Report From Licensing International: Align and Shine, People!

Last week in Vegas, I came off of the bench for Carol and shared right brain retail insights, and a few tips on how to frame brand conversations with retailers, at the Licensing International show.

After all, what does a Walmart tweet or a Target team Ning have to do with licensing brands and supporting them at retail? Everything and here’s why . . .

Simply stated, data is ubiquitous and content is the new differentiator. Retailers are grabbing that content anywhere and everywhere they can get it and the social media sphere offers an instantaneous and near-endless supply. Retailers are strategically tweeting and hammering out ghost blogs all in the name of building brand loyalty . . . and as we can’t stop saying, they see themselves AS the master brand. That’s why the only thing sweeter to a retailer than their own voice in the social media space is the sound of YOUR content supporting their initiatives.

When asked about measuring ROI for social media initiatives, I had to deal out the reality that, even though the licensing community generally has more marketing resources at its disposal, licensors and licensees are often the most myopic about how their brand story gets told. Social media and in-store marketing is still largely viewed through a brand-centric lens; one that extracts the retailer. Beyond that, short-duration licensing and a “hit” mentality can conspire to make instant gratification an ongoing expectation.

The marketing cause and effect timeframe has expanded into oblivion as retailers talk about “touch points” and “conversations” more than they do about POS; however, you can actually get some understanding of where to go by looking back on history. Private label, RFID, sustainability . . . the suppliers that took a leap BEFORE these initiatives became edicts were the ones who ultimately reaped the benefits of retailer marketing support and relationship-girding; benefits that were denied to those who chose to wait and see. Jumping in early has the effect of making your marketing spend, and the impact of that spend, exponential if you align your messages, content and social media choices with those of your retailers.

A mantra that we share with our clients is “those who play, stay” and “perception is reality.” If you’re digging in your heels or whining, “Who’s got the TIME?” then you’re missing the point. Retailers are finding the time and they want to work with brands that are early-stage participants; not late-to-the-party lurkers! (Check out Carol’s blog on Walmart.com for more).