Public Relations for Licensors – Artists, Designers, Characters & Brands – and My Top Ten Promotional Techniques

14 04 2015

Question:  What gives exposure, makes an impression and moves your business forward.

Answer: Public Relations.

As many of you know, I am a firm proponent of public relations as a marketing tool. It’s truly amazing that we have control over so much content these days. I discussed this in last month’s All Art Licensing Infoletter article, ‘Maximize Your Publicity-New Media Mix Offers Many Avenues to Tell Your Story.’ Click here to read or download.

Tomorrow I’m teaching ‘Public Relations for Today’s Licensor,’ one of my favorite and most important classes, which has been fully updated and revamped for 2015. If you really don’t understand how Public Relations works and want to either do-it-yourself (DIY) or manage your PR agency with more finesse, then invest in yourself and take this course. We’ll be covering how to develop your own lead lists and EXACTLY how to write press releases. In addition, I cover the top PR mistakes to avoid, plus social media techniques, top journalistic writing recommendations and a growing list of HOT press tips (which now exceeds 20) to get you noticed! I hope you will join me tomorrow. You can even register and get your questions answered during the class, but take the course at another time. In addition to an 80+ illustrated handout, you will receive the audio file the day after the class, so you can listen at your convenience. The cost is $60. Register here.

Today I’m sharing with you my Top Ten Self-Promotion Tips. I hope you will print them out and commit them to memory. One of the reasons that some of these, shall I say OBVIOUS, points made it to my Top Ten List, is because people, marketers, brands, artists, creators and companies of all kinds…STILL refuse to do them!

Say 'Hi!' if you see me at Licensing Expo or Surtex. Illustration courtesy of Debbie Tomassi who created 'Bodacious Broads.'

Say ‘Hi!’ if you see me at Licensing Expo or Surtex. Illustration courtesy of Debbie Tomassi who created ‘Bodacious Broads.’

1. 24/7 Marketing is Key – make it a habit…repeat…repeat.
2. Join the Conversation – real connections hold real power.
3. Target Your Ideal Clients – or your dream won’t become reality.
4. Develop a Mailing List of Interested People – get permission to send them updates.
5. Don’t Ask for Subscribers – change “subscribe” to “get updates.”
6. Blogs Need Promotion Too – if you have decided that blogging is key to your business, then promote it. Make sure you have a focus, that the blog is targeted to only ONE audience, and that your time investment will pay-off.
7. Have a Personal Story – don’t hide the personal side.
8. Don’t Forget to Call or Email – find a good reason to work with interesting people with the right knowledge and contacts and then reach out to them individually.
9. Think About the Long Term – make sure your plans include short and long-term goals and tactics.
10. Be Enjoyable and Professional to Work With – you would be amazed at how few people are and how much this will make you stand out!

Another great place to get self-promotion tips is from Austin Kleon’s book titled, ‘Show Your Work!’ Here’s a fun and beneficial quick-read article from Fast Company Magazine.

Check out All Art Licensing’s complete line up of Worldwide Creator’ Intensive Courses (we don’t just hold classes, we train thoroughly). Click here for the April schedule or to register for the “Public Relations for Today’s Licensor’ course.





How to Leverage your Intellectual Property to Get the Million-Dollar Deal and AAL Showers You With April Classes

8 04 2015

Note: If you want to register for Tomorrow’s Ask J’net Q&A, there is still time to send in your question.  Also…no need to worry about missing out on all the great information! Everyone who registers THIS MONTH, will automatiacally receive an MP3 file of the class. Register Now. (More about this and our other great classes below.)

How to Leverage your Intellectual Property to Get the Million-Dollar Deal

How do you become a brand? “How do you get millions of eyes and thousands of retail doors to open and focus on your cherished property and close the big deals?” The truth is, ‘what to do’ is actually fairly simple to explain; however, ‘how to do it’ is more difficult to accomplish.

The key to brand-building is leveraging. In the licensing industry, I have defined leveraging as: using a property’s current assets and awareness level (whatever they may be) to multiply itself exponentially using less effort than the amount of growth to be achieved. Leveraging is the one marketing tool, which increases and builds on your existing state and requires fewer resources to initiate the action, than the potential gain it acquires. For example, what you want to create is a situation where you are receiving $10,000 for every $1,000 invested. Repeatedly.

No matter what stage you are at in the development of your business, leveraging what you have for future gains is critical. You might be just beginning with a concept in mind or already have a collection of original art. Perhaps you have a television property and are looking toward a movie deal. All of these scenarios are constantly being developed in the industry and are accomplished through the art of leveraging.

