When some of us think of licensing we think of crappy cartoon characters plonked on basic mugs and pencil cases followed the following year by some TV characters plonked on the same mugs and same pencil cases.
When some of us think of celebrity we imagine some airhead who goes to the opening of a biscuit packet and then appears in Nuts or Hello.
So imagine what some of us think of the marriage of licensing and celebrity… the imagination runs wild as to what the “bastard child” of this unholy marriage. What “Price” a pencil case in the shape of an over inflated pair of bosoms perched on a pair of “Wednesday legs” (thats “whens day gonna break”… stick thin legs to those reading this not from the north).
There are celebrity licensing successes that appear to work and aren’t cheesy (Kate Moss @ Top Shop, Elle Macpherson underwear, Nigella’s kitchen stuff) but these all come from celebs who happen to be immersed in and excel in their fields and supposedly actually involved in the product development process. But the same licensees who do it well can also get it crushingly wrong (witness Top Shop with that sad Posh spice range).
It is a real insult to the intelligence of the public though (or is it a deliberate piss take of daft elements of the public) when beauty companies launch Paris Hilton fragrances or Liz Hurley swimwear, TV chef endorsed dinner services or interior products from someone who is a presenter on some sad makeover programme. There are whole armies of designers coming up with product that is “influenced” by celebrities and marketing teams conning the public into thinking that the ranges they are promoting have come from the mind and pen of the celebrity. But it’s not sustainable.
Great product comes from creative minds, working with talented production and marketing teams who understand what will excite the public. Great product comes from a real need for something, from innovation that makes our life easier or happier or both. Can something that merely lines the pocket of a celebrity and extends their “media reach” really make our lives easier or make us happier.
It’s time for licensing to reclaim its soul, seek out the museums, seek out the designers, seek out the brands, seek out individuals with talent to work with and to bring the public product that is truly special.
From Red or Dead’s spectacle ranges, to HemingwayDesigns wallpapers with Graham & Brown, tiles with British Ceramic Tiles, flooring with The RubberFlooring Company et al we work and have worked with licensees and their teams and forged partnerships that could never be described as cynical. We have built long term relationships and friendships with their design and marketing teams and produce products that isn’t a cynical exploitation of our public recognition.
Wayne Hemingway MBE owns Britains national museum of popular culture The Land of Lost Content, has been collecting wonderful cultural ephemera for 30 years and is now embarking on building a Land of Lost Content brand across many categories. He is looking for licensing partners to work with the HemingwayDesign and LOLC design teams to create something special firstname.lastname@example.org www.edu.lolc.co.uk