From Alien to The Beatles and beyond: Caroline Mickler on licensing quality products

The founder of Caroline Mickler Licensing discusses her creative process.

Caroline, thanks for making time – I can only imagine how busy you are! Let’s start with an easy one… How did you come to be working in licensing?
I worked for a computer software games company in my earlier twenties. They made fairly generic games, but were keen to make more games based on well-known movies. As PA to the MD, I was tasked with finding the brand owner and negotiating the rights…

For what kind of thing, as an example?
The first one was Alien. I tracked down 20th Century Fox in LA and navigated my way through agreeing terms… I was hooked! I loved the combination of sales, marketing, legal and product development. So interesting and so varied.

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing
That’s a pretty big fish to land first time out! So now you’re the founder of Caroline Mickler Limited. Tell me what that is…

We establish the vision for our brand owners licensing programme – which products fit the brand’s DNA, how the product should look, feel, be positioned at retail… Part of that is understanding the zeitgeist of consumers and the marketplace, so voraciously reading and keeping up with trends and changes is key.

And once the strategy’s in place?
Once the strategy’s in place, we implement it by targeting the best partners to fulfil our vision. We have long-standing relationships with many companies and we also ensure that we find companies who are new to licensing.

“We have an eclectic array of brands… From The Beatles to The Masked Singer and The Masked Dancer.”

For whom do you do that? Which brands do you represent?
We have an eclectic array of brands… From the brand we opened our doors with – The Beatles – to ITV’s top rated Saturday night shows, The Masked Singer and The Masked Dancer. There’s also Fifty Shades of Grey which celebrates its 10th year anniversary next year; Toxic Waste – the US sour-candy brand, and the star of TV, screen, stage and Netflix – Horrid Henry!

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing

It’s an impressive portfolio! Let me ask this: what stops you – with something as recognisable as The Beatles, say – from just splashing faces on everything and having the money roll in?
We believe the consumer deserves a good-quality, well-designed product, whatever its price point. We choose licensees who feel as we do, and we think you can achieve a commercially successful merchandise programme – but not at the sacrifice of a great product.

Good answer, thank you. Also, I notice one of your brands – Yellow Submarine – is treated like a brand within a brand… How come?
Yellow Submarine is a key part of Apple Corps assets – but with a very different look and one that lends itself to a particularly focused separate licensing programme.

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing
When you’re establishing a relationship with a new partner, for what qualities are you looking?

Whether it is a licensor or a licensee, we have to know that we share the same vision for how we want the programme to be developed and grow and to feel that we are working collaboratively. To my mind that is when the best work is achieved.

Generally speaking, what’s your creative process? How do you go from first phone call to items on shelves?
When an IP company approaches us about a representing their brand, we have to be able to visualise how the brand would translate onto product, what it would feel like, what sort of price point it is best suited to and where it should sit at retail. If we can visualise it then we know there is a good connection with the brand and with us…

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing
We make approaches to potential licensees in a number of different ways, including picking up the phone. Knowing who is a good fit and being able to communicate the vision of how the product will look and why it is a commercial opportunity really helps to fast track the process. Even after all these years, it’s still a thrill to see the end product launched at retail and remembering the various steps we went through together to achieve it.

“Even after all these years, it’s still a thrill to see the end product launch at retail.”

And in that process, what’s the most difficult challenge, do you think?
I think that it isn’t a scientific approach. There is no measurable data on which to invest in developing a brand or knowing that it will appeal to the consumer. So we always challenge our thinking, our strategies and our plans so ensure that when we do take on a brand we have as much knowledge and understanding of the ever changing market to maximise the opportunity.

Is there any brand you look at and think, “It’d be great to work on that!”?
Any brand that needs no introduction, appeals to a broad cross section of the market; can be positioned at different tiers at retail and one that lends itself to great brand collaborations.

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing
Super! Caroline, we need to wrap things up but my last-but-one question is this: what’s the one question I haven’t asked you that I should have?

What do you most enjoy about being in the Licensing Industry?

And what’s the answer?
The people in it are exceptionally entrepreneurial, great fun and very supportive of each other. It’s unique.

Brilliant! From what I’ve seen of the industry, I’m inclined to agree. Caroline, thank you for your time; it’s been a pleasure.

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler Licensing

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