Consider properties such as the Uglydoll®. They were manufacturing and selling their own dolls with great success. Because of this, they were able to take their concrete sales results and use them to demonstrate and convince other types of product manufacturers of the profit potential when investing in their characters. In fact, as the popular brand developed, Uglydoll® moved from a manufacturing based company to a full licensing model. This is a perfect example of skillful leveraging moves which lead to multiple deals and a complete change in the business plan. Examples of leveraging abound in the licensing industry.

Dilbert(R)When I was first starting out in the business, I managed a then little-known cartoon character named DILBERT®. Since the comic strip was in only about 100 newspapers, I needed to broaden our fan base dramatically. One strategic move changed the course of the property’s trajectory. At that time, I knew that our core audience was currently dominated by geeks. However, I believed the largest potential audience for the strip would include the millions of business people in the marketplace, if I was able to reach them. So I decided to try and get the cartoon into The Wall Street Journal. The problem was, this is a newspaper with a 100-year-old tradition of not running comics.

While this may sound like an impossible goal, it is important to never give up on what might be a great idea. Thinking and planning ten steps ahead is a critical part of any successful leveraging marketing program. I knew exposure to this broader business audience would mean a significant increase of our overall reach, products, media and profits.

So I considered a ‘back-door’ route to The Wall Street Journal newspaper which might make it possible to publish the cartoon through display advertising. Without any budget, I pitched and found a company to pay for the ads. Each advertisement included the latest daily DILBERT® comic strip brought to you by the sponsor. This single move increased our readership, our newsletter numbers and syndication, as well as positioned the cartoon for achieving our mass-market ‘business’ publishing goals.

Always look at the next leveraging move as a challenge to be solved and conquered. Failure is not an option. And remember sometimes you have to take three smaller steps to ready your property for the really big move you have established to achieve the larger goal.

A more recent example, Meghan Dougherty and Alece Birnbach, two of my current clients are the author and illustrator, respectively, of ‘Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles’—a property about a tween roller derby team of misfits. With nothing but a concept and a target audience that was 1) identifiable, 2) reachable, 3) sustainable and 4) large enough to warrant our efforts, the creators and I have worked to build-out the concept. These are the four ‘audience essentials’ for a property that can be leveraged.

First came the web site and a blog about the characters, meanwhile summaries of a ten-book series were developed and social media was utilized to reach the core audience of derby fans with key slogans, such as ‘Slugs & Hisses,’ ‘Wheels Before Heels’ and ‘Hit like a girl!’.Hit Like a Girl!

Developing a strong following within the roller derby community, we grew our online numbers to a level that could be leveraged. A strong book proposal and three completed chapters of the first book, drove us to a good publishing deal. Having the four audience essentials in place clinched the deal, even though my clients were unknown authors. We also made the decision to read drafts of the book to 5th grade classes and secured stories in the media around the concept of a girl power-based roller derby book for tweens. This demonstrated to publishers their ability to help promote the book when it launched.

Just recently the first book was released through Sourcebooks and has received great reviews, such as this one from Publisher’s Weekly: “Birnbach’s spot illustrations and comics sequences pepper the story, showcasing skating action and hinting at the characters’ vivacious personalities. Speaking to the insecurities of middle school, parental abandonment, and the thrill of a crush, this first book in the Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles series should easily drum up excitement among readers who aren’t afraid to get their elbows bruised.” The second book in the series is due to be released August of 2015.Rise of the Undead Redhead

Leveraging moves can be small or large, for money, exposure or other benefits. But they must be tackled and nurtured continuously at every stage of a growing property. Some ways to leverage new and established properties are available through strategic alliances, sponsorships, public relations, product extensions and social media efforts. However, one of the best ways to begin leveraging your property is at trade shows because you can reach so many influential decision-makers and potential partners at one time, when they are all gathered in one place. You can conceivably create in 2 or 3 days, the same number of connections and viable leads as you can develop in a year’s worth of your own sales efforts.

A licensing trade show is a great place to launch your next wave of exposure and strategically position your property for a new growth phase. The investment here can create great returns. When you have planned for and understand your next potential moves, it’s much easier to develop a clear message, direct your marketing materials, meet the right people and show them exactly how an alliance makes sense and creates revenue for all. Each strategic leveraging move is one step closer in getting to the million-dollar deal.

All Art Licensing Showers You with Great Classes In April, Starting with Our FREE Ask J’net Scheduled for Tomorrow, April 9th.

