4 Reasons Why Licensing Needs Digital Marketing

Five years ago many of our licensing clients (global CPG brands among them) weren’t even using digital marketing and social media to promote their own brands, and almost none of them were allowing licensees to promote their own products digitally.

At this year’s Licensing Expo I moderated a panel on digital marketing and licensing.  Our standing-room only crowd reflected how far things have come in just a few years.

The content my panel shared was so good that I’m counting each of the panelists themselves as an individual best reason you shouldn’t bother licensing today if you’re not willing to promote it with digital marketing.   Here’s what they shared:

Ever Heard of KPI?  Define Goals First

Debbie Bookstaber, an influential blogger in her own right, is also President of Elements Associates, where she leads integrated online marketing campaigns for her clients.

Any good digital plan requires identifying goals (or Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs), and not using more channels that you can effectively manage. Even if you don’t use social media for marketing you need to be using it for customer service (preferably via Facebook and Twitter).

Beyond that, your goals (in order of ability to execute effectively) should probably include market research (where social media has materially lowered the cost of gaining consumer insights).

Ultimately you need to devote resources to advertising and blogger/influencer outreach, the best ways to steal market share from competitors and get consumers talking about your new products.

Two Brand Voices to Manage

Jennifer Grosshandler, Marketing Director at Lamplight (and the TIKI brand), reminded us that promoting co-branded partnerships means managing two brand voices: both the licensee, who is trying to sell the product, and the licensor, who has to approve all brand communications.

Jennifer knows what she’s talking about.  Her TIKI brand has licensed SC Johnson’s OFF brand for a mosquito-repelling line of outdoor torches, and is now launching her own licensing program.

She explained why social media is worth balancing the requirements of two strong voices.  It gives her (as an innovative brand manager) a way to manage and participate in conversations about a new product; allows her to test messaging frequently; and gives her a big bang for the buck, since campaigns integrated across multiple platforms look bigger even if they don’t cost more money.  Finally, she celebrated the story-telling benefits of influencer marketing, using the voices of real people to tell authentic stories that the brand could never tell itself.

One Size DOESN’T Fit All

Tom Keane is President of Margaritaville Foods, LLC, a division of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings that manages a growing portfolio of 8 food licensees that includes giant companies like Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Nestle and smaller companies like Club Coffee and Vita Foods.

Given the difference between his licensees, Tom has developed an approach to digital marketing tailored to the capabilities of each.  Licensors often look for a single policy to apply to all licensees, but Tom gave a great lesson about one-size not fitting all.

Tom gives his bigger licensees more leeway, confirming brand appropriateness and then providing direction and resources only as needed.  With smaller licensees, his group actually helps execute digital and social media campaigns.  The parent company’s resources allow them to partner with retailers and use geo-targeting of consumers on a smaller licensee’s behalf.

Why Licensing Can’t Ignore Digital Marketing

As I wrapped up, I echoed some points made by my fellow panelists with examples of ways IMC has used digital marketing as a source of research and insights to evaluate licensing opportunities for both licensors and licensees.  We’ve also learned how to manage marketing campaigns with two clients; it’s not always easy reminding a paying client (usually the licensee) that the licensor is also a client, whose oversight can bring delays and occasional confusion to the work.  But it’s still worth it, because digital and influencer marketing campaigns can build a permanent archive of authentic stories about new licensed products online.

If you know anyone who thinks you can license and not use digital marketing, send them our way.  I have four good reasons that will be ready to tell them the truth.

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