November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #13

14 11 2016

 

Q: I have developed a portfolio of very cute animals, no stories, just whimsical animals. Where do you suggest I start trying to license them? 

november-q-a-final

A: It really depends on your audience and if the whimsical animals are for kids or for adults. You have to start by identifying your target audience. Then develop a list of products that would work well with the images. Make sure to choose products that will allow the characters to live and have space. For example, a pencil doesn’t give a lot of space, but a backpack, t-shirt and blanket do.

Once you have a strategy that includes who your target audience is, and the best products to start with, then you know where to focus your efforts. I always recommend starting with three product categories in which each category may have many specific types of products.  For example, stationery products includes everything from greeting cards and stationery to stickers and notepads (to name a few).

Keep in mind that there are some products, such as wall art and paper products, which are easier to license in the earlier stages. Another important element is to have your whimsical animals available for manufacturers mocked up in designs, including patterns and borders. These designs should highlight your imagery on the manufacturer’s specific type of product, say, infant décor and layette, rather than just offering the characters alone or in scenes. Sometimes including them in designs with holiday themes can help get them on products faster. Just remember, the strategy comes first, then you can determine what would be the best venue for licensing your whimsical animals.

 

 

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An Art Licensor’s Continuing Education

19 03 2014

learn earnThe road to a successful licensing business is paved with many steps over a variety of paths. And it’s not a short journey, by any means. Joan Beiriger, licensed artist and self-proclaimed art licensing junkie (and blogger), was listening to one of my Ask J’net Q&A’s when I mentioned this.

Joan wrote: “One thing that you covered really sparked my interest.  You discussed what the role of an artist is and you said that an artist needs to learn about art licensing not just at the beginning of her career but she needs to continue learning forever.  And that also involves learning about manufacturing and retail to know what consumers want.  Exactly what I believe in!”

I clearly agree with her. She then asked me to write a blog about the education that artists need, to skillfully maneuver the twists and turns on the road through art licensing. Here it is Joan—

In any business endeavor there are lots of things to learn and the world also doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. It does not wait for someone to catch up. Like a real estate agent re-taking their license, a surgeon updating their skills or a computer geek learning the latest software, education and learning is vital and it should be at the top of your ‘to do’ list every year.

As I focused on the various areas that art licensors need to learn about, I thought about how wonderfully diverse this industry is. I personally love that about licensing and marketing, as well. But this does mean that you need to always be open to, and on the lookout for new training opportunities, throughout your career. Here’s my list of topics, which I believe should be on your continuing education list—

ART—As artists, we should explore and expand our style and then experiment with a new one. Never stop seeking more of your creative source. Take time to play with your art and develop your own new ideas and techniques. Also:

  • Keep an eye on current trends, whether for inspiration, or just information
  • If sales are dropping, then consider whether your art style is slipping out of date
  • Make sure you continuously update your web site with new art

TECHNOLOGY—What’s the latest technology on the landscape for:

  • Business, sales & marketing
  • Creating art, presentations, production files and more
  • Communication, social media, publishing & entertainment (Note: they call these platforms, and if you can re-purpose your art and designs for various platforms, all the better!)

LICENSING—What would you like to learn for your licensing business about:

  • Agents
  • Portfolios
  • Collection Design
  • Trends
  • Sales
  • Contracts
  • Negotiations

BUSINESS—What training and skills are necessary for your entrepreneurial business to succeed:

  • Marketing & Sales
  • Branding
  • Public Relations
  • Promotions
  • Accounting
  • Time Management
  • Choose what you want to do yourself and what you want to hire out.
  • Learn how to discern who is the most economical and best fit for your business. That, in itself, is a skill and one in which I often find myself guiding my clients.

