Integrating New Products with Licensed Properties

IMC Licensing

June 17, 2013

Demands on new product development have greatly increased over the last decade with increased need for speed to market, lowering risk, and increased revenue. But innovating and creating new products through partnerships such as licensing, while effective in addressing these challenges, can be even more complicated and fraught with pitfalls than innovating from within.

Licensing requires two companies from different industries, with different expertise, different processes, different values, and different… get the picture…to come together in order to deliver for consumers. In order to successfully cut through that added layer of complexity, partners need a strong collaboration framework to guide their work.

With some key adjustments for the elements licensing throws into the mix, the Stage-Gate Product Innovation Process,[1] created by Robert G. Cooper and Scott J. Edgett, is an incredibly effective way to navigate a collaborative product development process.

Retail Trends Upping the Pressure to Deliver Innovation

Consolidation in the retail space has made it more difficult to reach consumers and the rise of e-commerce has increased the pressure on retailers to bring innovative, differentiated products into their stores. Retail consolidation in virtually every sector (food, drug, furniture, electronics, apparel, etc.) resulted in the loss of major names such as Circuit City, Linens N’ Things, and Borders and has left distributors with fewer channels through which to move their product. Fewer outlets mean increased competition to get products placed and more difficulty in reaching consumers on a significant scale.

At the same time as scale is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, pressures are mounting for retailers to differentiate themselves in order to compete not only with each other but with “brandless” e-commerce. Recent partnerships between Target and Neimann Marcus, for example, and retail exclusives such as TopShop at Nordstrom and Martha Stewart at JC Penney, underscore the pressure on retailers to stand-out. Underlying that pressure is the rapid adoption of e-commerce as a retail channel:  Providing consumers with innumerable choices while diluting the impact of retail brands. In his blog post Al Farrara of BDO notes: “Today, consumers are finding that many retailers offer essentially the same product and the same shopping experience, simply with a different name on the door.” In order to stand-out, retailers are partnering with new brands or integrating innovative brands into their catalog.[2]

The advantages of licensed products:  (1) increased speed to market, (2) lower risk, (3) price premium, and (4) consumer loyalty to the property, combine to make strategic licensing partnerships part of a winning strategy to compete with mounting retail pressures. The disadvantages, added complexity and the potential for increased licensor liability, demand a disciplined framework for navigating the relationship in order to keep both parties focused on bringing excellence to market.

Stage-Gate® Product Innovation Process

The Stage-Gate model was established in the early 80s to describe a systematic approach to developing new products. It is now in use, according to their Web site, by 80 percent of North American companies. While the basic underlying principles of the development process have long been established, Cooper’s innovation was the framework that includes “Stages” or activities, and “Gates” or decision points. (See Exhibit 1.)

Stages are where the work gets done. The project team completes the activities needed to advance the project to the next Gate, or decision point. Each Stage is cross-functional (R&D, Marketing, Finance, etc.), with activities in each specialty undertaken along parallel paths to increase the speed at which the organization can move through the process. At each Stage, each function gathers the critical information the entire team needs in order to manage risk and make careful decisions. Because each stage is incremental, costs and resources are committed incrementally. As a result, there are no multi-million dollar, year-long R&D studies that go sideways. Broken into short phases, with incremental funding for each, this phased approach lowers risk.

Gates are where Go/No-Go and prioritization decisions are made. You can imagine multiple projects moving through the process and at any Gate moment, the priorities can be reset so that a particular project gains or loses resources. The Gates are focused on three fundamental issues:  (1) quality of execution, (2) business rationale, and (3) the quality of the action plan. In other words:

Can we be world-class in delivering this?

Does this align with the revenue, brand, and other company objectives?

Are we getting the critical information out of each stage that we need to have a detailed, achievable action plan?

Applying Stage-Gate® to a Licensing Collaboration

Stage 1—Ideas

As Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” and talk about Ideation. Licensing relationships throw a kink into the Ideation process by mashing-up what should be an open and collaborative brainstorming process with the need for clear boundaries about how ideas will be evaluated and who has responsibility for generating them.