Ask J’net Q&A – ‘Marketing Your Licensing Business’WWCI from AAL
Thursday April 9th, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT
Duration: 1 hour
Price: FREE
1 hour live phone event – We’re continuing the wonderful conversation started last month on ‘How to Market Your Licensing Business’ in tomorrow’s Ask J’net Q&A. I will focus on answering more of your questions about how to market your art, character or brand licensing business. Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about creating a marketing plan, trade shows, exhibiting, public relations, closing sales and more. What are you wondering about that will help your business grow?
Sign-up here for the free class. When registering, there is a place at the bottom of the form to write your question(s). J’net will answer as many questions as possible during the hour. All you need to do is call in at the specific time to get answers to your questions and learn from others’ questions. If you can’t attend tomorrow’s class, please register anyway, as we’ll be sending the MP3 file to everyone who registers this month!
Please note: You will receive your  Dial-in number and Access Code for the class tonight from All Art Licensing. This is not an 800 number, so your standard long distance rates will apply.
Register Now

And here’s the rest of my April line-up of classes:
Public Relations for Today’s Licensors
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT
Duration: 1.5 hours – including 65+ page PowerPoint Presentation (PDF format)
Price: $60

This class is for the emerging and intermediate art, design or character licensors, for both those who have public relations agents and those that are working solo. Join me for this comprehensive course which moves you from wondering how to get the word out about your business to managing your own press and promotions (or understanding how to manage your PR agency, if they handle your press). The class will cover:

  • develop your goals and strategies
  • create your own press plan
  • build targeted press lists
  • write effective and attention grabbing press releases
  • craft a press kit (and your brand)
  • determine priorities within Social Media, press and promotions
  • PR mistakes to avoid
  • plus HOT press tips to turn up the HEAT!

It also includes real-life examples to show you exactly what to do.

Creating a Successful Book Publishing Proposal
Friday, April 17th – 10:00 a.m. PDT/ 1:00 p.m. PDT
Duration: 1.5 hours – including 50+ page PowerPoint Presentation (PDF format)
Price: $60
In today’s marketplace, your character property needs to gain exposure and traction before it can move into the world of licensing. One of the best tracks to licensing is through book publishing. So if you have ever wondered how to create a successful publishing proposal, this is the class for you. J’net has published more than 30 books for clients and will provide detailed ‘how to’ instructions and information on ‘why’ it must be done a certain way. The class will include many examples, as well as, a run-down of the self-publishing and eBook options, vs. traditional publishing.

Marketing Your Art, Characters, Designs & New Brands through Trade Shows
Wednesday, April 22nd – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT
Duration: 2 hours – including 70+ page PowerPoint Presentation (PDF format)
Price: $75

This course will show you how to market your creativity successfully—whether art, characters, designs or a new brand concept—and enter the $155B licensing arena through trade shows, as well as other practical marketing techniques. This Worldwide Creators’ Intensive class covers:

  •  choosing the right trade shows
  •  how to move from internal creative process to external income generation and
  • preparing for and exhibiting at a show.

Through detailed information and real life examples, J’net will demonstrate clearly how art, designs, characters and new brands are launched into the marketplace. Those who take this course will learn how to determine what they have in terms of a creative product, and whether it could be practical and profitable to exhibit at a trade show. This class is powerful, comprehensive and a great value for all those who have purchased a booth or are considering doing so.

Creating a Successful Television Proposal

Friday, April 24th – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT
Duration: 1.5 hours – including 50+ page PowerPoint Presentation (PDF format)
Price: $60
Have you developed a character or television concept that you wish to pitch. This class will cover how to create a successful television proposal that will get producers attention, as well as what the entire process will look like. We will be discussing the various types of proposals, TV bibles, style guides and more. Do not miss your chance to have this confusing industry and process de-mystified and explained in detail and easy to understand terms. Learn how it relates to and drives the licensing business. We will also talk about options, how deals get done and how you can get one!

Visit our Class Schedule Page to Register for any of our April Classes. 





Video Interview with Designer Brand – Debra Valencia™ and Beginner’s Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference THIS WEEK!

22 03 2015

Debra Valencia LogoLast week was busier than ever with classes coming up and our seven-hour Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference for beginners starting this week (click here or see below). But I jumped at the chance to interview Debra Valencia for you…okay for me too! I enjoyed it so much and I know that you will find this wonderful video interview quite informative. We will be doing many more video interviews in the coming months, so watch for them.MiaNotecards

Debra has made a lot of progress in the art licensing arena in only six years of licensing, and in only two of those years did she have an agent. Before she found an agent she realized that getting some deals on her own would help her get a better agent, so she did (OH AROUND!) 32 deals between 2008 and 2013. Debra is also no stranger to helping fellow-artists new to licensing, as she mentors several in her geographic area of Los Angeles.