MANUFACTURING—What do you understand about manufacturing? Understanding the manufacturing process for different product categories is really important. This is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest areas where I believe artists need to learn more. The art licensing entrepreneur needs to develop skills in:

  • Creating art that works well on products
  • Developing captivating & sales-worthy product designs
  • Tailoring the work you present to a specific manufacturer to fit their production capabilities
  • Preparing art for production
  • Selling (licensing) themselves and their art to manufacturers

RETAIL—In addition to getting inside the head of the manufacturers, retail education is the second-most lacking area in the art licensing entrepreneurial skill set. Artists and all types of creators who want to bring their concepts to market need to learn how to think like a wholesale manufacturer, a retailer and ultimately target the consumer. Therefore, learning about retail is essential and will help you immensely as a licensor when you comprehend:

  • Retailing
    • Channels of distribution
    • Types of retail outlets
    • Pricing strategies
    • Purchasing trends
    • Promotions and new ways of attracting customers
    • Merchandising
      • Visual merchandising
      • Cross merchandising
      • Internet sales

This list certainly doesn’t cover every topic. However, it’s a fantastic place to start. If you really want to create an income with your creations you must keep yourself motivated, stay connected to and expand into your creative source, and continue to learn throughout your career about the industry and business. Never give up on your goals and dreams. Just remember, those that don’t keep up, get left behind.





Pet Category Emerging As Retailer’s Best Friend + Ask J’net Q&A

1 10 2013

dog-with-boneIs there still room in the art licensing category for pet characters, pet art and everything pets?  I think so. This great article from Retailing Today “Pet category emerging as retailer’s best friend,” has some great insights for those of you wanting to add your creative pets to the marketplace.

Also, if you are looking for a boost of information and motivation about licensing, and specifically art licensing, there is still time to join my Ask J’net Q&A tomorrow morning. There is no charge.  Just click here to register now and add your question at the bottom of the registration form.  I will answer as many questions as possible within the hour. I’m also excited to share that we have artists from around the U.S., as well as Iceland, Australia and England joining us.

Date: Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Time: 9:00 am PST / 12 noon EST

Register Now (Registration will close at 6 p.m. PST today)

For those of you who have already registered, tonight you will receive an email with the Phone Dial In# and Access Code# for the live event.





Blog #17

28 11 2011

Manufacturers today want a sure thing.

As the economy has gotten tougher for manufacturers, they have gradually become more and more risk-adverse. They no longer like to produce product, shelve it in the warehouse, hold the stock, and hope it sells. That approach makes them vulnerable since product must ultimately sell to pay for the inventory created on speculation.

Rather than wait for sales from the product produced in the warehouse, manufacturers only spend money to produce product when it’s actually ordered by their retail customer.

This approach has become quite commonplace, though few people talk about it.  A manufacturer might ask, “I’d like to shop your art around. Is that okay?” Or, “Can I take this out to retailers and get some feedback?” Both of these questions mean the same thing: they want to show your art to retailers to try and get “buy-in”—a retail commitment—before they actually sign a licensing deal with you.

What I want you to know is that these scenarios do happen. Don’t be surprised.  Get some kind of agreement in place, if not a contract, at least a ‘shopping doc‘ to clarify what they can and can’t do. You just need a plan for how to deal with this situation, and a way to determine whether it is a good idea for you at the time.  The answer may vary, so be prepared for that as well.  Think about the potential outcomes if the manufacturers are successful ‘shopping’ your art, and if they aren’t.  And what are the potential risks and rewards when manufacturers show your art to retailers without your having a deal commitment.

I am sure many of you have been experiencing this in your art licensing business.  Perhaps you’d like to share your story.  This new way of doing business definitely has its benefits and negatives.





Rule #8

17 10 2011

Develop a significant licensing portfolio. 

You need a significant portfolio geared toward surface design for a variety of product categories. It is really important to have the portfolio organized before you launch into the Art Licensing arena, since you can never make another first impression.

In Art Licensing, your portfolio is going to be presented in a collection format. When we talk about a certain number of collections, keep in mind that each collection is going to have multiple pieces of art—central images, borders, patterns, and borders (or possibly some combination of them). These are the elements you and the manufacturer will choose from to pull together your product designs.

