Manufacturer Interview: Phil Cowley, CMO of Design Design Inc.

6 04 2016

Hi everyone, I appreciate your patience and support while I recovered from my hip replacement surgery. It feels so amazing to be back at my desk with renewed energy, a new perspective and motivation for moving life and business forward. Thanks to all of you who sent your well-wishes while I was recuperating!

www.designdesign.us

As most of you know, I believe strongly in building great, positive relationships. We find in art and character licensing, the 80/20 rule is just as true as it is in all the other industries. Specifically, this means that 80 percent of your revenue comes from only 20 percent of your clients. So in practical terms, to actually grow your revenue, you need to connect with as many people as possible. This means attending trade shows, talking to other artists, getting on the phone, asking those in-the-know for advice and finding industry events where you will meet the manufacturers and the decision-makers who will become the cornerstone of your licensing business.

The more you learn about what manufacturers want and are looking for, from the manufacturers themselves, the better you will be able to provide the appropriate art, in the proper format, to catch their eye and close your deal.

Not all manufacturers are willing to share this information. Fortunately there are some who will, such as Design Design’s Chief Marketing Officer,  Phil Cowley. I have worked with Phil on many occasions and he is such a wealth of information. In our interview, he shares intriguing insights about how manufacturers work, and specifically how Design Design works with artists.

Below I’ve listed just a few of the topics that are covered in this interview. I admit up-front, that the 30-minute length, is much longer than your average web interview. But I just couldn’t edit out any of the details. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and you’ll learn something, I’m sure. And thank you Phil for your time and so much valuable information!

  • What are the color and design trends for 2016?
  • What are the three most influential industries, when it comes to paper product designs
  • What is Design Design’s inside out approach to the marketplace?
  • What are their six key product categories?
  • What percentage of their product line is new each year?
  • How much art do they license?
  • How many artists do they work with?
  • How often does Design Design release new product?
  • What is the hardest greeting card (and other products…) category to fill?
  • Who are their primary retailer channels of distribution?
  • What exactly do they want from artists?

Final note: There are some audio issues on this interview due to internet fluctuations. We apologize in advance for making you have to listen extra-hard in a few places. This interview was taped in November 2016. The delay in publishing was due to my surgery. On all accounts, thanks for your understanding!

If you are interested in sending your portfolio of art to Design Design, Phil asks that you go to their Artists Inquiry page and download their Artist Guidelines for Artwork Submissions, which I’ve also linked to here for you. Please read this important information and then you can send your relevant artwork to their Senior Director of Creative, Tom Vituj at tom.vituj@designdesign.us

 

 

 





Fall is Here; Time to Prepare for New Growth

17 09 2015

Fall is a profound time of year for me.  While the leaves of the trees are dying, in reality I know that it is simply preparing itself for renewal. I find the falling leaves a comforting and productive movement.  It feels right to clean out the cobwebs and clutter of our lives and thoughts and shed the old as we get ready for growth.

So I went on the internet to look for quotes which express this inherent inspiration.  What I found was a Japanese proverb, not exactly related to autumn, but inspiring, nonetheless. The proverb is: fall_down_seven-95425

So, if it feels like fall is here and you are ready for something new, but aren’t quite sure where to find it, I collected and put together these guiding principles to help you with your endeavors. These will guarantee you make the most of September through November, traditionally a very productive time period, before enjoying the holidays.  I strongly recommend you take advantage of this advice, or before you know it, Christmas and then the New Year will be here (…I mean didn’t summer just fly by? And here it is mid-September already).

Take just a few minutes and review these tips and then answer each ‘biz question,’ as honestly as possible and apply the principles directly to your business.  I am quite sure many or all of them will hit a nerve and create a new connection.

