The Brand Radar: Volkswagen, Gorenje and the creativity driving car brands forward in licensing

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at how the world of automobiles has embraced licensing, shining a spotlight on Volkswagen’s partnership with fridge manufacturer Gorenje.

There is quite a long history of car brands working in the licensing space, and most often this has been in categories like apparel.

Here, brands including Ford and Land Rover have used their iconic logos to create t-shirts , hoodies and sweatshirts by working with licensees and it remains common to see car brands feature in fast fashion ranges in retailers such as Sainsbury’s in the UK.

There have also been brand collaborations; a good example being a partnership between Land Rover and clothing brand Barbour.

The Brand Radar, Volkswagen
Of course, there are other product areas that have been heavy users of car brands in licensing – probably the best example being die cast cars. Scalextric is a good example of a brand that taps into the car market for licensing inspiration.

But in recent times it seems that car brands are driving their brands harder in the licensing space and seeking out opportunities in new categories.

There could be a range of reasons for this – including the fact that licensing is increasingly a global business which matches up with the global reach of automotive brands. Couple this with the fact that traditional advertising channels are becoming more difficult to navigate and licensing becomes a great way of communicating with consumers and cutting through a crowded market.

Licensing can also help brands emphasis and highlight key brand attributes – in the context of cars this could include things like performance, comfort or technology. Licensing can help enhance a car brand’s ‘lifestyle’ credentials. This is especially true of categories like apparel.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that there is also the potential financial upside to licensing. While money coming in from licensing will never match the revenues generated from car sales, it is still a welcome source of income.

I suspect car manufacturers also think about how licensing campaigns can be integrated into new car launches from a marketing perspective, helping to create more of an event around a launch and highlighting key features associated with a new car.

One of the car brands that has been most active in licensing is Volkswagen; they work with global licensing agency IMG.

The Brand Radar, Volkswagen
The VW Camper Van is a design and pop culture icon. I suspect that over the years Volkswagen have been frustrated at seeing companies using their iconic vehicle in unlicensed and unauthorised ways. While they police the market carefully, having an active licensing programme helps fill the void that unofficial products fill.

A licensing programme sends out a positive signal to the market. Consumers can buy into officially licensed products with confidence and retailers have a pool of suppliers that they can work with in a confident fashion.

One Volkswagen licensed product that really stands out is a range of VW branded fridges for the home market. Inspired by the famous Volkswagen van, fridge manufacturer Gorenje have created a range of Retro styled fridges marketed as ‘special editions’. Check out the brief video below to see it in action…

The products are based on the iconic design of the VW Camper van featuring the Volkswagen brand motif, signature colourways and have very sleek lines. They also picked up on key features like the chrome finish and form of the handles. There is a real attention to detail in product development and the product has a high class feel to it.

It is unclear how many units have been sold or produced, but the partnership brings benefits beyond sales revenues in terms of consumer and trade engagement.

For consumers, it creates a stylish opportunity to buy into the VW lifestyle and add some distinct personality to their kitchen. For Volkswagen, it is a way of entering a new category in a big way – underpinning other developments in that category while also aligning their brand with a functional product that features the best in new technology. This fits well with developments in the car sector.

The VW fridges are a licensing statement piece. The product has been out for a while now and seems to be well established.

The Brand Radar, Volkswagen
This kind of licensing isn’t about selling lots of units, but it does need to work from a sales and marketing point of view. Brand owners are naturally cautious about entering new categories… They want to avoid failure and to protect their brand legacy.

From the outside it would seem VW have succeeded in this case. It will be interesting to see what might be next off the production line of automobile licensing.

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