DVBathBodyI’m so excited to share this interview because it shows that you didn’t have to start 20 years ago in art licensing to become a successful branded artist. I think Debra Valencia is a perfect example for all artists, designers and creators who envision themselves as a brand. The Debra Valencia™ Brand features fashion-forward patterns that have endless applications in stationery, gift, craft and home décor. She is working with manufacturers in paper products, social expression, textiles, home fashions, tabletop, gift, craft and hobby, children’s merchandise and jewelry. Debra’s artwork is currently licensed for over a 1,000 products in stationery, home office, gift and textiles. I’m showing a few lovely products here, but of course, there are many more examples on her web site.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’ By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia 132 pages Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’
By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia
132 pages
Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

Let me also share some exciting NEW news from the Valencia camp: her sister, Cheyanne, and Debra have collaborated to create a sewing book of 12 quick and easy boutique handbags, titled ‘Sewing Pretty Bags.’ She said the concept came out of their sewing handbags and other designer prototypes with her fabulous fabrics, as a way to showcase them. Debra even wrote her own proposal and pitched it at Book Expo, landing a quick deal with Fox Chapel Publishing. The book is scheduled to be in bookstores on May 1st, so look for it.

Okay…that’s all I’ll reveal for now…please make yourself a truly delicious cup of tea in a gorgeous mug or tea-cup and sit back and watch the interview. It will be worth every drop! (We apologize in advance for the slight audio feedback that occassionally arises during the interview.)

WWCI from AALWorldwide Creators’ Intensive – Art Licensing Mini-Conference $125 (Live Events + MP3 Audio Files and Full Presentation in PDFs to review at your convenience) The Worldwide Creators’ Intensive, our first global armchair 3-day mini-conference, is an action packed 7+ hours of learning the licensing business from the comfort of your own home.

Taught by J’net Smith of All Art Licensing – March 25, 26 & 27, 2015

It’s a very well-rounded and comprehensive, intensive 7+ hours of training scheduled over 3 days, with practical and affordable art licensing information created for the domestic and international art communities. The benefit of registering for our live events is that you receive our discounted price and you get to ask questions. If you cannot attend on the day and/or at the time we are offering the courses, don’t worry—you can still ask questions prior to the class and they will be answered.  Then you will receive the full class materials and audio, so you can take the courses at home whenever you like.

  • Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1)
  • Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2)
  • Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3)
  • Art Licensing Negotiations & Contracts (Part 4)

Save when you register for the entire event! Best Price: $125/USD Register for Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – all 4 live events

Learn More by clicking here or I’ve outlined the curriculum below:

WWCI: Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1) Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (1.5 hours) $30 (if purchased separately)

This course covers:

  • insights to help you determine where you fit into this business
  • the art licensing process
  • product categories
  • timelines (how long does it take to make money)
  • artist requirements
  • challenges that are to be expected (& pitfalls to avoid)
  • distribution channels and retailers, and
  • the agent/artist relationship.

WWCI: Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2) Wednesday, March 25 – 1 p.m. EDT / 3 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course covers how to:

  • develop your marketing strategy
  • define your target audience
  • research manufacturers
  • understand important licensing perspectives (that of the manufacturer/retailer vs. the artist/brand owner)
  • create professional collections
  • develop presentations
  • create pitch letters and
  • organize and write effective websites.

WWCI: Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3) Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course will cover how to:

  • create your sales tool kit of essential skills
  • understand the licensing sales process
  • find your retail fit
  • develop sales leads
  • write sales letters
  • communicate with manufacturers and
  • sell yourself to a prospective manufacturer or agent.

WWCI: Art Licensing Negotiations and Contracts (Part 4) Friday, March 27, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course teaches:

  • the essential contract elements
  • protecting the rights to your art and business,
  • generating maximum income,
  • learning industry royalty rates
  • recognizing common mistakes
  • negotiation techniques
  • how to evaluate an offer
  • when to sign a deal and when not to

For more information on the 3-day Mini-Conference Intensives or to purchase any Part separately click here





FYI – Upcoming ‘Live Events’ In March

15 03 2015

Maybe it’s not so easy for you to travel to the latest art or character licensing trade show this year, but you are still really interested in learning about the licensing business and continuing your eWWCI from AALducation and training.

