Rule #14

7 11 2011

Product development and design go hand in hand.

As an art licensor, you’re creating a piece of art that potentially could be featured on hundreds of thousands, or millions of products.  Art licensing is a highly competitive and commercial business, and as it’s growing, the competition is becoming stiffer. It’s really more about creating product lines and product options for manufacturers. Your target audience is most often manufacturers, who become your licensees. Manufacturers are selling to the retailers, who make the final decision to put licensed product on store shelves, thereby making your art available to consumers.

So, if you really think about it, what you are doing is creating the design elements, which the manufacturers will place on their product. Then you’re selling the manufacturers on the idea of using your art to help grow and build their product’s exposure, their sales, and profits from retailers. While I think most manufacturers would love to design their own products, but in today’s economy they just don’t have the time or staff.  They’ve been impacted deeply by the economy and controlling costs has resulted in very lean product development, production and design staffs.

These manufacturers are depending on artists and designers more than ever to fulfill their creative needs; design their individual products, as well as complete product lines. As an art licensor, you’re not creating one image to be sold as one image; you’re creating multiple images that create a collection, which will be marketed to manufacturers for small and large product lines.

The manufacturer may create the product line, or you may be very influential in creating the product line. But the bottom line is that you want to reach those manufacturers, and team up with them to get your art on product. This means your art must be mocked up on illustrations of products, or product templates such as those available from All Art Licensing, to actually show how your art would appear and how you wish to have it produced.

It’s crucial to go this extra step so the manufacturers can envision your art on their products. Manufacturers want you to present to them the plate with the design on it, the mug with the design on it, the tablecloth with the design on it. Are you envisioning your art askew in a corner, or centered with a traditional border? What’s your vision for your art, and for your art designed on the manufacturer’s product? Let them know!

Here’s your chance to show off your ability to design products in your key licensing product categories. Make sure you keep your product design relevant.  Don’t mock up your art on an apron if you want to pitch infant wear. Your presentations need to be designed for the manufacturers you’re pitching.  So, make sure you have a clear vision to whom you’re sending the presentation out, and think about how to design your art on their product for them.

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Rule #9

20 10 2011

Create art that sells products.

The way to create income in the art licensing business is to create art that sells products. Remember that manufacturers have a business to run. They have products they are producing, and not everyone wants it in one size, shape, design, or color. Oh, we are so lucky to have the beauty and diversity of art in our world!

For manufacturers, your art can be the key to reaching a new audience, capturing a trend, expressing a sentiment and much more. They depend on you; and you depend on them. So however you create art is fine. It’s great!

What manufacturers want from you, however, has nothing to do with the passion, skills and creative process that it took to design your latest art collection. They are busy analyzing past sales and the newest production processes, while trying to predict the future.

Try to get into the manufacturer’s head. Think about your prospective business partner, the licensee, and give them something to seriously consider. Make sure you offer them a variety of artwork that can be produced with their production process, as well as themes that work for their key sales periods, giving-occasions—such as Christmas and other holidays—and collections that enhance their products’ design. My Manufacturer’s Mindset Class (now available as audio file+full presentation) is a great resource for this, and I taught it with a stationery industry, manufacturing veteran.

Just remember that the number one objective for your art licensing business is to create art that sells products. That is absolutely the only thing that will create income, assuming that making money is part of your definition of a successful business. Now since we all know there are many layers to the feeling of success, creating art that sells also needs to fit with who you are and what you’re all about. And if isn’t in sync on that level, it probably won’t have much appeal to consumers and won’t sell. In that case, it certainly won’t be worth it in the long run. Making money and not being true to yourself is never ultimately successful.





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.





Rule#3

26 09 2011

Know your skills.

Art talent isn’t enough to make it in the Art Licensing industry. Even more interesting is the fact that you may do very well in Art Licensing for any number of other reasons. For example, your art skills may be good; they may even be awesome!  But you could be incredibly successful in Art Licensing because you can market yourself better than other artists. Perhaps you have the innate ability to capture the attention of various media outlets, or you have a large following of active and demanding fans (which would be is very appealing to manufacturers).

I’ve seen artists make lots of money because they appeal to a certain niche audience (not a small niche, but one that’s large enough to warrant mass market attention) that is peaking and has a current need for art. Maybe an artist loves creating holiday themed art, for which there is always a need. Art Licensing is a commercial industry, so artists who have a distinctive style, enjoy creating a certain theme, and who also appeal to huge audiences have more potential for income than others.

Other skills that affect your Art Licensing business potential are:

Technical Skills

You definitely need computer and technical skills, or access to them. If you don’t have them, you need to get them or find a partner that does, because people will no longer put up with artists not having internet access, high resolution scans, layered files, etc.

Product Design Capabilities

If you can envision your art on products, then show your art to manufacturers on product mock-ups to help them. This is a really important skill set today and is going to help put you in the league of serious art licensors.

Trend Watching

Not everybody is going to be a trendsetter, because that takes a lot of forward thinking.You may have that, or you may just love to watch trends, and can keep up with them. Either way, don’t avoid learning about trends and seeing how your art can interpret them.

Entrepreneurial Abilities

Artists need entrepreneurial skills more than ever!  And we’ll talk more about this later…








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