We have watched the evolution of the official emoji® brand over recent years. Marco Hüsges (CEO/Founder) has worked extremely hard to secure coverage for his brand around the world and in our view deserves his success. We have spoken with him about his vision for the official emoji® brand and since it launched some two years ago, its expansion is phenomenal. At an early stage in 2013 Marco realised the potential of a digital phenomenon and transformed that potential from the world of digital communication into a vibrant and official registered emoji® lifestyle brand that today stands for expressive consumer products ranges, promotions, activities and loyalty programs. Leading into Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, we caught up with Marco in between his busy schedule to get an update from him on the official emoji® brand and his plans for 2017.
Marco, it has been a while since we last spoke. I am interested to understand the evolution of the official emoji® brand over the past two years since launch. Your current design direction is seriously fashionable and on-trend. Can you tell us about how this has evolved?
Indeed Tony, it has been a while but we are always excited speaking with The Bugg Report. We have been going for a couple of years now and no doubt the official emoji® brand has evolved significantly. Until today we have created more than 5000 icons, characters & patterns and we have developed and launched more than 35 style guides to our partners. The expressive power that lies in the official emoji® brand and its related content perfectly enables us to address a global market place while meeting today’s consumer trends and offering different lines of styles. It is the diversity that makes the brand so powerful, attractive and universal and our team of designers gets inspired by music, history, films and seasonal events. There are simply no limits for our clients when it comes down to developing expressive and adorable fast-moving consumer goods, promotions and loyalty programs in connection with the official emoji® brand and its vast content library.
I notice that you continue to travel to all parts of the globe to spread the word and establish the official emoji® brand. How have you found the acceptance in such a diverse global market?
The success of the offical emoji® brand is phenomenal and most importantly the brand has a worldwide acceptance angle. Our brand is represented by 17 licensing agents and official emoji® products can be found in more than 65 countries all over the world. The great thing is, the brand simply works everywhere! Meeting our partners – agents and licensee partners – is part of our business and we use those personal meetings to demonstrate face-to-face what the official emoji® brand is all about and how it can be applied to products but also integrated into clients overall communication strategies. The official emoji® brand is a truly universal and multifaceted life style brand. The mechanism to market a lifestyle brand is totally different than what you have to do for an entertainment brand that does depend heavily on the success of the accompanying entertainment formats and therefore has only limited windows in marketing and sales. The official emoji® brand is a year round brand with consistent potential which is an outstanding and highly competitive aspect for licensees when they evaluate a brand’s potential and chose to invest into a brand and to work with it. We use our roadshows and face-to-face meetings to highlight and to illustrate such potential to our existing and future licensee partners and to develop the best strategies together with them.
Can you tell us about your plans for emerging markets such as Russia, the Middle East and Africa?
Early this year the emoji company expanded into Russia, India and the Middle East by signing direct agreements with Pullmann Licensing (Russia), Black White Orange (India) and 20too Licensing in the Middle East. All partners are professional brand licensing agents with strong portfolios for their market places and we are excited to work with them. Right from the start, all of them have delivered fantastic results and we expect to see a huge growth of the official emoji® brand in those markets, similar to what we have achieved in the rest of the world. We do offer an agile and multi-target brand concept that works for a global market place and the universal character of the official emoji® brand is a guarantor for disproportionately high results of our partners. As in most countries apparel gave the lead in those new markets. The big roll out will of course happen when the back-to-school season begins. In addition to that, all markets will face multiple promotions in 2017/2018 as well as branded activities in shopping malls and in department stores. On a multi territory and from long-term perspective we are working on an official emoji® mono brand store concept in connection with a franchise model.
What is your view on those who seek to infringe on the official emoji® brand?
