The Importance of Licensing: Children’s Brands and Books

In Children's by Hannah Johnson

Randy Petway

Randy Petway

By Randy Petway, COO, Publishing Technology

In a recent survey conducted by Nielsen on children’s publishing, 79% of U.S. parents stated that half or more of their book purchases were impulse buys. What drives these purchases? As you might expect, it is largely a response to illustrations, packaging and merchandising recognizable to their kids. When sales are not something that can be planned for or predicted, publishers rely heavily on brand awareness through licensing deals, both to sell books and open new markets for intellectual property.

For the last several years, one of the key players has been Scholastic, which has brokered licensing partnerships to expand the brand awareness of some of their most popular books and series — including WordGirl®, Clifford the Big Red Dog®, The Magic School Bus®, and I SPY™ — into films, television shows and a variety of other licensed products. In February, Scholastic took advantage of the news of the October 16th release of the Goosebumps™ motion picture, based on the Scholastic book series by R.L. Stine, to announce the collection of licensed products and their partners for products from t-shirts to video games to novelty toys, all of which will be available upon the film’s release.

“Goosebumps is a vibrant brand with a deep foundation in publishing,” said Leslye Schaefer, SVP Marketing and Consumer Products, Scholastic Media. “We’re very excited to be working with so many best-in-class companies that will introduce a wide array of products that give fans of every age the chance to ‘get Goosebumps’ and engage in fun new ways with the celebrated brand — around the movie premiere and for years to come.”

Unfortunately, not all books are right for this type of brand extension and sometimes these rights are retained by the writer themselves. With the rise of licensing agreements and publishers devoting more of their business toward those pursuits (many of the big houses have created brand licensing departments), oftentimes these discussions take place upon acquisition of a title or series. What publishers need to be mindful of is how these products represent the brand and how best to manage the entire content ecosystem.

The same is true of publishers acquiring book rights to existing games, films, and television programs. In 2012, international publisher Egmont acquired rights, in all markets except the U.S., to publish books tied to the popular game, Minecraft. As the number of players worldwide soared from 40 to 100 million, Egmont has benefited from this growth by selling 1.8 million official Minecraft books last year in the UK alone. Tapping into the existing fan base was a profitable venture and one they tested previously with two other games-turned-books, Angry Birds and Temple Run.

Whether tapping into an existing book series and making the most of a film’s release or catching a game on its rise with a book release, publishers need to be conscious of the market and what it will bear.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair on the Digital Innovation Hot Spot, we will explore in depth what rights directors and children’s book publishers need to know about brand licensing and IP management.

For a deeper look at this topic, join the discussion “Mickey Mouse to Minecraft: Licensing Children’s Brands” at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday, 14th October, 16:00-17:00, Hot Spot: Digital Innovation (Hall 6.2 D22).

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.