talking to designers like they are creators and use words like brands, collabs, extensions.”
We will also focus on how to reduce carbon impact with June Kirkwood, managing director at Nutmeg Licensing, and will have a panel of industry professionals present their stories and discuss quick wins.
Sounds brill. We’ll be sure to check it out. You mentioned lots of exciting brand owners there; do you think the licensing space is in a good place creatively at the moment? And are there any recent collabs that come to mind that you think highlight the creativity of the sector?
Yeah, absolutely, there have been so many amazing brand collaborations happening recently, especially in apparel and footwear with Adidas Stan Smith and Disney.
All of the Vans collabs are amazing. The Fred Perry and Gorillaz collab was a very cool nostalgia trip back to 90s Britpop. I’m also loving what’s happening in the sustainability space.
The way brands are integrating and drawing from real world issues into collabs is really exciting. Mattel has been brilliant at ensuring diversity and inclusion is uppermost with Barbie product development and Maxine Lister at the Natural History Museum has just released another collab with Finnistere, which is a brilliant example of great design and sustainability working together.
Some designers we speak to for Brands Untapped don’t see themselves as being part of the licensing industry, because they may be working on a branded collection one day, and then back onto ‘normal’ apparel the next, for example. Is there something the industry can do to make this community feel more involved in this industry – because they’re actually key part of it, right?
Of course, they are, and there is something we can do.
One, we can drop the language and terminology that is only understood by licensing people. Instead of using terms like the licensing industry, licensor and licensee that only we understand, we need to make a concerted effort to start talking to them like they are creators and designers and use words like brands, collabs, extensions – words they are familiar with and words that make sense to them. We have already started doing this with our own brands like our Brand EXT report and we have been talking to retailers in their own language for years.
It’s a great point.
In addition, we need to communicate with them more – so working with you guys at Brands Untapped and Mojo Nation to make sure your communities are aware about our events and that they are our audience, too. This is partly why we’re launching a new award as part of our License This! programme – watch this space on that one! And it’s only then, will we start engaging creatives and designers.
“We have our first Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, which is being held as a virtual event from June 9th to 11th; it’s a European-based event looking at major licensing trends.”
Absolutely. Now, before we let you go, what do you do to fuel your own creativity?
For me it comes from two areas. The first is people… I get a lot of ideas when I talk to people, when I’m around the team, around friends, etc, and I have really felt that loss over lockdown.
And secondly, I like being outside and that’s one of the reasons why getting a puppy in lockdown has been so good for me. Having that change of scenery and environment really does help to spark ideas.
Snap on the puppy front! We can compare stories and wounds next time we meet properly! A huge thanks again for this Anna. And we should add, for anyone interested in the Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, it takes place from June 9th to 11th online and registration is open at https://www.brandlicensinginnovationsummit.com/. Also, the next License Global webinar will focus on gaming and esports and you can watch March’s episode on demand at https://www.licenseglobal.com/license-global-live.
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