A Fresh Perspective on Licensing | Lauren DeLapa, IMC Licensing
The Brand Licensing Podcast
September 9, 2020
On the latest installment of The Brand Licensing Podcast, we’re sitting down with Lauren DeLapa from IMC Licensing. As an Associate Account Manager, Lauren joined the ranks of our Client Services team in 2019.
Listen in as Lauren shares her fresh perspective on licensing and what she’s learned since entering the industry.
Emily Randles: Hello listeners. Today we’re talking with Lauren DeLapa with IMC. Lauren joined the IMC team in December 2019 and is just six months on the job. We thought it would be good to get her fresh perspective on licensing and what she’s learned so far about the industry. We’ll also cover how other marketing skills can translate into licensing which will help those of you considering a career in the licensing field, and then finally we’ll dig into other questions she might have for me. Thanks for tuning in and remember to subscribe and check back often for new episodes. Also, please send us an email if you have any follow-up questions for me or Lauren, or if there is a topic you’d like us to cover.
Hi Lauren, thanks for joining us today.
Lauren DeLapa: Hi Emily, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be on the Brand Licensing Podcast.
ER: Yes, yes. We’re excited to have you as our first visitor and guest speaker. So now that you’re a seasoned licensing professional with six months on the job, we wanted to get your perspective on brand licensing and what you’ve learned so far. But before we get started, can you give us a rundown on your resume?
LD: Sure thing. So, like you said, I am very new to IMC. I’m only six months on the job right now, but I’ve really been enjoying it so far. And before my time at IMC I was actually not in licensing, so my background was primarily in marketing and communications in a variety of different roles all across the country and in a variety of organizations, too, from non-profit work to working in a university setting. I’ve kind of been all across the board and I also have a degree in Communications from the University of Minnesota. So I am fresh into licensing like we talked about earlier, I am only six months into the licensing industry, but really enjoying it so far and excited to talk about my experience.
ER: Great, thanks. To date, what has been the thing that has surprised you most learning about licensing?
LD: Sure. So coming into licensing I had a very fresh perspective and licensing as a whole was so new to me and still is relatively. So coming in I think the thing that surprised me the most was how surrounded we are by licensing without even knowing it. So from my perspective being new to licensing, I remember my first week on the job and training and going out and doing retail audits all over. All the Target’s and Walmart’s and Home Depot’s and walking through the aisles and realizing how many products on the shelf were licensed was a shock to my system. I couldn’t believe it. Even small things like going down the ice cream aisle you can grab a pint of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and think you’re buying a product from Reese’s and turns out it was licensed. It’s insane when you take a step back and look at retail from licensing perspective how many products on shelf are licensed, and, I think from my perspective being new in the industry, it’s exciting to see how far of a reach licensing has, and I’m still surprised to this day how far licensing can go and how innovative product extensions can be.
ER: Great. No, that’s awesome. What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve learned about licensing?
LD: Most difficult thing. So, I think for me I, to provide some context, work in client services for IMC, so a lot of my day to day is dealing with clients and the different agreements that we manage, licensees and licensors both, so when I first started I think one of the challenges that I faced was jumping into programs that had been existing for years before I started IMC. I mean I’m not even a year in yet. So, for me from the Client Services side there was a lot of catching up to do when it came to understanding agreements from the beginning all the history and context that leads you up to the current day of the agreement. Different products that they’ve had in the past, current products, products that they’re planning to launch in the future. I mean there’s a lot to a single agreement. Coming into IMC we have a lot of different clients, a lot of different agreements. So there was a lot of catch up to do which is exciting when you have a new job and I was excited to learn. But there’s a lot to get a handle on when starting client services. You really have to jump in head-first. I think the other side of that, too, one difficult thing we’re starting in client services for the first time is building relationships. So like I mentioned earlier, we have client relationships that have been going on for years and we have contacts with certain brands that they’ve been talking to the same person in client services at IMC for years, as well. So being able to come in and build new relationships and make it an easy transition for our clients that was really important to me and something that I had to put the initiative in to make sure that was happening and that can be difficult when learning all the ins and outs of a new job, and also making sure that clients aren’t feeling a tumultuous shift as you start in a new world.
ER: You know relationships are a big part of this industry, and so yea, it does take some time to build those and can be challenging especially right now that face-to-face time is a little bit unheard of in the current period, so just doing everything by phone calls can make it harder to build those relationships. So keep working at it. So you have a marketing and communications background, but have you been able to use those skills effectively in your licensing role?
LD: Well I am a big believer in communication being the foundation to everything you do both professionally and personally. I think strong communication skills get you so far and I 100% found that to be true within licensing. So for me, like you said, I have the background in communications roles and marketing roles and those things have very much translated into my day to day in licensing specifically and client services and account management. So when it comes to relationships and getting to know licensees and licensors and building trust with your clients, I think clear communication, concise communication, regular communication it’s so important. Also being adaptable in how you communicate as well in knowing that one licensee or one client may communicate in a very different way than the next one and the next one. And so being able to have your communication be mendable to different people in different circumstances I found to be a skill that has translated in past jobs and also within licensing. Then from the marketing perspective I would say licensing definitely requires creative thinking whether that is on the client services side of tackling different problems and trying to solve them in an innovative way or creative way or a way that is perfectly matching the needs of your client. I mean I know that this is something that is required on the business development side as well, where you have to be a creative thinker when going outside of the box of really innovative product extensions and things of that sort. So I think a lot of those foundational aspects of really strong communication that is required within the communications role and also the creative side of marketing. Those are two things that do pop up in licensing, I think, no matter what role you’re in within the licensing industry.
