The Trend of Smaller Style Guides in Brand Licensing

The Trend of Smaller Style Guides in Brand Licensing

In the world of toy and entertainment brand licensing, the consumer product licensing program style guide plays a pivotal role in delivering core and trend-based design assets to licensee partners on an annual or seasonal basis. They can range from behemoth programs for mature brands with a broad range of assets in a variety of stylistic interpretations to those that are more conservative in nature for new brands that give partners just enough to get by until the property builds some equity with consumers and begins to experience success in the marketplace.

We’ve been noticing, however, a new trend of creating smaller style guides – often referred to as “art packs” or “capsules” – as seasonal releases for even some of the most mature, globally successful toy and entertainment IPs. for their consumer product licensing programs. These condensed guides feature fewer design assets with more of a “tool kit” approach to how partners will use them. In this article, we explore the reasons behind this shift and the benefits it brings to the licensing programs of toy and entertainment properties.

Less design assets, more flexibility and adaptability

In the fast-paced and ever-changing consumer product industry, agility is key to capturing market opportunities and responding to shifting trends. Smaller style guides allow brand owners to provide licensees with a more adaptable framework for product design and development. By reducing the number of design assets and creating a series of “parts” that can be assembled in a variety of ways, licensees have greater creative freedom to customize products and cater to specific consumer preferences, while maintaining a highly-consistent visual appeal. This flexibility empowers licensees to swiftly respond to market demands and seize new opportunities, resulting in a wider range of products that resonate with diverse audiences.

Streamlining the product development process

Licensing programs for toy and entertainment properties often cater to a wide range of consumer product categories by offering a myriad of design assets. Lately, it seems that more robust, comprehensive style guides could be a bit overwhelming for licensees to work with, especially those who are new to brand licensing. Smaller style guides streamline the product development process by offering less design asset choices, and favoring just a few that get right to the point of how they should be used. This results in a style guide that’s more user-friendly and consumer products throughout the marketplace that have a more visually-cohesive look.

Conversely, we’ve found that the more extensive the licensing program’s design asset offering, the less likely that they would all be leveraged by licensee partners. More often than not, most licensee partners of a particular property would gravitate toward the same small handful of assets from the extensive collection provided within the style guide, with the remainder never being used. And, since the style guide didn’t encourage innovation and creativity, the small selection of assets would be used in a similar manner by all partners, which would result in less innovate and dedicated consumer product designs.

Reducing time-to-market

In a competitive licensed consumer product landscape, speed to market is crucial. Comprehensive style guides with an abundance of design assets can slow down the product development process for two reasons. Firstly, they take much longer to develop, therefore taking longer to get into the hands of licensee partners and cutting into their product development lead times. Secondly, as licensees navigate through a multitude of assets and standardization guidelines, the product development and approval process becomes more cumbersome. Smaller style guides simplify these processes, allowing licensees to bring products to market more efficiently. By focusing on key components, such as the property logo, color palette, fonts and just a small, well-conceived design assets, brand owners expedite the product development timeline, ensuring timely releases that capitalize on the hype and popularity of the property.

Encouraging Creativity and Innovation

By giving licensees more freedom in how they develop their licensed products, smaller style guides foster creativity and innovation. Licensees can experiment with new interpretations of the licensing program’s design assets and create unique product offerings that resonate with niche markets or specific consumer segments. This freedom sparks new ideas and encourages licensees to push boundaries, resulting in fresh and exciting products that captivate consumers and drive demand.

What are your thoughts?

From our point of view, this lean toward the development of smaller style guides benefits all stakeholders involved, including brand owners, licensees, and consumers. Ultimately, it leads to a more vibrant and diverse range of licensed products that enrich the fan experience and extend the reach of beloved toy and entertainment franchises. The reasons mentioned above are our take on why this trend is happening. We would love to hear your thoughts and observations.

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