Establishing boundaries for the brand, what is “in-bounds” and “out-of-bounds” for new products and brand extensions, lays crucial groundwork for an effective partnership strategy. Having a well-articulated framework for where the brand can go allows the Licensor to be proactive in identifying the right partners and establishing constructive boundaries within which to operate. That’s a much more effective way to bring new products to market than being reactive and responding to ideas tossed over the transom! Rather than the Licensor dictating the specific direction development should head (which might leave opportunities on the table and expose the licensor to down-stream risk) the organization can leverage internal and external resources to identify potentially fruitful directions first.

The following are excellent ways Licensor’s can establish parameters for the brand without proscribing the result:

¾    Consumer Research:  Focus groups, concept tests, brand appropriateness, and extension studies all help to identify the brand equities consumers value and provide insight into possible directions to extend them. From the Licensee’s point of view, these insights help establish creative boundaries. For the Licensor, it helps ensure that the ideas that come back align with the core elements of the brand.

¾    Ideation Firms/Immersion:  A third-party facilitated session that draws on broad expertise within the organization to brainstorm new channels, products, consumers, and categories to extend toward based on brand equities, experience, and available capabilities.

¾    Retailer Feedback:  Retailer impact is not as obvious as direct-to-retail licenses or retail exclusives. A single buyer’s affinity for a brand or product can lead to featured or preferred placements. Direction from an influential category manager can produce a lighted path to a spot on the shelf.

¾    Market Research:  Objective analysis of the market segment in which the Licensee might operate can open up otherwise overlooked opportunities while maintaining fidelity to the brand. Rather than a Licensor saying “we want to do scales,” market research on the weight management industry might show that weight monitoring devices are the largest potential market. That insight might translate into scales but it might also open up other opportunities.

In addition to tapping external resources, Licensors also can look internally to identify good ideas that have foundered within the organization. Often, these are great ideas that don’t fit the execution model of the Licensor. Strategic partners, operating in their own business model, might be better suited to delivering on them. The following are resources Licensors can look to internally:

  • Abandoned R&D projects
  • Innovation groups
  • Business units/product lines that have been shelved or are about to be
  • Plussing—taking something developed for one area of the company and translating it to other products in other categories.

The goal of the Ideation phase is to identify “sandboxes” within which Licensees can leverage their own expertise and experience to identify specific solutions that will align with the brand.

Stage 2: Business Case

With licensing in the mix, the Business Case step of the Stage-Gate® process takes on the added dimension of building the business case with a particular partner rather than a particular product (because those specifics likely come later in the process, at this point, it’s all about the right relationship and structure). With clarity on where the brand can extend or expand to accommodate new products, the hunt is on to identify the right partners and build the business plan.

Solicitation Plan

Development of the solicitation plan provides an outline of the types of solutions being sought and gives the potential partners a clear understanding of the brand and its boundaries. Executing a good solicitation plan is much like the role of the very best matchmaker or seasoned recruiter at work:  A great match isn’t only about the knowledge but creating an alignment of likes and dislikes, wants and desires, and preferences and aversions. Tackling these things early on can lead to a higher likelihood of success downstream. In evaluating partners, five key areas of “fit” should be evaluated:  (1) brand fit, (2) philosophy and vision, (3) licensing experience, (4) category experience, and (5) competitive landscape. If a potential licensee matches up well on these key areas, due diligence comes next. Following the Stage-Gate® rubric, you could think of the output from the solicitation plan and initial evaluation as a Gate or a Go/No-Go. At this point, the Licensor may need to tweak its parameters if it’s not finding the right partner.

