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Smart Design Studio’s Nic Davies, Heayes Design’s Richard Heayes, Pinfinity’s Caleb Paullus and The Toy Association’s Marian Bossard give us their picks for brands that could enjoy a second life through licensing.
Retro and vintage brands are enjoying a lot of interest and activity in recent years.
Eighties brand Rainbow Brite has a wealth of product available on Truffleshuffle, the Blockbuster video chain received fresh attention when it became the focus of a party game from Big Potato and Space Invaders recently landed in the footwear aisle with Floris van Bommel.
Moving from the Eighties to the Nineties and we’ve recently seen Tommy Hilfiger debut a capsule collection celebrating some classic Nickelodeon properties from the decade, including Rugrats, Garfield and Beavis & Butt-Head.
Further proof, if it were needed, of licensing’s power to keep retro brands alive came with the recent news that MGM will be hosting its first Pink Panther month in June 2022; an event promising product launches, thematic retail activations and experiential initiatives.
Having started life in the credits of the classic film series of the same name more than 50 years ago, the brand has continued to thrive in recent times with a raft of apparel and homewares deals, as well as a Pantone partnership.
Following all this retro activity, we asked Smart Design Studio’s Nic Davies, Heayes Design’s Richard Heayes, Pinfinity’s Caleb Paullus and The Toy Association’s Marian Bossard for their picks of brands that could be revived through creative licensing.
Nic Davies, Creative Director & Founder, Smart Design Studio
This last year has seen a major comeback for many of my own personal Nineties nostalgia brands – and music.
The Face magazine has always been the single biggest design influence and inspiration to me, and it was exciting to see this brand revived in Selfridges recently. What was great was the way licensing tapped into the magazine covers themselves as an ‘art collection’ – the covers are iconic and to acknowledge them as ‘works of art’ made perfect sense.
This made me think there are many other magazines equally deserving of the ‘work of art’ award… The one that immediately springs to mind is Ray Gun magazine. There are over 70 issues of Ray Gun in its archive, so to bring it to life as an art collection seems a perfect retro revival.
Again, each cover would feature an iconic celebrity but unlike the clean lines of the Face magazine, Ray Gun focused on the grunge alternative side of pop culture and broke all the rules! You could have some real fun bending the rules with the product design for this brand… I’m thinking record bags or apparel with pockets in unusual places, beautifully designed tags and labels on the outside rather than hiding them on the inside, having fun and freedom with each element and its design.
Like The Face and Ray Gun, i-D magazine has an extensive archive of iconic covers that date back to 1980. Tipped on its side, the “i-D” typographic logo reveals a winking smiley that can be seen reflected in the winking cover model. This is a great hook for the product and core design features. The early issues were produced as hand stapled fanzines, and this would be a great vibe to tap into for a trend guide.
As all these brands provide us a snapshot into a ‘moment in time’ in youth culture, collections could really utilise the love we all have for nostalgic brands, making the product desirable to both the original and the new audiences.
NME… Smash Hits… I could go on… I don’t know if this is a licensing insight or more a personal wish list; hopefully both!
Richard Heayes, Founder, Heayes Design
Any brand with a memorable story that makes an emotional connection as soon as you see it has the potential to work through smart licensing… Something that puts a smile on your face for being cool, smart or just plain funny.
I’m always nervous suggesting ideas in licensing because most of them seem to have been done but how about…
Dulux painting sets for kids; the lovely Sheepdog could be a real icon for getting kids to paint.
The Commodore 64 was the best-selling computer of all time. The titles on that hold fond memories for many and I’m sure the 64 brand itself could make another comeback. If we all want some mindfulness, learn to wait for your game to load via cassette for 30 mins! Maybe a digital loader so things are not instant and make players practice relaxation in between!
My last pick would be the Raleigh Chopper. It was not just a bike… It was a style icon, and I could imagine different products being given the ‘Chopper’ treatment. I’d love to see a Chopper Scooter or shoes.
Caleb Paullus, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Pinfinity
Nostalgia is so powerful. There are a lot of big brands that have made acquisitions and haven’t done anything with some really great properties from the 80s and 90s. I know Mattel, for example, has a very big vault of IP and it wouldn’t take much to seed the market and get collectors excited.
Shogun Warriors? Collectors would snatch these up and who doesn’t love robots! Other stuff from various brands includes things like Street Sharks, My Pet Monster and Rock Lords to name a few. These are such fun brands and can do well in a market that is over saturated with other IP.
Collaborations are strong. A full-blown licensing program for these older properties isn’t necessary to start. Brands should sync up with other companies and do limited edition drops. Reeboks X Shogun Warriors… I’d buy them all!
Brands should reach out to other brands that are doing things that are different and cool and are hype-able. A good example (though not necessary in need of revival) is the Jurassic Park X Transformers set. It takes two properties that have strong ties to invoking nostalgia and creates something that is awesome.
Marian Bossard, Senior Advisor, The Toy Association
As a tween/teen in the 60s, I was raised on Mad Magazine and the political satire of Spy vs. Spy. I’ve always wondered if these comics, that skewered politicians, the military and heavily-decorated leaders, didn’t help allay any real fears about the dangerous world out there. I think it’s time to provide tweens and teens with gentle political satire and Spy vs. Spy never made one side dominant over the other.
The brand has huge potential across multiple categories, from apparel to accessories and room décor. Old content is rather timeless but updating for current teen/tween audience might be worth exploring. A brilliant sneaker deal with PUMA back in 2008 showed that the IP gives designers lots to play with when it comes to expressing their creativity through Spy vs. Spy.
With the U.S and Russia again heavily armed with chest-thumping rhetoric, let’s give the younger generation a break and point out the folly of constant agitation. Tween/teen political satire will help to ease worries and build resilience with humour. Foolish adults should be exposed!
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