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Global Licensing NZ’s founder, Mark Paul, on a quarter of a century in licensing
Mark, you’re the founder and managing director of Global Licensing NZ Ltd. What is it that Global Licensing NZ does for its clients?
Essentially it’s our job to monetize the brands we represent, within the parameters of the licensing strategy as provided by the brand owner or principal. Our strategies can differ from other markets based on our retail options and positioning, potential licensees, timing, brand awareness and so on.
What are the key areas you’re involved with?
The key areas include strategic planning, license contract negotiation and management, brand management and marketing, retailer management, product-approvals tracking, financial-contract management, and delivering financial results
Strewth! You’re all over it! Anything else?!
It’s worth adding that, if we’re creating a licensing programme for a client with no previous licensing experience, we also develop all of the documentation required to run a successful licensed merchandising programme. We can help secure media placement, negotiate promotional rights, pitch brands to retail buyers as well as potential licensees and promotional or advertising agencies, introduce international partners to local distributors and agents, help put together retail promotions – and much more!
If my maths is right, you’ve been going for 25 years! How did you come to be in the industry?
I was a retailer for 13 years until 1995 and sold a lot of licensed products. In the early 90s, I also became a licensee for Paramount and Lucasfilm, distributing trading card games in New Zealand. Once I left retail, I formed a licensing company to represent Paramount Pictures, which led to further agencies for Turner Broadcasting and ABC Enterprises.
And when would that have been?
Around 1996. I was then granted Australian rights to Paramount, operating from their offices in North Sydney and Auckland. From 1999 to 2007, I formed a close working relationship with Gaffney International Licensing. They took over Paramount for Australia, and I managed their New Zealand business until they closed their doors in 2007. During this time, I also became the New Zealand agent for Nickelodeon, Sesame Street and Marvel. Since 2008, I’ve been an independent agent managing various brands across Australia and New Zealand.
“The most important aspects to me are client trust and brand longevity – and therefore potential.”
That’s quite a pedigree. And now your clients include The Wiggles, Resene, Roald Dahl and the AA. What is it you look for in a client? What qualities do all your partners have?
The most important aspects to me are client trust and brand longevity –
and therefore potential. Licensing is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s critical that clients and principals have patience, and trust that we know what we’re doing and are following the best course for their brand in the territory we know well.
It can take several years to develop a truly successful licensing programme, and from the licensing agent’s point of view the first one or two years can be less than profitable given the amount of work required to get brand momentum. So I’m less inclined to look at brands that I feel don’t have long-term potential.
Makes absolute sense! And on that point, I guess, to what values do you adhere when you work? What’s your ethos and what are your priorities?
Most importantly, I want everyone involved to benefit from the licensing programme – the client, the retailer and the licensee. Having been a retailer, licensee and licensing agent, I think I have a unique perspective of this business. I’ve represented clients in the past whose purpose – it seems – is to make as much money as possible from every brand activity, regardless of whether this is in the best longterm interest of the brand, the retailer or the licensee.
That’s not for you…
That’s not for me, no! With a smaller market such as ours, with fewer retailer and licensee options, we need to ensure everyone has the chance to be successful. In this way we get longevity, retailer and licensee trust, which leads to future growth opportunities and the ability to do more business in the future. My priority is on being upfront, honest and trying to do the best by each partner in the programme.
Good answer, thank you. So… 25 years is a long time to thrive in one industry. What’s the secret of your longevity?
Persistence I guess! My business model has changed a lot over the years, as the licensing business has.
In what ways?
I’ve streamlined systems and eradicated anything I feel is unnecessary. Over the years I’ve developed some great relationships locally and internationally, which have led to recommendations and many new brand opportunities. I’ve also built a database of over 6,000 contacts which is constantly updated – which has enormous benefits for the company and my clients.
And since you alluded to it just now, let me ask you: how has the industry changed since you began?
Where do you start? Lack of access to retail buyers would probably be one of the biggest changes. Buyers have less time to meet, evaluate new brands, work with licensing agents and licensees on cross-category support, or look at new marketing opportunities. It’s a shame as there are often great opportunities that go begging.
Obviously, the media landscape is completely different with the fragmentation of brand touchpoints across television and Video on Demand services: Advertising Based, Subscription and Transactional; Social Media, Influencers etc. There are also fewer retailer and licensee options and more online retailers.
Can you give us an example of a recent project?
Over the past three years, I’ve created a licensing programme for New Zealand’s most popular paint brand – Resene Paints. We’ve launched many ‘Resene Living’ branded categories in New Zealand’s largest homewares retailer, Briscoes – who now carry a wide range of quality adult and kids bedlinen, cushions, towels, bath sheets, hand towels, face cloths, throws, kitchen napery, candles and diffusers. They’ll soon also be launching bath mats, coffee mugs and drink bottles.
Terrific! Bonus points to you for using the word “napery”… I’m not sure we have Resene paints in the UK. For those that don’t know the brand, can you tell us a little about it?
Resene is New Zealand’s most-popular premium-paint brand, and one of “NZ‘s most trusted brands”. They provide information on the latest and most-popular fashion colours for both indoors and outdoors. Licensees then create product ranges to complement these colours that we know are very popular in this market. Outdoor furniture can feature the latest exterior house-paint colours, for instance.
And Resene is quite clever with it’s marketing, as I understand it…
Yes. To help drive sales, Resene heavily promotes these new licensed products – via Electronic Direct Mail – to over 200,000 of their customers and editorial and images in Habitat, New Zealand’s highest-readership lifestyle magazine; published by Resene. Samples are staged and photographed for inclusion in Habitat and via Resene’s social channels, including Instagram. They’re also provided to the licensee and the retailer for their own marketing purposes.
The brand has been very successful so we’re now working on new categories including kitchen appliances and utensils, dinnerware, bathroom products, outdoor furniture and cushions, indoor and outdoor bean bags, rugs, mats, toiletry bags, bags and backpacks, umbrellas, gardening, pet products, apparel, accessories, stationery and more.
How important is creativity in what you do?
Very important. It’s what keeps me interested in the licensing business, which has unlimited opportunities to be creative. Not only in how we can develop a licensing strategy but also in helping licensees create fantastic products based on the brands we represent. It’s also fascinating seeing licensees’ designers come up with new creative product ideas and concepts.
And how do you personally stay creative?
I’m always being inspired by other activity in the licensing business internationally. One creative idea can grow into something uniquely different in our market. I’m constantly on the lookout for new inspiration wherever that may come from. I do a lot of reading and love art, in all its forms.
“One creative idea can grow into something uniquely different in our market.”
What’s the one question I should’ve asked you but didn’t?
What’s something few people know about you?
And what’s the answer?
I’ve collected rare comic books for 40 years.
Oh, wow! How did that come about?
When I was a kid, comic books were sold in every stationers, book shop or corner store. 70’s Marvel comics started my love of reading and appreciating artwork, as I followed particular artists. I guess the fascination with the art form never left me and, as I got older and could afford to buy the early issues, it turned into a hobby that I enjoy to this day. The value of early comic books have gone through the roof in the last few years, especially with Covid where all collectibles have enjoyed big price gains. So it’s become a profitable hobby too, which keeps my wife from leaving me.
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