Due Diligence

Time invested on rigorous due diligence will yield substantial returns especially when the organizations begin discussing the business terms of working together. Due diligence allows the Licensor to dig deeper on the items assessed in the initial evaluation. The key items for due diligence include:  licensee background; potential conflicts; financial health; sales, marketing, and distribution capacity; manufacturing capability; social accountability; quality, and safety standards performance; and reference checks. Due diligence requires detective work and mining of industry relationships to get a full picture. There are publicly available sources such as Hoovers D&B, SEC filings, CPSC, annual reports, legal databases, etc. that can be tapped. The potential partner will need to supply sufficiently detailed financial statements (unless they are a public company) and references, including bank, retailer, and other partner references. In the due diligence process, it also is important to get an understanding of the partner’s approach to new product development. This can be done by pulling together key pieces of information from sales and marketing, social accountability, quality and safety, and recall procedures.

At the end of the Due Diligence process is another Gate. At this point, the Licensor may decide to pursue its next choice of partner if the first didn’t perform well. Coming out of the Due Diligence phase we move onto Business Terms, so the Licensor wants to ensure they are moving forward with a great potential partner. Taking a pause at the end of the Due Diligence process to ensure that all parties agree on the fit and caliber of the Licensee will save time and effort at later stages in the process.

Defining Business Terms

In the Terms phase, the Licensor and Licensee begin a discussion in earnest on process and financials. On the process side, the Licensor will get a detailed understanding of the new product development process and the partners should agree on which process, the Licensor’s or Licensee’s, should govern the project. In the case of a sophisticated, experienced Licensee, its development process might be the most appropriate. Additionally, this is the time to understand the decision making process and key decision makers on both sides. Understanding how approvals are accomplished and who is involved in achieving approval will prevent “gotchas” from happening in the Development stage. In general, the Terms phase is the time to unearth all the potential pitfalls so they can be addressed in the planning stages, rather than in the production stages.

The Terms phase also produces an understanding of the financial framework for the relationship, the classic “Business Case,” that documents assumptions about potential market share, royalty rate, market acceptance of the new product, and price. This is another Gate – if the financials don’t make sense for both parties, it is back to the drawing board. But, assuming everything is on-track, the hard work of getting a new product developed begins.

Stage 3: Development

Defining the Roadmap

In the Business Case stage, Licensor and Licensee got to know each other and learned about each other’s processes, key players, and approaches. In the Development stage, it’s time to get specific. A good place to start is a Kick-Off Meeting with all of the right stakeholders (decision makers and influencers) and any and all facilitators (outside agencies, third party consultants, advisors, etc.) in one room. The goal of the Kick-off is to build a single, shared understanding of contractual procedures, submission guidelines, quality documentation procedures, and the role of specified third parties.

In that meeting, IMC’s experience has been that spending time to develop a detailed map of the process from this moment to Launch is a productive use of time. The process that’s developed is not intended to be memorialized in the final contract, it often requires some degree of flexibility in execution and rarely happens exactly the same way twice, but it does ensure that everyone is clear on the Gates to come. The net result is mutual awareness of expectations, understanding of priorities and sensitivities, and mutual agreement and alignment on next steps. In short, the kick-off meeting wraps up with a roadmap for the partnership. (See Exhibit 2.)


In the Product Development stage, there are a few landmines that can be avoided with sufficient anticipation and planning. The ones that seem to pop-up regularly include:  flavor matching, fragrancing, stability, children and infant/American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Drug Administration registration, foreign regulations for packaging and products, and language translations. None of these is a deal-killer but anticipating them and determining an approach for addressing them up-front in the development process will ensure the program isn’t derailed downstream. The murky waters surrounding Prop 65 regulations of food supplements are challenging enough but even more so if they’re being navigated for the first time by a brand or manufacturer with no established experience in a particular product space.

Communication and Project Management

Once roles and responsibilities are clear, the roadmap is defined and work begins, project management can become an epic challenge. There is a simple, elegant solution:  third party collaboration software. There are many tools available, including Sharepoint, Basecamp, ProofHQ, Google Wiki, Dependable Solutions, CTI Solutions, Royalty Zone, and others. Several companies have built software custom-tailored to the licensing industry. The genius of third-party, Web-based software is its ease of implementation and use. It can be implemented outside of corporate IT infrastructure and becomes a tool that everyone can use, providing consistency and transparency to the project, at a very low cost.

