Licensing International: A Jump of 4.5 Percent to US$292.8 Billion

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The annual study from Licensing International shows a sixth year of growth for world licensing, positioning many trusted brands well for the 2020 coronavirus pandemic’s turbulence.

Image: 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey, Licensing International

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Licensing Is Based on Emotion’
Fr a sixth year, Licensing International has studied worldwide sales revenues from licensed merchandise and services, and—as in each of the earlier five years—the 35-year-old trade organization reports a substantial advance for the sector.

Over the course of the six years of reports commissioned by Licensing International from Brandar Consulting, the aggregate increase in sales and related revenue from pertinent products and services has come to 19 percent.

What’s more, the 2019 jump is the largest percentage increase tracked in the life of the study. Global sales revenue of licensed merchandise and services, the study reports, grew to US$292.8 billion, a 4.5-percent increase over the $280.3 billion generated in 2018.

The full results will be shared free of charge with international members of Licensing International during the summer ($975 for non-members), and what the organization has released from its New York City offices now are top-line findings.

Publishing Perspectives readers will remember our report exactly a year ago on the 2018 results.

Licensing, Branding, and ‘Comfort Food’

What we’re looking at, of course, is a pre-pandemic time frame, but Marty Brochstein, senior vice-president of industry relations and information for the organization, tells us in an interview that there are ways in which the value of licensed products and services can be expected to go up, not down, during the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis.

Marty Brochstein

“At times of great tumult, studies have shown that people tend to go to brands they trust,” Brochstein says. The key is emotion.

As many times as you hear commercial spokespeople, politicians, religious leaders, and other public speakers droning, “These are uncertain times,” what they’re actually saying in many cases is that these are emotional times. The very real danger to every person of a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus logically creates fear, as well it should, and many other emotional responses.

“And licensing is based on emotion,” Brochstein says. “If I have a character or a Yankees logo or whatever. It has no value unless it evokes some kind of emotion in someone. It might be fandom, it might be trust, it might be humor, it can be anything. ‘I appreciate the beauty of that’ or ‘I’m a fan of that TV show.’ Unless it evokes an emotion, it’s really worthless. It has no value.”

And what this means is that you can think of the way brands work during “these uncertain times” as much like comfort food.

“People turn to the brands they trust, things they know will perform. Macaroni and cheese and Campbell Soup. That’s what licensing is about, translating that comfort factor” into sales of a product or service.

Today, as we write this story, the 2:45 a.m. ET update (0445 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports the world spread of the pathogen to have produced more than 7.5 million cases and 421,498 deaths.

However much this is, technically, a crisis in medical science and in public health—a story of governmental failings in many cases and of courageous individual risk and heroism in others—most of us experience the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of emotion. Those famous brands?–are standing by to make us feel better, more in control, and in touch with something familiar.

Publishing’s Place in the New Study

Image: 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey, Licensing International

As you can see, “publishing” holds a healthy 8-percent piece of the breakdown that Licensing International’s 2019 study reveals. Entertainment and characters, not surprisingly hold a commanding lead at 44 percent, followed by corporate names and brands at 21 percent, fashion at 12 percent, and sports at 10 percent.

“Licensing is based on emotion. People turn to the brands they trust, things they know will perform.”Marty Brochstein, Licensing International

But Brochstein cautions that “publishing” in the usage of the licensing world accounts for much more than book-related products and services. In fact, with all well-deserved deference to a brand like Wiley’s “Dummies” series—which very much is a phenomenally successful book-based worldwide branding coup—much of what’s in this 8-percent piece of the big pie has a lot to do with other forms of publication including magazine and periodical sectors.

“We look at publishing in several ways,” Brochstein says. “Harry Potter is the one people always talk about” in the kind of book-based concept that many in the book trade would logically think of as being referenced in a category called ‘publishing.’

“We also look at publishing as a product category,” Brochstein says, still book-based but, for example, “books based off of other things.”

However, there’s still another, and massive, element to “publishing” in licensing terms. It includes magazines—media publishing brands that may not be at all related to books.

Our own best example of this at the moment is National Geographic. When many of us were kids just a few years ago, that name meant a highly regarded monthly magazine and the society that produced it. Publishing. But on May 30, Victor Den was writing for Footwear News about a travel-themed National Geographic-branded men’s sneaker collection from Vans being rolled out this month.  One of the five designs is a sneaker covered in National Geographic magazine covers, no less. Shirts, caps, and board shorts are part of the line.

The magazine-based brand’s expansion of licensing efforts took a step forward in September 2015 when 21st Century Fox and the National Geographic Society, after working together for 18 years, created National Geographic Partners to manage the television programming and consumer-facing assets.

According to recently released figures, National Geographic, the magazine, has 54 million print and digital readers in 35 languages. Its travel programs are in 80 destinations, the television channel reaches at least 438 million homes in 172 countries in 43 languages. True comfort food in the licensing world, and based on the name of a publication.

Image: A promotional shot from Vans ‘Off the Wall’ National Geographic Era Shoes

Meanwhile, the fastest growing sectors in 2019, according to the Licensing International study, were art, with a 10-percent gain, and nonprofits at 18 percent. Interestingly art was buoyed by print-on-demand companies and licensing to such “maker markets” as the online platform Etsy where so much mask-making is underway this season during the pandemic.

The Internationalist View

As you can see in our top image, the United States and Canada comprised a combined 58 percent of the world’s consumption of licensed goods and services, at $169.7 billion in 2019, up 4.5 percent over 2018.

Maura Regan

Northern Asia and the Southern Asia and Pacific markets saw the world’s best year-over-year gains in licensing business, each region showing better than 5-percent growth.

On the release of the study’s key news, Licensing International president Maura Regan is quoted, saying, “The 2020 Global Licensing Survey” which covers 2019 “underlines the continued growth of licensing in both developed and growth markets, as well as in both historically big and small categories.

“The numbers also illustrate the solid foundation that the licensing business model offers to businesses of all sorts as they work through the impacts of coronavirus this year and eagerly await the ‘next normal’ we all will face.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on licensing is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.