Keeping licensee-licensor-retailer relationships strong

Keeping Licensee-Licensor-Retailer Relationships Strong

Licensed products always get into trouble if they’re not performing well. Even more so now, as retailers have become more discerning with regard to the brands they’ll purchase for their store shelves.

This got me thinking about more than the design development work we do for our toy and entertainment clients’ licensed brands because this is such an important issue. In our work with licensors, we implicitly understand that the licensed property is only as strong in the marketplace as its weakest licensee.

If an agreement is made between a licensor and a licensee whose products don’t really live up to their end of the bargain or extend the property value, or if they just aren’t a good fit for the property, it can signal a real problem on many levels. It reflects badly on the property, the licensor and their choice of licensees. And it makes retailers seek justification for keeping that licensed product on shelf. Even worse: it makes them focus on the property itself, along with every licensed product that represents it, for possible elimination.

A troubleshooting list for licensors

With this in mind, here’s a list of troubleshooting points for licensed brand owners to consider so that things never get to that point:

  • Choose licensees whose own brands and products stand for value and who are respected among retailers for their marketing acumen and their support of their products.
  • Make it a point to work closely with licensees. The stronger the relationship between licensor and licensees, and the more visible both are at retailer meetings, the more likely retailers will feel comfortable that the property is being well-managed and marketed.
  • Plan for and hold licensing summits with regularity. Having taken part in these, I can tell you that the collaboration among licensors, licensees and creative teams is invaluable. This also enables all parties to work together to align the property, its values and its brand message.
  • Solicit valuable insights from licensees who work closely with retailers. Share information – it’s a two-way street – and develop tactics to prove to retailers there is a deep desire to make the property a success in their stores.

Choose your licensing partnerships wisely

As ever more licensed properties come to market, and retailers focus on their own needs, it’s important to make sure licensee-licensor-retailer relationships are strong, vibrant and collaborative. It’s also crucial that the license is extended to appropriate categories through appropriate licensees to maximize the property’s strength at retail.


  • Have you ever wondered what a favorite licensed property was doing on a specific consumer product or in a specific category? Why didn’t it “belong” there?
  • Have you ever purchased a licensed product and found that it didn’t take full advantage of the value of the property? Or that it could have been pushed further? Or that it simply was not well-aligned with the licensed brand itself?

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