Stage 4: Testing and Validation

Coming out of Development, the next Gate is Testing. This is an opportunity for the team to pause and ensure the product meets the brand’s definition of “in-bounds” developed in the Idea Stage. Similarly, the product is evaluated to ensure it meets the quality and safety requirements and any other agreed-to parameters from the Business Case Stage. Assuming it meets the brand and production requirements laid out in the previous stages, the product moves to the Testing and Validation phase.

Testing and Validation is an opportunity for external feedback from consumers and retailers. During the Development phase, the market appetite that informed the initial approach may have changed. Market pressures shift. Or, perhaps, the concept migrated farther than expected based on initial understandings. There are many reasons why additional testing and research at this stage is valuable. Advanced research at this stage can help answer quantitative questions, such as price sensitivity, purchase interest, and competitive analysis; and qualitative questions, such as brand positioning, features and benefits, and marketing support. In-home and online testing are effective techniques to evaluate product and packaging features. Nielsen data, discrete choice modeling, and market/category research can evaluate the more quantitative questions.

Market Validation is the last check-point before launch and allows a Licensee one more opportunity to tweak the product. In-store tests allow for “real-world” experience on a focused basis. Trade promotions, in addition to the brand, can assist with getting the product into stores. Once in stores, the experience is evaluated in order to shed light on key questions such as:

  • Can the licensed and core product reside together on the shelf?
  • Is this an opportunity to “reinvent” where the brand can reside in the store?
  • Is the price point correct?
  • What are the consumers saying about the product?
  • Is the product’s sales performance meeting category manager’s or buyer’s needs?

Stopping to evaluate now isn’t a diversion, it’s a strategic evaluation of whether it’s time to “Go Big or Go Home” on the idea. Once the organization decides it is ready to Go Big, the full force of distribution and marketing are unleashed. Those are expensive, precious resources that should be employed for products that have been thoroughly vetted, and redeveloped, if necessary.

Stage 5: Launch!

The research is done; product is ready; homework is ready to turn in …. It’s time to go to market! Given that all or some of the money normally budgeted for marketing support is going to pay royalties, Licensees operating on that reduced budget will most likely be drawn to social media and marketing tie-ins with the core brand, as opposed to traditional marketing such as print, FSI (free-standing inserts), and television. As a licensed product proves itself, integrating it with the core brand marketing is the absolute key to a successful program.

Marketing message integration occurs on all levels including online, bricks and mortar, social media, database, and direct marketing. Integration also applies to customer analysis so that in-bound feedback channels such as customer feedback and online product reviews are providing input to both the licensed and core products. There is a common (mistaken) assumption that because a product is branded, it is “marketed.” Without marketing behind it a licensed program will underperform, or at worst, fail entirely. Just having the brand behind it in retail isn’t enough.

An example of a successful marketing effort with a licensed product is Cub Cadet’s use of their licensed ride-on lawn tractor. Before rolling out the product to mass market, Peg Perego and Cub Cadet developed a promotion for their dealer network, giving that important part of the business special treatment and recognition. Any customer who bought a Cub Cadet piece of equipment at a dealer (generally paying closer to an MSRP) got theirs and their kid-sized equivalent delivered to their home at the same time – imagine the joy on the little one’s face when their mower rolled off at the same time as Dad’s. The promotion created great buzz and delighted consumers.

And, relaunch!

Improvements and adjustments are a continuous process. Minimally, Licensees should expect a brand refresh, packaging updates, and messaging updates every two to three years. The closer Licensee and Licensor can get their production schedules to align, the more efficient it is for each party and the better effect it will have in the market—appearing seamless to the consumer.


The Stage-Gate® Product Innovation model, tried and true in the industry, can accommodate the additional layer of complexity that licensed products bring to the mix. The discipline of Stages and Gates is that much more critical when two organizations are working to blend their visions, processes, and business models to achieve incremental revenue and consumer loyalty.