All Art Licensing is offering ‘live events’ beginning March 19th, as part of our Worldwide Creators’ Intensive, that will teach you the Art Licensing Essentials you need to learn with out leaving home, and the first event is FREE.

A Special FREE ‘Ask J’net Q&A’ Dedicated to Answering Your Marketing Questions – Thursday, March 19, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PST / 1 p.m. EST (1 hour live event)

This Ask J’net Q&A will focus on answering your questions about how to market your art, designs, characters or brand licensing business during this one-hour ‘live’ phone event. Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about creating a marketing plan, trade shows, licensing plan, agents, public relations and more.  What are you wondering about that will help your business grow.

You just sign-up here for the free class. When registering, there is a place at the bottom of the form to write your question(s). J’net will answer as many questions as possible during the hour. All you need to do is call in at the specific time to get answers to your questions and learn from others’ questions. Please note: You will receive your Dial-in number and Access Code for the class the night before the event from All Art Licensing. This is not an 800 number, so your standard long distance rates will apply.

Price: FREE

Register Now

Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – Art Licensing Mini-Conference $125 (Live Events + MP3 Audio Files and Full Presentation in PDFs to review at your convenience) The Worldwide Creators’ Intensive, our first global armchair 3-day mini-conference, is an action packed 7+ hours of learning the licensing business from the comfort of your own home.

Taught by J’net Smith–All Art Licensing
March 25, 26 & 27, 2015

It’s a very well-rounded and comprehensive, intensive 7+ hours of training scheduled over 3 days, with practical and affordable art licensing information created for the domestic and international art communities. The benefit of registering for our live events is that you receive our discounted price and you get to ask questions. If you cannot attend on the day and/or at the time we are offering the courses, don’t worry—you can still ask questions prior to the class and they will be answered.  Then you will receive the full class materials and audio, so you can take the courses at home whenever you like.

  • Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1)
  • Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2)
  • Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3)
  • Art Licensing Negotiations & Contracts (Part 4)

Save when you register for the entire event! Best Price: $125/USD Register for Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – all 4 live events

Learn More by clicking here or I’ve outlined the curriculum below:

WWCI: Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1) Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (1.5 hours) $30 (if purchased separately)

This course covers:

  • insights to help you determine where you fit into this business
  • the art licensing process
  • product categories
  • timelines (how long does it take to make money)
  • artist requirements
  • challenges that are to be expected (& pitfalls to avoid)
  • distribution channels and retailers, and
  • the agent/artist relationship.

WWCI: Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2) Wednesday, March 25 – 1 p.m. EDT / 3 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course covers how to:

  • develop your marketing strategy
  • define your target audience
  • research manufacturers
  • understand important licensing perspectives (that of the manufacturer/retailer vs. the artist/brand owner)
  • create professional collections
  • develop presentations
  • create pitch letters and
  • organize and write effective websites.

WWCI: Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3) Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course will cover how to:

  • create your sales tool kit of essential skills
  • understand the licensing sales process
  • find your retail fit
  • develop sales leads
  • write sales letters
  • communicate with manufacturers and
  • sell yourself to a prospective manufacturer or agent.

WWCI: Art Licensing Negotiations and Contracts (Part 4) Friday, March 27, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course teaches:

  • the essential contract elements
  • protecting the rights to your art and business,
  • generating maximum income,
  • learning industry royalty rates
  • recognizing common mistakes
  • negotiation techniques
  • how to evaluate an offer
  • when to sign a deal and when not to

For more information on the 3-day Mini-Conference Intensives or to purchase any Part separately click here





Your Primary Message Matters: You Can’t Close a Deal Until They Stop at Your Booth

5 03 2015

For those of you attending a trade show this spring or considering it in the near future, this blog is a must read.  It was originally ran in Licensing Expo’s email newsletter, but I felt it was such an important message that I didn’t want my blog audience to miss out.  

As you know, the ultimate goal of being an exhibitor at a trade show is to create income (and potentially great income) through the generation of agreements, deals and alliances. Therefore, one of the most important elements of your trade show booth is to clearly impart your brand message to potential clients, licensees and other show prospects.

We do this through logos, images and words (graphics, photos, art, characters, headlines, bullets, testimonials, etc.), as well as by making sure that the overall style of your booth (colors, design, furniture, music, lighting, etc.) successfully represents your property or brand.

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo's 2014 'One to Watch' Contest

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo’s 2014 ‘One to Watch’ Contest

It is also essential that you develop a well-trained and fully prepared staff. They need to be friendly and approachable, while at the same time exhibiting consistent professionalism, knowledge and sincere interest in both your property and whomever they are speaking with. Remember, you never know who you are talking to.