ER: That’s really helpful. I especially think that would be helpful for those thinking of a career in licensing for the future. Speaking of that, what advice would you give a new person who is considering licensing for their next role?
LD: I would say “do it”. Licensing is the best. I have so enjoyed my time in licensing. So I would definitely recommend to take the plunge, but on a more serious note, I would say research. If you’re interested in licensing or have any inkling that’s something you want to explore, definitely dive in to researching where exactly you would be the best fit. I think the thing that is really nice about licensing is that you can be on the client services side, you could be on the sales side or the business development side. There’s a lot of variety to roles just within one licensing agency. So I think really assessing your skill sets and your strengths and what you want out of a role and a future career. If you hone in on those specifics, chances are you’ll find a really good fit for yourself within licensing.
ER: Great, and as you mentioned in your experience, so you have started here with IMC in an agency role. But so what do you like about working as a licensing agent and what do you dislike maybe about working as licensing agent? So when people are considering a licensing role they could also work for a brand in licensing or a manufacturer or licensee in licensing or even work within the industry in a kind of supply or services piece into the licensing industry. So what is it about the agency life that you like and dislike?
LD: Sure. So I’ll go ahead and start with my likes first. I would say what I really like about working within the licensing agency and that’s a licensing agent is the variety. I’m definitely the type of person who loves new change, new challenges, new opportunities and so being in licensing you have such an array of clients to work with. You have a portfolio that is changing and that’s really exciting to me being able to have consistent clients that you’re working with but also have new opportunities come through the door often. That’s exciting to me. So I think the variety and not just the amount of clients that can come in and how your roster can grow, but also how each agreement can differ and what brand you’re working with, what categories they’re in. That’s exciting as well. So not only are you getting opportunities that come in often, but you’re also getting variety from agreement to agreement and client to client. So I find that to be really exciting. And, I would give a bonus like to just the client interaction from the client services perspective. I know we’ve talked about it earlier, but I really do value the client connection and building relationships and seeing your clients succeed. I think it’s really rewarding to have that piece in the client services role that I’m in. So bonus point for all the client relationships that we get in in licensing.
So for dislikes I would say part of my like kind of plays into my dislike. So the variety is great but part of licensing is the “come and go” nature of clients and agreements where one day you can have an opportunity and it looks great and the next the opportunity cannot be a fit anymore and not be a part of your day to day work, and I think that’s just the licensing industry and that’s something I’ve learned already in my first few months of working at IMC that you know we’re going to have opportunities that come in we’re going to have opportunities that go out and they’re not always going to stick. And I think we’re putting in the work you are really excited for a certain project it might not work out, that will always be a bummer no matter what role you’re in. But in licensing you definitely see shifts that happen and agreements that you think are going to go through and maybe they don’t or a product launch for one of your existing clients that seems really great and ends up not sticking at retail and so you end up having to take a step back and you can put all the work in and maybe you didn’t see that final product or final conclusion that you were hoping for which can be a bummer. But I think at the end of the day the ones that do stick and the ones that go through make it all worth it.
ER: Great. Yea, those are great examples. So as an industry expert with 14 years of experience in licensing, what questions do you have for me? So what are you still curious about in terms of executing a licensing deal or managing a licensing program?
LD: Sure, so what advice would you give yourself at my age and my type of role in my point in my career knowing that you’re President of a licensing agency now, what advice would you pass down to a younger version of yourself?
ER: That’s a great question because I did start in licensing in my mid-twenties and so I can definitely relate. I would say a couple of things. One definitely, and you’ve touched on relationships a little bit, but making sure you’re making those strong connections and relationships and building those and fostering them and so when you’re meeting somebody connecting with them on LinkedIn, following up and just keeping those connections as much as possible, because you never know when they’re going to come back and you’re going to need a connection in apparel or a connection in ice cream and so having that resource of LinkedIn and those just touch points would be really helpful. I would also recommend you know diversifying your experience near a portfolio and just building your own brand so that again the more you build yourself within your licensing career the more valuable you are not only to IMC but to the clients and to others around you. So you know staying focused on your goals and career to grow further within the industry. And then I think the third thing I would say is just reading and researching as much as possible as to what is going on in the industry so making sure you’re subscribed to industry publications and reading the data and knowing when it comes you know the magazines and publications come out reading them as well. Really helpful to be knowledgeable and so know when you run into problems you can say “well I saw so and so over here did this maybe we can do something similar” and the clients also really look for examples within the industry that are going on. So if you’re not staying dialed in terms of what’s going on it’s hard to offer that perspective.
LD: That’s great advice. I know you can’t see me since this is a podcast, but I’m taking notes. I always appreciate your expertise, Emily.
ER: Great, great. Well that’s all we had for today and wanted to just Lauren thank you so much for your time and sharing your insights and perspective as fresh as they are. I think it’s really great for others to get the perspective of someone new and for someone like myself who is a seasoned person in licensing to hear how it’s shaping your career and influencing the things that you’re working on. So it’s very exciting.
One final question we have before we sign off is, what’s the craziest or worst licensed product you’ve come across in your career to date?
LD: Oh man I love this question. Craziest or worst licensed product. You know I, if anyone knows me, I am totally obsessed with my dog, Captain, and I’ll talk about him as much as I can and I’ll have to say being a pet parent there are some crazy pet products out there and a lot of them are licensed. So I think the pet channel in licensing is really popping off right now. It is insane the products you can find.
ER: Lauren, thanks again for your insights and for your time and I can’t wait to see what other crazy pet products you come across, and wish you the best as we continue to work together and grow your career.
LD: Thank you so much, Emily. I was so excited to come on the podcast and it was great being able to chat with you.