The advantages of a well-implemented Stage-Gate process are many:  increased speed-to-market, greater probability of product success, discipline, efficiency and thoroughness, clearly defined roles, and mitigation of risk.

IMC is a top global product licensing agency. Reach out to schedule an introductory call.

Published October, 2012 in The Licensing Journal.

IMC Licensing Logo Mark

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    Last year Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg came to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and boy did she make a difference. …

    Stephen Reily

    June 29, 2015

  • 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…

    Stephen Reily

    June 26, 2015

  • Stories Beat Data: And Other Marketing Insights from Cannes Lions 2015

    For all the lessons technology teaches us, did you ever feel like it also ignores some of the most important…

    Stephen Reily

    June 26, 2015

  • 3 Proven Ways to Save Your Brand from the Brink: Business Comeback Stories

    Though it’s a few years old, I recently re-read “The Biggest Business Comebacks of the Past 20 Years” shared the stories of…

    Stephen Reily

    May 6, 2015

  • Earned Social Media = Earned Consumer Trust

    Brands are constantly seeking the loyal consumer. Not the one who buys occasionally, but the one who follows through on…

    IMC Licensing

    April 24, 2015

  • Four Things Great Brand Licensing Partners Do

    Batman and Robin. Brin and Page. Ben & Jerry. Some business partnerships are so great that they appear to happen…

    IMC Licensing

    January 13, 2015

  • My 3 Lessons from CES: How Tech Makes Great Products Happen

    This year’s CES (bigger than ever, and more interesting than usual) failed to offer one show-stopping piece of technology, but…

    Stephen Reily

    January 8, 2015

  • Rethinking the 4 P’s for a Digital World

    Since Jerome McCarthy laid out the Four P’s in 1962, we’ve been able to take for granted that a successful…

    IMC Licensing

    December 8, 2014

  • Do you buy “Charmin” or “Toilet Paper”? Category Managers Know, Even if You Don’t

    When you make your shopping list, do you think about buying a category or a brand? Even if you think…

    Stephen Reily

    November 4, 2014

  • Lowe’s OSHbot: The Robot Holiday Sales Associate

    When Orchard Supply Warehouse, a California based home improvement and gardening retailer, was purchased by Lowe’s last year, its employees…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2014

  • Why Mobile Matters this Holiday Season

    My friend called me from Target last week. “I am standing between the Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations, what is…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2014

  • Are you ready to buy a Chiquita-brand orange?

    Chiquita Brands, a former IMC client, found itself in play this year, with competing offers from the Ireland-base Fyffes, the world’s…

    Stephen Reily

    October 30, 2014

  • Private Label Means Growth – Even for Brands

    Only a decade ago, it was not easy to use the terms “private label” and “brand” together. But private label…

    Stephen Reily

    October 13, 2014

  • 4 Keys to a Knockout Private Label Program

    Gil Phillips, Vice President of Corporate Brands at Kroger told the Cincinnati Enquirer about their house brand strategy, “We’re not offering…

    IMC Licensing

    October 7, 2014

  • The rise of consumer as chief storyteller – and brands’ new supporting role

    The beginning of the end of storytelling, announced David’s Berkowitz’ piece in Ad Age last week. The end of storytelling? The…

    IMC Licensing

    September 25, 2014

  • Retail development isn’t just about getting into Walmart

    Every business that has ever developed a product dreams of getting on shelf at a Walmart or Home Depot. Big…

    IMC Licensing

    September 18, 2014

  • New channel strategies: Sometimes disruptive innovation is a where, not a what

    Our CEO, Carla Dearing, recently wrote about what makes an innovative product disruptive. Thanks to technology, we assumed for many years that…

    Stephen Reily

    September 4, 2014

  • McDonalds and Starbucks: How Both Get Coffee Pricing Wrong (and Dunkin Doesn’t)

    Kraft Foods recently entered into a license agreement with McDonald’s to deliver McCafé Coffee to a supermarket near you. While…

    Stephen Reily

    September 3, 2014

  • From Budget Friendly to Premium: Will Consumers Buy Into a Premium Priced McCafe?