However, in my 20 years of attending countless trade shows, I have found that one of the biggest mistakes properties and artists make is not being very specific and clear in who they are, what their business is and what they do. This primary message is vital to everything you are trying to accomplish at the show. It is best expressed as the first and most prominent visual communication of your booth, and it must be designed to quickly catch the eye of your target attendees. No pressure, but the reality is, you only have about 2-3 seconds to capture their attention.

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked past a lovely booth, complete with graphics, flowers and great attention to detail, but their primary message was left unclear. Who and what they were, as well as what they were offering me was not easily understandable, so I walked right on by without a second thought.

I just have to say directly that it’s not my (or anyone else’s) job to try to figure out what you do. Those passing by your booth want and need to be able to rapidly obtain your information—before committing to stopping—and it’s entirely up to you to provide it!

It’s not that complicated or difficult to create an awesome booth which gets you plenty of attention and deals. It simply takes laser focus.

A clear branding message in your booth should include the following information, woven into an understandable and exciting display:
1) Primary objective
2) Who you are
3) What you do and offer
4) Who you want to reach

Zoonicorn's Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Zoonicorn’s Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Primary objective
In the initial planning stages, I suggest you decide what your specific goals and priorities are going to be and what exactly you are attempting to accomplish through attending the trade show. Then make sure that those points are adequately expressed in your overall vision of the booth AND precisely communicated.

To make this happen, think about all the reasons you originally chose to attend the trade show and write a list of the goals you want to achieve. The primary objective for you or your company should be brief and straight-forward, such as: ‘Get a television deal.’ or ‘Secure a licensing agent.’ Whatever it is, be specific and certain of your intentions and what you are investing your time, money, and efforts in.

Secondly, make sure you are willing to modify your goals, if necessary, so that they meet your needs, as well as the needs of potential clients and the realities of the marketplace. Remember you are trying to create a win-win situation; most deals are compromises between the creator and manufacturer or producer.

Then, stay focused and follow your plan. For example, don’t spend the majority of your budget and efforts on a smaller niche markets, rather than your largest potential. But also remember; never alienate anyone because you never know when or where the next big deal is going to come from.

Rarely would it be appropriate to simply write your primary objectives on your trade show booth walls. You need to know what they are, so you articulate them concisely within your overall communication. I think that successful communication means weaving your goals into the messages of ‘who you are,’ ‘what you do and have’ and ‘who you want to reach.’

Who you are
All booths need signage that is visible, readable and unmistakably identifiable, while including your business name, property name and company logo.

As a general rule, your brand should be prominently displayed and must be large enough to be read from across the aisle, as well as from all directions approaching your booth. Central art and images need to be able to be seen, AND READ, when casually walking down the aisle from at least 10-20 feet away.

If you have more than one property, then they each need their own prominent signage. Make sure you get a large enough booth to do justice to your multiple properties and concepts. You cannot do a great job of presenting, if you are crammed for space. In the trade show booth world, bigger is often better.

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

What you do and offer
No matter how big it is (or isn’t), your booth walls simply will not hold every tidbit of information you want to present to passersby. However, leaving folks confused as to what you do, and have to offer, is not a strong branding play. Somehow exactly what you have available to license needs to be communicated in words and images. Put the extra information and details in your leave-behind brochure.

As you look at your booth design, ask yourself if it is clear enough for a novice, or a person who is unfamiliar with your company and concept, to describe accurately what it is you are offering. I think they will be able to identify your purpose, if you create and advertise answers to these following four questions in your booth display:
What’s the concept?
What type of property is it?
What kind of audience reach do you have?
And most importantly…
What already exists that can be licensed immediately?

Many booths don’t present an easily understandable account of what they actually have to license: cartoons, a story, individual pieces of art, art collections, book series, or television concept. Don’t be one of them.

Also, make sure there is breathing room around your logo, words, wall art and characters, so that the messages are not jumbled and confused. If your running out of space and your information is getting too cluttered, either enlarge the booth, or move part of your message to your printed materials or multimedia presentation. Again, make sure all your visuals are consistent, well-defined and readable.

Who you want to reach
Lastly, and I cannot express the importance of this enough, you need to communicate quickly and clearly your message of who you want to do business with, to all those passing by your booth. This is the primary point of this article and, in my opinion, the most-often overlooked item in trade show booths today!

Each booth at a trade show has two target audiences to identify: 1) the consumer and 2) the trade customer. If your consumer audience is girls 5-8/K-2nd grade, then say so. Then you also need to identify what trade customer you are looking for, such as agents, XYZ-type of manufacturers, producers or publishers.