  1. Attitude is everything. – Your frame of mind affects every action (and inaction). Don’t let you’re your moods control your life, or you will be overtaken by the current and forced down stream to a destination you never intended. Only your inner force and self-determination can keep you on track and get you to your ultimate goals.
    Biz question: Is there anything I need to change about my attitude, perspective or life to improve my business? If so, what?
  1. Stay focused on your goals. – It takes belief and a strong desire to concentrate on the changes necessary to achieve success. If your goals are clear, then it is easier to stay focused.  So begin by clarifying your goals before you get so frustrated you can’t or won’t take action.  If you are unsure of the process, or the next steps required, then seek the advice you need.
    Biz question: Do you have clear and measurable goals for your business and specifically for this fall time frame?
  1. Spend time wisely. – Time, unlike money, is something that you can’t get back. So every day you want to be as fully present as possible in each task you do, as well as choose those activities with care. Make sure your time and efforts are contributing to the wonderful aspects of your life, relationships and business endeavors.  The worst thing you can do is to spend your time on auto-pilot.  There is very little joy (or productivity, for that matter) in it.
    Biz question: How can I spend my time right now to get the best results for my business, both now and in the future?
  1. Be open-minded. – You never know where the next inspiration, great idea or deal will come from. To be open-minded you need to find ways to stay mindful and aware. Take the time to explore new activities and people and be open to new influences and experiences. A closed mind, frankly, has nowhere to go.
    Biz question: Are you open-minded to the fact that you might not know where the next awesome idea, opportunity or contribution to your business may come from?Picture2
  1. Pick a path. – There are many pathways leading to your ultimate goals. But to get anywhere you need to pick one and stick with it long enough to get there.  Then along that path, there will be many obstacles of varying degrees and nature which require decisions.  One time you may feel that breaking that obstacle down, bit-by-bit, is the right answer.  In another case, going around it works fine.  And sometimes you even have to find a new path. My father used to jokingly say, “You can’t get there from here, you have to start someplace else.”  And often that’s true. If the path dead ends or goes off course, then you MUST find a new way to achieve your goals.
    Biz question: What’s keeping you from achieving your goals?  Can you identify the top five reasons in priority order?
  1. Read between the lines. – Whether you are enjoying this blog, having coffee with friends or meeting with business professionals, reading between the lines is an imperative skill. Always go deeper than the surface. What do you need to learn, know or understand about what’s happening to get the most from the experience? Everything is happening for a reason and seeking the essence and purpose of the moment may be exactly what you should be doing to find the wisdom you need.
    Biz question: Can you look beyond the obvious tasks throughout your day and find the non-apparent insights that provide guidance for your business?
  1. Never lose hope. – Hope is the energy that drives all ambition and motivation. It is an essential element in all our endeavors and losing hope is like losing your engine. You must constantly be on guard against the negative emotions that deplete hope and eventually will prevent you from succeeding. No matter what the challenge; don’t  give up.
    Biz question: Can you identify your hope and how it powers your progress in business?  If hope is waning, what can you do to refuel?
  1. Create awesome habits. – What you do today and every day will become the habits of tomorrow. It’s important to choose actions that create the right habits. Discipline yourself to create the specific habits that you need to grow.
    Biz question: What business habits would you like to create or improve upon that will help achieve your goals? (You might want to read or revisit my blog titled: “An Art Licensor’s Continuing Education” to help you think about the wide variety of topics and skills needed to build a licensing business.)




An Interview with Jim Davis, Creator of Garfield

19 06 2015
(c) PAWS, INC.

(c) PAWS, INC.

Jim Davis stopped by The Art+Design Resource Center at Licensing Expo last week and he granted us, what turned out to be a very heartwarming interview. I also learned that today, June 19th is Garfield’s 37th Anniversary. So Happy Birthday Garfield! I love how cartoon characters age so gracefully!

I asked Jim specifically about he regained control of his intellectual property rights, which were earlier owned by UFS (United Feature Syndicate) and what’s in-store for the future with Garfield. (In advance, please excuse the naturally loud background noise on this video, which was difficult to avoid and edit out at Licensing Expo.)





FREE Ask J’net Q&A Tomorrow; Plus Sales & Trade Show Follow Through Techniques Course

15 06 2015

LE Banner crop versionI used the term whirlwind in yesterday’s blog, referring to the feeling of attending and coming home from the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.  But now it doesn’t even seem to capture the essence of all the leads, ideas, contacts and knowledge to be learned and shared from a week at the show.  So I am going to change my reference and just call it what it is: a wonderful ‘tornado’ of opportunity!

If you are experiencing the same overwhelming feeling from looking at your notes and leads, combined with the pressure of having to follow-up intelligently on everything, then take a break and listen to the Ask J’net Q&A tomorrow.  This one-hour, live phone event is dedicated to questions about ‘After the Trade Show…’  There is still time to register and get your questions in the mix, so register now and put your question at the bottom of the form.

I think you will find the Ask J’net Q&A really helpful, whether you are sorting and making decisions about how to follow-up with each and every person you met at the Licensing Expo, or whether you walked the show floor or are just thinking about attending Licensing Expo next year and are wondering what to expect.  Both of my classes this week will help you with these processes.

Ask J’net Q&A TOMORROW

Again, my FREE Ask J’net Q&A will focus on ‘After the Trade Show Questions.’  Feel free to ask about:

  • things you saw at the Licensing Expo;
  • trade show events or etiquette that perhaps didn’t make sense to you as a first-timer;
  • things which still confuse you;
  • how to evaluate opportunities
  • how to close deals
  • and how to make the most of your time there through your strategic follow-up.

Ask any questions important to you right now and put them on your registration form. This Ask J’net Q&A is scheduled for  -TOMORROW- Tuesday, June 16th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT (you will receive your Classroom Access Information at least one-hour before the class). Register Here.

Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques THIS THURSDAYIMG_0630

You won’t want to miss Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques. on Thursday, June 18th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT. This live phone event will be 1.5 hours and the cost is $75. After your purchase, you can attend live or after the event you will receive … an audio (MP3) file, 60+ page PowerPoint presentation (PDF format) and video link to watch the entire class at your convenience. We know everyone has a different way of learning, so we offer more ways to learn than other training events in the licensing industry.

This class has 3 parts which cover the:

  1. Organization of your follow-up, how exactly to
  2. Follow Through carefully and accurately on your leads and
  3. Sales Techniques that will close the deal and grow your business.

You may place your questions on the registration form, and they will be answered during the live event.

The training will focus on the characteristics of licensing sales, which you won’t find in a traditional sales class. You will receive your Classroom Access information the evening before the class, June 17th, via email. Register Here.

Keep asking great questions and you’ll receive the answers, that’s for sure!





Licensing Expo Recap and Mastering the Next Steps

14 06 2015

AAL Booth C13 at Licensing ExpoFrom set-up to break-down, the Licensing Expo delivered on its promise of bringing together worldwide brands, creators, artists, retailers and manufacturers to build business partnerships. We shared information daily from exhibitors and attendees in our blog…both from the Art+Design Zone, but also up-n-coming character properties.

Direction at Licensing Expo is so important!

Direction at Licensing Expo is so important!

I heard from many people, there was plenty of traffic and the leads were excellent.  I don’t think Licensing Expo has posted their ‘official’ attendance count yet, but the first day was pretty strong and the second day was even stronger with, of course, the inevitable slower third day. But for the Resource Center it never slowed down. We were still taking appointments even as the Booth was being demolished around us.

What a wonderful whirlwind. As Licensing Expo’s Art+Design Resource Center, we gave away 30+ free consultations, to exhibitors and attendees alike, as a part of our services. We also gave one of our new video classes and our 80+ free Minicourses to everyone, charged cell phones and laptops, printed urgent papers, and handed out bottled water to the thirsty.

Carlos Neville moved from the Art + Design Zone, closer to Characters, with his Pop the Balloon.

Carlos Neville moved from the Art + Design Zone, closer to Characters, with his Pop the Balloon.

Everyone participating in the Expo seemed to be very excited about the variety of prospects. While many artists mentioned they couldn’t get meetings with their ‘A’ list potential manufacturers, I heard later that several persistent artists caught their attention and managed to get those exciting appointments after all.

Joan Marie Celebrates Art in her first booth.

Joan Marie Celebrates Art in her first booth at Licensing Expo. She joins those who will be back in 2016.

Two hot topics throughout the Licensing Expo event were global exposure and digital media. Manufacturers from around the world met with artists and new properties and every corner of Asia was especially well represented at the Expo. All properties, new and evergreen, are seriously considering how they will gain and maintain exposure in this new digital world. And today it’s not just about exposure and the numbers, it’s all about ‘engagement.’

Debra Valencia and I catch up in her beautiful booth, designed as a brand concept store.

Debra Valencia and I catch up in her beautiful booth, designed as a brand concept store.

Engagement is how your audience will choose to interact with you and your brand. Also, who will help bring your products and brands into the limelight. Whether an artist or a property, there is a big trend in utilizing celebrities to increase exposure. Strategic alliances are well and good, as long as you have engagement once the audience grows. While this may not seem relevant to those of you who are new to art licensing, specifically, it does relate. Many new artists are turning to manufacturing some items on their own to develop their ‘following.’ Then online marketing and sales efforts will build your audience and strong sales numbers will absolutely impress manufacturers. It gives you something to leverage.

ANNE WAS HERE

ANNE WAS HERE

There was also a great deal of chatter about artists, designers and new properties getting high-level leads with companies the exhibitor didn’t expect! Each freely admitted they were in product categories they had never even considered would be interested. Exposure to so many types of properties and product categories at Licensing Expo is always an eye-opener and fuels broader business goals and plans.

Of course I heard complaints too, such as, ‘There is no room for new artists or properties.’ ‘How can we get anywhere when it’s all about the big-guys?’ ‘You need TV before you can do licensing.’ Or ‘You need publishing before you can get TV.’ But I was witness to several artists and properties who made great strides by being well prepared and really understanding what media players and manufacturers would want from a ‘newbie’ in the industry. Let’s see if they can stay the course and keep moving forward.

So now the final results for everyone is in the hands of our attention to detail and follow-up.

Mark Lubratt  and his Mom Linda spoke to many prospective   partners about Zoonicorns and will be attending Licensing Expo in 2016.

Mark Lubratt and his Mom Linda spoke to many prospective partners about Zoonicorns and will be attending Licensing Expo in 2016.

