Asembl’s Justin Watson on the ingredients for success with food and drink brand extensions

Asembl MD Justin Watson discusses design, trends and bringing new licensees into licensing.

Hi Justin, hope you’re well. We last spoke almost a year ago – what have been some notable launches from you guys since then?
Hey Billy, great to catch up again. The Asembl team have had a very full calendar of launches over the past six months. Just in the last quarter we launched eight new food programs, including partnering Chupa Chups with Poppin popcorn, securing Streets ice-cream’s first breakfast category partnership with Weet-Bix and mixing up Streets’ Golden Gaytime with Green’s baking again for pancake and cupcake mixes.

We also launched the first Easter Egg for Streets’ Splice ice-cream with Chocolatier Australia as well as teaming the Fat Yak Pale Ale brand with Australian masters of meat, Beak and Sons. Each and every one of these was supported with unique marketing campaigns and activations.

Justin Watson, Asembl

We recently covered the collaboration between Ringers Western and Bundaberg. What made that partnership tick for you?
The Ringers Western partnership is very special and such a great brand fit with Bundaberg Rum. Both brands share a similar customer and have been showing up at the same events which were the ingredients for really compelling storytelling.

“Whether the category is apparel, food or hardlines, what makes a licensing partnership work is a reason to believe.”

What do you have to factor in when bringing a food or drink brand to life in a sector like apparel? What’s the key to making this sort of brand translation succeed?
Whether the category is apparel, food or hardlines, what makes a licensing partnership work is a reason to believe. If it’s a collaboration with another brand, the key question is ‘do both brands share similar values and is there a mutual value exchange between both brands?’

Other ingredients for success are creating designs which consumers really want to wear and reflect current trends with the licensed brand being the added bonus on the design. The idea is to create wearable loved wardrobe pieces, so it’s important to approach design with that lens. By only using a particular brand colour or enforcing a key asset to be used in a specific way can limit the consumer appeal and ability for the piece to impact culture and be a part of a trend.

“It’s important to keep partnerships fresh; consumers won’t respond to the same stale storytelling.”

We spend a lot of time getting the balance right – developing style guides and assets which balance the needs of brand teams to protect their IP, while also creating collections that are worn and lean into culture and trends.

Justin Watson, Asembl

How important is it to unearth exciting licensees who are perhaps new to licensing?
This is one of the very exciting things we do – tapping into untapped licensees that have an incredible loyal fanbase that will respond well to a brand partnership. It’s incredibly important to keep licensed partnerships fresh and new; consumers won’t respond to the same stale storytelling. Not only does it reinvigorate both brands, but it gives consumers an opportunity to experience both brands in a way they have never done before – that’s what it’s all about.

On that, how do you go about finding these licensee ‘hidden gems’?
Billy, I can’t share our special sauce with you! Our team spend a lot of time going deep into culture – constantly looking at trends across food, hospitality, fashion, art, politics and world events. We seek out new brands, designers or retailers who have built highly engaged audiences and we work collaboratively with them to find the right partnerships which benefits both client and said ‘hidden gem licensee’!

“At Asembl, you’ll always find that we know the trends on the horizon!”

You mentioned trends there. What are some key trends you see in the horizon that we should keep an eye out for?
There are plenty of trends in the licensing space on the horizon. Being ahead of the game is very important to our team. We want to ensure there is always an unrivalled excitement for a product launch we have orchestrated so that we deliver above and beyond for our client and of course, give the consumer an entirely new experience that goes beyond their expectations.

At Asembl, you’ll always find that we know the trends on the horizon!

Justin, always a pleasure. Looking forward to catching up again soon.

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