For example, if you are a new exhibitor looking for a reputable licensing agent, then make sure others know it. If you are an established company looking for appropriate new artists, then post it. Maybe you are a book-based property looking for television agents, producers and networks, then display that specific need.

In conclusion

Making sure that you have established your primary objective and unmistakably communicated who you are, what you do, what you offer and who you want to reach, will set the stage for an excellent and profitable trade event. Having covered these essential communication goals, you can now focus on the finer details and design elements of your booth to catch attention and drive home the sales.





Heartfelt Art Licensing Lessons- An Interview with Joan Marie

13 02 2015

DotHeartFor my valentine to everyone, I wanted to share this story of Joan Marie, a vivacious artist who is re-launching her art licensing business this year. Having great success early in her licensing career, 20+ years ago, only to have the business plummet, has taught this artist a few heartfelt lessons.

J’net Q: How did you get into the licensing business?
Joan Marie A: Mary Engelbreit inspired me. Watching her business flourish was very exciting. Then I began to see the bigger picture and it really intrigued me.

Q: You have a fine art background, is that right?
A: Yes, my undergraduate degree was from Washington University in St. Louis and my MFA was from both University of South Florida, in Tampa, and Lindenwood University in St. Louis.

Q: How did you get your first deals and what kinds of licensing have you done?Joan Marie
A: I researched companies by going shopping and by attending some national conventions to find the best companies to work with. I wrote down tons of names. Then I would call them to see if they were interested in working with a freelance artist. If they were interested, I sent them a hardcopy of my portfolio with 10-20 images. And I got rejected a lot. When the company that was to be my first licensee called, they first offered me a flat rate. I had been so excited to get their call, then my heart dropped. I told them, I can’t work that way, I must have a royalty. And the manufacturer said they don’t work on a royalty basis. So we both hung up. At the time, I was pretty desperate and I paced and fought myself NOT to call them back. Then he called me back about 4 hours later…and they offered me a royalty. Next I had to create the contract, which I did, through a volunteer organization that offered legal services to ‘starving artists.’ From there I followed the same procedure to get more deals, and really persisted. It took a long time to get going. Then my art sold very well for about 10 years on apparel, stationery, back-to-school and gift items. I had one cat design that sold over 1.5 million t-shirt transfers, which was amazing. And creating 2 lines of collectible plates with The Hamilton Collection was such an exciting time of national recognition. But all of a sudden the public totally stopped buying kittens and unicorns; the market was really saturated with the themes I had painted.bird in flight

Q: What is your favorite part of doing art licensing?
A: Knowing your art can add a smile, some excitement, and warm someone’s heart while using everyday products. It just feels like crazy fun to me. It makes me so happy. I think this is a sign that I am in the right business. “Life is supposed to be FUN!”…and that’s how it feels to be in this industry.

Q: So how has your art changed since those earlier days?
A: My art has covered many styles over the years. Early on I was primarily realistic in my imagery using classic oil techniques. Then I went through a purely abstract phase. Today I combine the ethereal and gently romantic quality of my past realistic art with my new confident intensity. It is very exciting to express so many of life’s emotions in one work of art. My new art is bolder. It captures the high energy passions I see in life.Zebras

Q: What was your biggest hurdle to get where you are today?
A: To stop being concerned about what will sell. Instead to create art that expresses my true vision and passion for life. If your focus is on creating what will sell, you may make a survival income, but you will never discover your unique voice and say something that will truly speak to others. If it doesn’t come from your joy, or your soul, it has no chance to gain a huge following. It is also a challenge to never give up and keep going through the ups and downs in this industry. One of the best words of wisdom I have heard is: “There is a lot of room at the top.” This artist was telling me that very few artists are willing to do what it takes to get to the top, so keep the faith and keep loving the process of getting there.

DoggiesQ: How has the art licensing industry changed since you were in it 20 years ago?
A: Oh wow! BIG changes! Artists were not using computers!!! No Photoshop or email! Can you IMAGINE that??! Finding companies to submit to was so much more challenging…and OH MY!!! I felt so ALONE. We really had nowhere to turn to get help understanding the business! There were NO J’net Smiths at the end of the phone or computer to give us endless valuable information and help!!! All we had was the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines,” which was and still is really valuable. But that’s it. And mailing hard copies of portfolios was expensive. Then learning how each company wanted their submissions was a much bigger challenge.

