The Bugg Report recently sat down with James Walker, Vice President of Hasbro Brand Licensing & Publishing EMEAP, to discuss the company, its brands and what is in store for the future.
James, Transformers: Age of Extinction is set for a mid-year 2014 release – how is the global licensing program taking shape currently?
We have a phenomenal licensing program set to launch with the film release in June. We have worked closely with Paramount to ensure all our partners have had access to the latest creative material to allow time to create fantastic product. We have also worked very closely with retailers to plan Transformers: Age of Extinction as their mid-year event for 2014.
Are there more licensees to sign or is it maxed out?
Generally speaking, the vast majority of world class partners began working with us in early 2013 to ensure we had enough time to deliver for movie launch. That said, as the brand is an evergreen, there are always opportunities.
How exactly can a substantial licensing program impact movie success (in terms of cinema and DVD sales)?
Each one compliments the other. Great product and a strong retail statement will help promote the film and raise awareness – just as the film will drive consumers to buy Transformers product at retail.
How much more can this franchise grow? Can we expect more sequels and therefore more licensing?
In my decade in licensing, I have never seen a brand with so much support! Added to that, new digital platforms, games and an incredible new toy range for 2014 that really is ‘More Than Meets the Eye’. We celebrate 30th Anniversary of Transformers in 2014, given the huge backstory we have through our comic books, TV series and action figures, we definitely have a long future.
The Transformers ride is a success in Singapore and Hollywood. The ride officially opened in Orlando last June. Is this an important part of the licensing world and how so? Revenue building or brand awareness?
It’s amazing to think the ride has tens of thousands of visitors per day across the three parks. This is an incredible immersive live action experience of the Transformers brand for Universal Studio guests. It no doubt strengthens demand for licensed merchandise, be it from the Studio’s shop on site or retailers outside the Studio.
My Little Pony is going from strength to strength. What is the secret?
If I had to sum it up in two words – GREAT CONTENT! The TV series really connects with consumers, not only young girls but all age groups. Rarely do you see a brand that is also able to age up and appeal to older girls and adults. It’s great to see exciting young designers like Alice Vandy creating such great pieces using My Little Pony graphics, and celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger and Rita Ora wearing them.
And aside from the expected categories of apparel and toys of course, which other categories has the brand extended into?
I’d say we now have a good reach into the majority of major licensing categories outside of these including Role Play, Stationery, Consumer Electronics and Food however as always, we are open to exploring new opportunities for this great brand.
Tell us a little about Equestria Girls and how it has been received globally?
My Little Pony Equestria Girls is an exciting new dimension to the incredibly popular My Little Pony brand. Building on the momentum of the extremely popular ‘My Little Pony Friendship is Magic’ animated series, produced by Hasbro Studios, Hasbro launched My Little Pony Equestria Girls in 2013. Since launch, the entertainment, publishing and fashion doll line have all had major success globally.
What is next for My Little Pony?
We will continue to build My Little Pony through our animated TV show, digital content, publishing programs, toy and licensed items. There’s also a lot more planned but some things I have to keep secret for now!
Moving on to Littlest Pet Shop. How has this brand fared in the past year or so, globally?
Littlest Pet Shop has been going through a different lifecycle to Transformers and My Little Pony. The brand has had a total refresh and is anchored around the Littlest Pet Shop animated comedy series that launched in 2013. We are building off the success of the show and in 2014 you will see some really exciting toys launching across the world. From a licensing perspective, we will really focus on 2015.
Nerf and PlayDoh seem to be exploding. What is next for these two iconic brands?
Both brands are great examples of what Hasbro does best, which is to create innovative and great quality product for consumers. Both Nerf and PlayDoh brands will continue to grow the core business but add new innovation, as we have done with Nerf Rebelle.
And what about Nerf Rebelle – can it achieve a similar licensing success as classic and original Nerf?
We believe there is tremendous opportunity with Nerf Rebelle. By combining active play with social interaction, the global lifestyle brand provides girls with a new play experience. Inspired by current pop culture trends and based on insight from real girls, the Nerf Rebelle brand is designed to empower players with confidence, high performance action, and a stylish edge.
Arguably, Rebelle has even more scope from a licensing perspective (more accessories and so on) how can this be maximised?
Absolutely, as with all our brands it’s about developing the right product at the right time for consumers. We always need to be mindful of the brand strategy and the long term plans, for licensing we will keep the product focused around this.
And what of Furby? The past 18 months or so since it re-launched into the market have seen toy sales soar and it seems not to have plateaued. Tell us a little about the licensing of it and what the next steps are.
We have seen Furby licensing grow from zero to a sizable business in one year, this has been driven from the amazing innovation that has been brought to Furby itself allowing us to license key categories. We work hard internally to ensure the licensed product mirrors the new development for the Furby toy range.
And lastly, what next for Hasbro? More expansion, more brands, more movies? Please give us an overview.
There’s so much to tell you I could fill the whole magazine! Unfortunately, most of it is secret at the moment and for each brand we will be unveiling things at the relevant trade events around the world. All I can really say it we have enough to keep my team, our licensees and retail partners very busy and excited for a long time!