Oct 31, 2018

American Licensing Gurus in Finland: Here Is What We Learned (Guest Post)

Earlier this month, Flowhaven organized its first brand licensing conference, Insights to North American Brand Licensing and Merchandising, in Helsinki, Finland. The conference was attended by a few dozens of high-key licensing executives from the Nordics and the industry masterminds from the U.S. Heikki Laaninen, Head of Licensing at Ferly and a dear friend of Flowhaven, is reflecting on his experience of attending the conference.

An engaged audience, a line-up of great speakers and an overall well-organized event. That was Insights to North American Brand Licensing and Merchandising, the event organized by Flowhaven in collaboration with many well-known Finnish entities that promote brand licensing and the creative industries in Finland, in a nutshell. I suppose not much more could be wished of a one-day licensing event. However, as I am writing this a few weeks past the event and this year’s Brand Licensing Europe show, a few key messages are still on my mind.

During the past few years, we have had quite many licensing seminars and events in Finland, but none of them had such international line-up of speakers like this one. The licensing industry in Finland is growing, thanks to many globally renowned brands coming from our small market. While we enjoy the increasing number of local licensing events focused on the regional licensing ecosystems and networks in Finland, it is as meaningful for us to see and hear what’s happening outside. This is especially in North America that still leads the way of global trends in the licensing industry.

As the event went on, I kept wondering if everyone in the audience really understood how exciting it was to have the president of the LIMA association, Maura Regan, to attend the event. Seeing Maura present us with statistics from the Nordic licensing market was one of the key insights of the day, which is exactly why it is so important that we have associations like LIMA to supporting us with information to helps us to perform our daily businesses better.

LIMA’s influence is growing in our markets since many of our local brands are looking to expand outside or, as is the case with entertainment brands, are already out there. This continued trend toward globalization has been driving the need for reliable information and the network to help expand their licensing businesses.

In addition, what else I say? Speakers were all great. Some of the used examples didn’t perhaps resonate that well with the audience, which mostly consisted of Finnish licensing executives. But again, that’s not something they would expect either. In the end, the event was about licensing, which as a business development tool works similarly, regardless of context or market. Of course, cultures differ, but the event aimed to reveal the insights from t the North American brand licensing market. For us Finns to succeed in this market, we need to understand its dynamics and people.

I think Andrew Lawrence, Licensing Director at Pyramid International and one of the speakers at Flowhaven’s event. He put it the best by saying that he's interested in people on a much deeper level than judging them by their looks educational background, or social status. Andrew shows interest in what they love, what they’re passionate about. That was really the message consistently came up from all speakers, each of them putting it in their own way and with unique context and points of view. This message is:

Think people. Think fans.

Look at what makes people emotionally, rather than rationally, invested. When someone is emotionally invested in something, then there are also business opportunities for fulfilling these needs. Fan products is a term that the speakers used quite a lot in their speeches. Notice that it is neither licensing products, nor merchandising, but fan products or products made for the fans.

I believe that for many licensing professionals in the room, the above was the key takeaway or, perhaps, a reminder. In brand licensing, it is sometimes a good idea to stop doing whatever you are doing and think of the audience you're making your products for. Whom are you trying to delight? Of course, companies have different stakeholders with different ambitions and needs. Yet, when it comes to the actual product, the main question remains simple:- who is it for? The target probably is not the company shareholders or owners, but that someone out there who really loves your brand.

It’d be difficult to go wrong about licensing your brand if you keep in mind that you are developing products for the fans. Yet, forgetting that might lead to a disaster. It’s nice that we have these licensing events every now and then to remind us about the “larger” image. These events can take us away from our small nitty-gritty daily routine that forms this picture, though they should never distant us from it, either.

Post author: Heikki Laaninen, Head of Licensing at Ferly

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