We have invested heavily in the development of the official emoji® brand and have created a global trademark family over the past four years. We own more than 650 trademarks by today and developed more than 5000 high-resolution icons which are all protected under U.S. Copyright Law. In order to reach such intrinsic value we have invested millions into brand building, content creation and brand protection. At present, we work with 300 active licensee partners and we expect that number to increase to up to at least 420 partnerships by the end of 2017. Partners include Pepsico, Nestle, ZARA, Wal-Mart, Nikon, Fuji Film and many others who all appreciate the solid brand licensing package the emoji company is offering. And the results are visible. Thanks to the extraordinary work of our global partners we have reached an amazing global brand recognition value and popularity. When it comes down to a verifiable infringement, we do take action against such companies. We are of course constantly in contact with retail via our licensing agents and share the information about possibly infringing parties or products that they might improvidently support. In order for a brand to succeed you need a universal and carefully thought through brand concept with values and you need to stick to them. You need quality in design and production which means you have to invest. Our brand values are longevity and substance, which is why we constantly and proactively invest in market research studies, content creation and the development of unique design concepts. We seriously invested into building brand awareness and we continue to do so in order to maintain it. We place funds into retail and consumer marketing, we attend trade shows all over the world and create added value concepts for our customers to support product sales. Our customised icon development service is used intensely by our licensees and just another service we offer to our partners. Our brand package is a one of a kind offer and honestly speaking, why would any interested licensee, retailer or department store group be even interested in selling generic product that might bare the risk of infringing the emoji company’s extensive global rights when they can have the full support and all the benefits of the official emoji® brand, which is demonstrably used by the most reputable licensees globally and proves incredible success at retail.
What will be your primary focus for Licensing Expo this year?
Licensing Expo in Las Vegas is the window to the world of licensing. As in the years before we have increased our booth size and will present the official emoji® brand bestsellers as well as new and innovative product ideas. We use the show in Vegas to share our recent product developments with our clients that come from all over the world and we are convinced they will be highly inspired. Sharing the official emoji® brand experience is vital and we will attend the show with a big team in order to being able to manage hundreds of meetings and to handle all requests from our existing and potential new partners.
What has been the most successful and impactful promotion that you have run over the past 12 months?
We have released two incredible promotions with leading grocery retailers in Europe just lately. One was with COOP in Switzerland and the other one with Jan Linders in the Netherlands. Those promotions were based around collectibles and we developed a set of unique figurines for our partners. Consumers were rewarded for their purchases at the grocery stores and also had the chance to buy figurines separately. Consumers were also able to purchase official emoji® branded merchandise. Over the next months we will launch multiple campaigns based on a variety of concepts which will for sure stimulate revenue at retail and parallel strengthen and increase the official emoji® brand recognition and popularity. Those promotions were heavily supported by far-ranging marketing activities which included TV commercials, print advertisements, in-store activities and expansive social media coverage.
Where do you see the official emoji® brand a year from now?
Besides the fact that we have experienced stellar growth since the first launch of the official emoji® brand at Licensing Expo in 2015, we are convinced about the long lasting potential of the brand. Due to the universal appeal of the official emoji® brand to people of any gender and age, we are confident to grow the brand above the ordinary and to preserve the substantial business for decades. One reason for that is the wide scope of application for the official emoji® brand and its unrivalled all year-round universal potential which connects us with interested licensees from every part of the world. On top of that we are exploring new business areas and have entered into serious partnerships aside from the standard licensing business. Companies such as Nikon, O2 or the Swiss Post are cooperating with us and use our content in their communication strategy to create additional brand exposure for their own brands. Digital emoji® stickers and the already mentioned official emoji® mono brand store concept are just two other business areas to explore. Finally we will see collaborations with other major brands that include cross-overs and that will lead to fresh new style guides and new potentials. With all that in mind, I am convinced about the evergreen potential of the official emoji® brand.
Marco, it is always great to speak with you and I can see your passion for your brand. There are many retailers around the world who are looking for 365 days a year programs for their businesses. Your universal official emoji® brand can clearly offer this to them across all platforms. The future looks very bright for the official emoji® brand.