    I have something I have to get off my chest. I don’t drink coffee. There I said it. I don’t…

    IMC Licensing

    August 24, 2014

  • 5 Top Licensing Trends for Restaurant Brands at Retail: Which Chains Should be in Supermarkets Now?

    Licensing restaurant brands into supermarket products is nothing new.  Brands like Marie Callendar’s (in pies and frozen dinners), TGI Friday’s…

    Stephen Reily

    August 11, 2014

  • Disruptive Innovation: Products That More People Want

    Less is more.  So the theory goes with “disruptive innovation.” A new product is disruptive innovation if it has something…

    IMC Licensing

    July 16, 2014

  • 5 Ways to Evaluate a Potential Licensee

    Licensing a company to expand your trademark into other product categories can be rewarding to your bottom line and strengthen…

    IMC Licensing

    July 15, 2014

  • Consumers Followed Their Noses: How Fragrance Ended Up Everywhere

    Is there any product that doesn’t come in a scented version?  Today you can buy not just scented candles but…

    Stephen Reily

    June 12, 2014

  • The Omni-Product Brand

    Since 1997, IMC has been helping the owners of global iconic brands find ways to grow through new products and…

    Stephen Reily

    April 3, 2014

  • Backing into Innovation: Capturing New Consumers for Hearing Aids

    While I was at International CES earlier this month I had a chance to meet with leaders of the hearing aid business…

    Stephen Reily

    January 28, 2014

  • Lean In to Cause Marketing?

    When it comes to business, the talented male professional is perceived as “boss” while the talented woman professional in the…

    IMC Licensing

    January 17, 2014

  • CES 2014 – Innovative Partnerships, not Products

    Last week I was one of the 150,000 people swarming around Las Vegas for International CES.  While the show has never…

    Stephen Reily

    January 15, 2014

  • What an Omnichannel World Means for Brand Licensing

    If you want to develop great products that actually sell at retail, you are probably already thinking about how to…

    Stephen Reily

    January 2, 2014

  • Starbucks, Kraft and the $2.7 Billion Divorce

    Last week’s LIMA Bottom Line featured an article I wrote about the recent resolution of a long-running dispute between Starbucks…

    Stephen Reily

    December 23, 2013

  • 7 Most Inspiring Products for Old People are Great New Products for You, Too.

    IMC’s hometown hosted the Louisville Innovation Summit last week  Aging care is a growth industry for Louisville (headquarters for companies like Kindred,…

    Stephen Reily

    November 18, 2013

  • More than Just a Hill of Beans

    Kraft Foods recent announcement of its intent to test market McCafe packaged coffee adds a deep, new wrinkle to the already interesting…

    IMC Licensing

    November 15, 2013

  • Keeping Your Options Open in Licensing

    Licensors with iconic brands often have to make tough choices about extending their brands in new markets through licensing versus…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2013

  • Licensing at Tiffany’s: Not a One-Way Street

    On vacation this summer I needed to get my sunglasses repaired.  While waiting, I was surprised to look in the…

    Stephen Reily

    September 16, 2013

  • What Licensing Agencies Can Do For You: A Tale of Chocolate Cereal

    One of IMC’s most deliciously licensed products is Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory cereal. The coco-brown box features the names…

    IMC Licensing

    September 4, 2013

  • What does the Local Food Movement Mean for Food Licensing?

    In my hometown of Louisville – a city proud of its food culture in a state proud of its farming…

    Stephen Reily

    August 8, 2013

  • Licensing by Litigation: A Bad Business Plan

    Two large-scale lawsuits in the licensing world have recently been stopped by injunctions.  After spending millions of dollars on legal…

    Stephen Reily

    August 1, 2013

  • Paula Deen and Food Licensing: Why Didn’t She have More to Lose?

