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How Brand Licensing Keeps Retailers Visible In A Shifting Landscape

“Although there are doomsayers who look at store closings as harbingers of the death of retail, retail is actually expanding: consumers are shopping and sales are up,” according to Michael Stone, chairman and co-founder of Beanstalk, global brand extension licensing agency. “The industry is just changing, and retailers, marketers and brand owners need to pay close attention if they want to win in this exciting new landscape.”

Stone is the author of “The Power of Licensing: Harnessing Brand Equity,” and in a release on Wednesday, the industry veteran shared insights from the book as well as Beanstalk’s track record of successful retail partnerships.

Experiential marketing, like pop-up shops and social-media integrations, is one facet of retail where brands can use licensing to expand their visibility and capture new audiences. Birkenstock partnered with luxury department store Barneys New York to create a pop-up store one year prior to opening the German footwear brand’s first U.S. Birkenstock flagship store in 2018. For the holiday season last year, Amazon teamed up with Calvin Klein to craft a digitally-driven immersive experience. According to Stone, experiential licensing partnerships go above and beyond to help consumers fully understand a retailer’s ethos. “Brand licensing tells the brand’s story through the product itself,” Stone said. “Experiential marketing tells the brand’s story through literal, physical spaces.”

Beanstalk’s website features case studies that showcase the benefits of brand licensing across multiple sectors. Beanstalk’s partnership with Paris Hilton, for example, brought the reality mogul’s likeness to a full fashion and lifestyle brand at major department stores and specialty retailers across the globe, and more than 20 freestanding Paris Hilton stores through the Middle East and Asia. The company also facilitated licensing of the Guinness brand beyond the culinary world and into an omnichannel line of apparel and gifts, as well as a Guinness store in Las Vegas. Stone pointed out that brand licensing is an excellent chance for brands that are already leaders in their own sectors, like food or technology, to have an impact across channels. “Where, when and how consumers buy goods is shifting,” Stone said. “If companies want to succeed, they need to keep up with the trends that are already having an outsized impact.”

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Branding opportunities are also plentiful in the tech space, Stone writes in his book. Companies will be able to license artificial intelligence (AI) products and create branded augmented reality (AR) experiences that serve customers and also reiterate brand messaging. Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant already uses product information to guide consumers towards purchases, which gives retailers room to leverage developments in the voice-activated AI space. In the AR field, companies like Gap and IKEA allow customers to visualize how products will look when integrated into their homes and wardrobes.

Those virtual worlds offer limitless room for branded products. As more shoppers turn to mobile and tech-enabled purchasing, Stone said, retailers who take advantage of branding opportunities will remain visible as the industry’s transition continues.