Imagine yourself walking into a mid-tier retailer during Easter season. In addition to the candy and baskets, they will have melamine and ceramic serve-ware for everyentertaining need.  Essentially the merchandiser will display small bowls, big bowls, baskets, bunny-shaped plates, large platters, pitchers and perhaps egg and bunny shaped décor items and candle holders. This is their seasonal display, or product line.

If you want to see your art on these products in the future, you are not going to create one piece of art to slap on all of those different shapes and sizes of products. You need to think about developing a cohesive collection of art—the images, borders, and patterns—that will all work together to create this product line. You need to think and prepare even more, because you need to show the manufacturer how all those artistic components work together and apply to their line of products.

It takes quite a bit of work up front to develop these types of complete collections, let alone 10-30 of them. But, frankly, the more collections you can create, and the more significant your portfolio is, the more licensing business you’ll do. There’s no doubt in my mind that the more you have to offer and the more people you contact, the more deals you’re going to get. That’s just a truism of sales.





Rule #6

6 10 2011

Educate yourself about retail channels.  

It is important to have a clear understanding of the types of licensed products you want your art to appear on, as well as which type of retail channels, and retailers, carry those types of products.

Art licensing doesn’t mean you need to be in Wal-Mart. And while the landscape is always changing, today there are more products featuring licensed art sold in specialty retail channels (Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, etc.), independent retailers (privately owned gift or card stores), and upscale department and chain stores (Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, etc.). And less than half of licensed art on products are sold through mass-market channels.

You need to think about where you want your product to ‘live at retail,’ and then plot your strategy for getting there. You, as the licensor (artist), need to make a decision as to where your art fits on products—what type of products, retail price points and retail channels are best for your style of art, and the brand you want to build. And when you make that decision, then you have to stick with it and be determined to make it happen.

There are a lot of manufacturers out there who will get you in department stores, but they also have distribution in drug stores, deep discounters and even ‘dollar’ stores. It’s up to you to ask about a manufacturers’ channel(s) of distribution and to come to an agreement as to where your product will be distributed.

No discussion of retail channels would be complete without the dual acknowledgement that retailers today are being held hostage by the economy, corporate mergers and price-driven consumers, while at the same time acting as the gatekeepers who hold the key to distribution (or not!) for manufacturers. This means retailers are both unusually stressed and powerful at the same time.

Regarding your art licensing business, keep in mind those retailers—whether brick and mortar, catalogs, or online e-tailers—allow or prevent the flow of products to consumers. So, they can help you reach consumers, or they can prevent your licensed products from reaching the consumers’ hands.

Today there are more and more online retailers who can take your art from production all the way to the consumer. But online sales of art licensing products are still miniscule compared to the level sold at brick and mortar retailers.

So, retailers still have the ultimate power. But years from now we may be stating something entirely different here. Understanding who the gatekeeper is—who has the power in an industry—will absolutely affect your marketing plan and how you create and manage your business.





A Retail Renaissance?

28 09 2011

Once again the folks at Trendwatching.com have made sense of why those of you who want products in the marketplace should be paying attention to the retail world. I couldn’t say it better:
“No matter what consumer-driven industry you’re in, the latest developments in retail and shopping need to be on your radar. After all, retail is about that very crucial moment that consumers actually PURCHASE your goods and services in person. If that isn’t worth half an hour of your time, we don’t know what is 😉

So click the link above to read about the trends in retail that will get you thinking about what art and designs will really capture the manufacturer’s attention and this new breed of shopper.

For further fodder, consider our latest Intermediate level audio courses–Manufacturer’s Mindset, taught with Current veteran Dana Grignano, will give you the “insider” perspective, needs and desires of those manufacturers you are selling to; and our upcoming live TelEvent on October 18th, Doing More Deals, will cover more intricate sales strategy and negotiation skills.  I’ve got lots of information and techniques to share, so give it a try!








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