    Paula Deen, as a brand with great licensing potential, seems almost beyond repair.  While I can imagine strategies that would…

    Stephen Reily

    July 30, 2013

  • What’s Your Innovation Reality?

    I was recently reviewing some notes from a talk I heard almost two years ago – one that continues to…

    Stephen Reily

    July 24, 2013

  • Just Married

    Often times we describe a licensing partnership much like a marriage. The Licensee and Licensor meet, are engaged by signing…

    IMC Licensing

    June 27, 2013

  • Purina Tidy Cats® and Glade™ Tough Odor Solutions: A perfect match

    The partnership between Purina Tidy Cats and Glade Tough Odor Solutions has developed a scented cat litter which has customers…

    IMC Licensing

    June 20, 2013

  • Integrating New Products with Licensed Properties

    Demands on new product development have greatly increased over the last decade with increased need for speed to market, lowering…

    IMC Licensing

    June 17, 2013

  • The Humanization Of Our Pets: Key Survey Findings

    The cliche is that pets look like their owners- but will they use the same products? The theory at IMC…

    IMC Licensing

    June 10, 2013

  • What Do Pet Owners Want Next?

    The pet industry is one of our favorites, and not just because most of us at IMC have pets of…

    Stephen Reily

    June 5, 2013

  • Sharing the Love of Brands with Your Pet!

    Pet owners are passionate about their furry little friends and they spend over $50 billion annually to prove it.  They…

    IMC Licensing

    April 4, 2013

  • What Makes Martha Stewart Such a Bad Partner?

    I’ve read lots of articles about Martha Stewart’s recent bout of litigation, but none of them addresses why someone would…

    Stephen Reily

    March 21, 2013

  • 2013 Housewares Show: Forging New Partnerships

    The 2013 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago is the largest housewares-only fair in the world with 60,000 home goods professionals…

    IMC Licensing

    March 14, 2013

  • A Tale of Two Cracker Barrels

    When I saw that Cracker Barrel, the southern-fried restaurant chain, had recently licensed its brand to John Morrell Group, a…

    Stephen Reily

    February 6, 2013

  • Why Does Licensing Love the Holidays?

    In the licensing world, most royalty payments are made on a quarterly basis. Any licensing professional can immediately tell you…

    IMC Licensing

    December 20, 2012

  • The Slow Death of Commission-Only Deals

    Truly successful brand extensions are the result of pairing leading consumer brands with products that enhance the brand’s reputation and…

    IMC Licensing

    November 26, 2012

  • The Benefits of Brand Licensing: Quickly Explained

    As advertising is faced with a rapidly changing environment, brand owners and brand managers are looking for smart and new…

    IMC Licensing

    November 1, 2012

  • Reinforcing Your Brand Through Licensing

    Some licensed products are very much like the brand’s core product itself. They may be used the same way (like…

    IMC Licensing

    October 15, 2012

  • A Primer on Licensing

    Wherever industry regulars gather, they’re sure to discuss the world’s largest licensor; the world’s citizenry buys more than $23 billion…

    Stephen Reily

    July 27, 2012

  • Working With Licensing Agents and Consultants

    Brand licensing agencies and consultants can play a central role in the development of an effective licensing program. Whether your…

    IMC Licensing

    November 22, 2010

  • Why Use a Brand Licensing Agency?

    Even if your company has an in-house licensing director or staff, there are several reasons to hire a brand licensing…

    IMC Licensing

    May 10, 2010

  • National Brands, Private Label and Licensing

    During a panel discussion about product innovation at the 2009 Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Merchandising, Sales and Marketing Conference, one participant…

    IMC Licensing

    April 15, 2010

  • Brand Licensing 101

    As a brand and product licensing agency that develops and manages licensing programs for our clients’ trademarks and brands, we…

    IMC Licensing

    November 8, 2009

  • Retail Strategies Beyond the Top 10

    Every day the list of victims of the faltering economy grows longer.  Circuit City (#32 on National Retail Federation’s, Top…