Q: What’s the biggest ‘from the trenches’ tip you can offer to newcomers to art licensing?
A: My advice is to learn how to use your strengths and go to others for their strengths to help you get the job done. There are so many more resources available today; it’s such a blessing. So learn who and where those resources are and get out there and use them. I need to focus and not insist on doing everything myself. Read, talk to people and get professional advice. I am thrilled to get assistance on my branding, promotions, publicity, leads and more. We are meant to help each other and not work alone like an island. That’s what I used to do. Secondly, I think you really need to have great passion for this industry, as I’ve mentioned. If that deep drive and excitement or the love of the entire process and of being in business for yourself is not there, then the challenges will surely beat you down. I would also highly recommend having some savings to invest in the start-up of your business. You have to be patient, because it takes a long time for the volume to build up and to make the kind of dollars you want.

Q: In art licensing today, what is your biggest challenge?7WsexhilSM (1)
A: Not to fall into self-doubt or fill my mind with thoughts of feeling stressed…AND to not be concerned about what will sell instead being true to what I am here to express through my art. Gaining wisdom through the years has given me the ability to step out of those old patterns. Now I say: “I believe”…“I trust”… I know in my heart that everything is going perfectly, just as it should. It’s fantastic to feel grounded and excited all at once, knowing that this is what I am here to do.

To see more of Joan Marie’s Art That Celebrates, click here to visit her website.





5 Mistakes that Character Creators Often Make

28 01 2015

Do you have an idea for a new character? Do you think your new character would be an ideal fit for television, books, apps, games, toys or comics? Well, that is a great start. But to fully develop a character that you can sell or license as a larger media property, you’ll need to know that character from the inside out. And you’ll need to be able to communicate the nuances of the character to your audience, quickly and expertly.

If you have created and developed a character and are wanting to build a property, with media and licensing, then consider the following advice. Take these five common mistakes and create your own check-list of things ‘not to do’ when it comes to building your own character or character brand:

1. Create vague characters. This is a no-no. Your characters can’t look like or behave like everyone else’s’ dog, cat or whatever. Your characters need to be distinguishable with specific traits, style, and purpose. Develop the detailed background and dreams for your characters, including answering the questions: who, what, when where, why and how.
2. Think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience. Instead, find a niche audience where you can gain some impact and create impressions before broadening your scope. Try to figure out where your target audience lives, works and plays…and most importantly…how they prefer to get their entertainment and information. Eventually you can adapt your content to expand the audience. But don’t ever think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience.
3. Assume people will immediately ‘get’ your characters the way you do. Don’t be naive. You need to mentally put yourself in your audiences’ chair to adequately understand their perspective. This is a powerful internal tool to develop. You can then create your character’s personality and mannerisms, so your audience can ‘see’ just how funny, ironic, sweet, improbable, dumb, charismatic, sarcastic, ill-at-ease, or whatever your characters really are! It is up to you to develop these traits, as well as create exposure through media, products and other channels.
4. Attend trade shows ill-prepared. Creator’s frequently exhibit at trade shows too early in the development of their characters. In addition, they fail to design the proper materials to actually sell producers, publishers, manufacturers and retailers on doing a deal. Without the right marketing materials and content, these potential partners can’t distribute your characters to their biggest potential audience and help build the brand. Be sure you are ready and get the help you need to do it right.
5. Develop non-sustainable characters. Do your characters appeal to a large target audience, or one at least big enough to support your creations and accomplish your goals? Do they fulfill a long-lasting need in the marketplace, which means they could become ‘evergreen’ characters? Or are they a flash on the horizon of trends? Be careful not to put your time and energy into characters, unless they have the audience potential to match and sustain your ideas and dreams.

Hammy from the 'Over the Hedge' Movie

Hammy from the ‘Over the Hedge’ Movie

All of these mistakes can be avoided with the proper training. I have two excellent classes which elaborate on these specific problems. One class, in which I collaborated with Michael Fry, creator of ‘Over the Hedge’ (DreamWorks) and ‘The Odd Squad –Bully Bait’ (Disney-Hyperion) is called ‘Building Character – How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul.’

Or you may be planning to attend a trade show and interested in: ‘Marketing Your Art, Characters, Designs and New Brands Through Trade Shows’. Each of these can be purchased and downloaded through our website. The next FREE Ask J’net Q&A is open to everyone who wants to ask questions about characters and character licensing next week, Thursday, February 5th from 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST / 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST. The registration form includes a place at the bottom for your questions, and you will be sent the Dial-In Number and Access Code for the session the evening of February 4th. Register here.








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