Ask J’net Q&A THIS WEEK

Now everyone has to sort and make decisions about how to follow-up with each and every person they met.  We have two classes this week to help you with these processes.  One is our FREE Ask J’net Q&A, in which I’ll focus on ‘After the Trade Show Questions.’  Feel free to ask about things: you saw at the Licensing Expo; that maybe didn’t make sense for you as a first-timer; which you are still confused about; and how to make the most of your time there through your strategic follow-up.  Ask any questions important to you right now and put them on your registration form. This Ask J’net Q&A is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT (you will receive your Classroom Access Information at least one-hour before the class). Register Here.

Art+Design Zone Action

Art+Design Zone Action

Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques

You won’t want to miss Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques. on Thursday, June 18th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT. This live phone event will be 1.5 hours and the cost is $75. After your purchase, you can attend live or after the event you will receive … an audio (MP3) file, 60+ page PowerPoint presentation (PDF format) and video link to watch the entire class at your convenience. We know everyone has a different way of learning, so we offer more ways to learn than other training events in the licensing industry.

This class has 3 parts which cover the 1) Organization of your follow-up, how exactly to 2) Follow Through carefully and accurately on your leads and 3) Sales Techniques that will close the deal and grow your business. You may place your questions on the registration form, and they will be answered during the live event.

The training will focus on characteristics of licensing sales which you won’t find in a traditional sales class. You will receive your Classroom Access information the evening before the class, June 17th, via email. Register Here.

Hope you can join me for one or both of the classes this week! Please share all this information with those who might want to attend the Expo next year or learn about our business. Thanks.





Winding Down at Licensing Expo Means Loads of Follow-Up for Talented Creators

11 06 2015

Corpirate

Meet Kat Ford, creator of Corpirate. She learned her craft by painting found and industrial objects and then turned them into her stylized art form.

Brainot Baxter and the Vita-Veggie Kids

VeggieVegetables get a bad rap in Marlon Sullivan’s eyes. A teacher with a social services background, Marlon has weaved his love of action and adventure with his need to teach a lesson to kids in this powerfully visual concept. This action-packed property has 10 villains to one hero to play up the “cool” of eating healthy as a way to blow through obstacles and beat the bad guys. Marlon uses the serious issues kids face around nutrition in real life to make the idea of eating well fun. His first year at Licensing Expo and first time to Las Vegas, Marlon, the artist and creator, says he’s very excited about the connections he is making and interest he’s seen in this comprehensive concept. He has created four seasons worth of episodes where characters evolve from a discovery to mastery stage. You can experience the adventure at Booth U192 and on their website.

Pop Picture

HaiyanArtist Haiyan is enjoying her first Licensing Expo this year.  This prolific artist has amazing seascapes, dogs, animals, and sunsets.  Originally from China, she has sold millions of her prints and is now ready to cast her trademark bright colors and nearly photographic style into licensing. You can see her work at Booth C21 or at PopPicture.com.Haiyan Art





Licensing Expo Still Strong on Day Three

11 06 2015

Geeh the BandA one-of-a-kind concept that brings fun, positive music and videos to children, Geeh the Band is the only virtual rock band of cool, colorful, fictional characters with two real songs that have made it to the Billboard charts! Created by Alfonso and Ivonne Soto, Geeh the Band is set to release its third album, EVOLVE, this year. One of Geeh’s special property elements is that companies interested in licensing receive the music to offer as a value-add to customers. Licensing partners receive a special code that unlocks videos and music as part of the product purchase. You can rock out with Geeh the Band at Booth U197.

Boomtag

It’s a killer game of tag. Created as a simple game that spreads worldwide and becomes a fast-paced game of life or death, Shawn’s goal is to remind everyone to remember the fun and excitement of childhood games, like tag. After three years of developing and fine tuning her property, Shawna Mills makes her first appearance at Licensing Expo this year. A creator who literally can do it all, Shawna is the artist, designer, writer and animator for her project. With complete outlines for 24 episodes, right now Shawna is producing the animation for the first episodes that will launch on YouTube later this year. BoomtagThere are up to 100 characters that can play this cutthroat game of tag that spans the globe, but Shawna says she’s really just a giant kid at heart who wants to chase people. You can play some tag at Shawna’s Booth V194 or check out – lazymills.com

Nañaritos

Only those that have the potential to be happy can see them. They are Nañaritos, which travel the world in dew drops and spread happiness wherever a dew drop breaks. What makes this property unique is the entire cast of characters in the books and stories are bilingual and told in two languages. A rich palette of blues, golds and reds, the Nañaritos brand has been exhibiting at Licensing Expo for four years.NanaritosThe entire look and feel of the concept is based on hand painted canvas characters, where the actual texture of the canvas is part of the visual look. Designer Marion Carro has 64 characters that she has been creating over 23 years, and each character represents a member of her family. Writer Yasmin Rodrigues has written one book with Marion, and they are searching for an agent, as well as meeting with manufacturers for products. You can see samples of potential products for this colorful brand at Booth V185.








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