    IMC Licensing

    September 25, 2009

  • Beyond Royalty Revenue: Measuring ROI from Licensing

    In recent surveys senior marketing professionals say that accountability for marketing services is more important than ever, and that they…

    Stephen Reily

    September 16, 2009

  • Trends in Inbound Licensing

    In the licensing industry, attention is typically focused on strategies to license a brand “out,” extending a brand into new…

    IMC Licensing

    August 19, 2008

  • The Brand Licensing Professional – Not One Size Fits All

    I cannot count the number of times I have heard companies talk about whether they should hire a “licensing professional”…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2008

  • Licensing Agency Compensation: The Inside Story

    One of the needless mysteries of the licensing industry is the topic of agency compensation.  Although talented professionals neither gain…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2007

  • Food for Thought (on Food and Beverage Licensing)

    Food and beverage licensing is everywhere. A quick trip to the supermarket will produce Nesquik chocolate milk, Oreo ice cream, and…

    IMC Licensing

    August 28, 2006

  • The Bankruptcy Clause in a Licensing Agreement: Comforting but Useless

    An experienced reader of license agreements would know exactly where to find what I call the “bankruptcy clause” (about three…

    Stephen Reily

    March 1, 2003

  • When Trademark Licensing looks like Franchising: Avoiding Legal Risk

    If anyone doubted that trademark licensing has become an essential part of brand management, the recent Annual Meeting of the International…

    Stephen Reily

    September 8, 2002

  • The Risks a Licensor Poses to a Licensee: How Can They Be Limited?

    Most form license agreements assume that licensees pose greater threats to licensors than the other way around.  Aside from the…

    Stephen Reily

    August 8, 2002

  • Licensing to Preserve Trademark Ownership

    As all IP counsel know, registration of a trademark depends on that trademark’s use.  A trademark cannot be reserved indefinitely…

    Stephen Reily

    July 9, 2002

  • Trademarks Around the Edges

    Many years ago, companies that made a branded consumer product thought they did only one thing: make that product.  Their…

    Stephen Reily

    March 9, 2002

  • Watch What the Licensor Does, Not What it Says

    Hiring the best trademark counsel – and getting them to draft the best possible license agreement – will not alone…

    Stephen Reily

    March 9, 2002

  • How Accountants Will Change the Face of Trademark Licensing

    As the licensing industry frets about whether the biggest event of the year will be the performance of Harry Potter…

    Stephen Reily

    November 9, 2001

  • License Agreements: Partnerships Worth Getting Right

    Whenever you see a licensor and licensee in litigation with each other you should assume that something has gone wrong…

    Stephen Reily

    September 9, 2001

  • How Many People Does it take to Screw in a Trademark Licensing Agreement

    Because so many brand owners fail to appreciate how important licensing can be for their brand, many of those who…

    Stephen Reily

    August 9, 2001

  • Developing Branded Consumer Products like Consumer Products

    Last month I described how companies find themselves distributing or authorizing branded products that either weaken the protection of their…

    Stephen Reily

    July 14, 2001

  • Why Most Companies Have Too Many Licensors

    If you looked to a corporation’s internal licensing department for evidence of trademark usage and enforcement, as well as development…

    Stephen Reily

    May 20, 2001

  • Licensing Corporate Brands and Trademarks: Knowing What it Should Cost

    As someone who runs a licensing agency for the owners of brands and trademarks, I can be expected to argue…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2001


Licensing is a relationship not merely between brands, but among people. At IMC, we build and nurture both of those relationships while delivering top-notch customer care that treats — and protects — your brand as if it were our own.

About Us

We’re committed to fostering dynamic brand alliances. Often those alliances are born from one brand’s need and another’s ability to meet that need. The IMC team are experts at recognizing and creating those opportunities, but our real expertise is people. Standing side by side, as consultants, partners, peers, and as friends, we’re driven by a singular purpose: creating a smart idea.