The upcoming Co-Brandz influential brands show in Paris on 4 and 5 April is a celebration this year. It was born in 2004 and it is a pleasure for us to join its founder Nathalie Chouraqui and the entire French licensing community in this celebration, as we were partners in crime when we imported her business model and the same event to Italy in 2007. Here are our four questions to Nathalie to sum up these first 20 years on the market.

1. Co-Brandz is the name of something which was born 20 years ago, and which has grown throughout the years. First of all, how does it feel to have a 20 years old son?

I’m very proud of this, because when I presented Cobrandz (formerly known as Kazachok Forum) to the industry in 2004, it wasn’t at all easy for rights holders to accept the idea that they were going to become exhibitors and that visitors were going to come and see them. We had to convince them that marketing and communication were an important business approach. We had to reverse the need to present brand news at a time when the culture of secrecy in licensing was the rule in France. In any case, 20 years on, the first 7 exhibitors are still there, and with a few exceptions, the exhibitors are very loyal to this event, which proves that it is useful and has its raison d’être. What’s more, visitors love the very special atmosphere of relaxation and business that we’ve managed to maintain whatever the state of the market.

2. I guess that the evolution of the event reflects the evolution of the French licensing business itself. What are its milestones during all this years’ span according to your experience?

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a number of revolutions, not least the diversification of business models, which has led to a wider range of licence consumers. The range of players has changed dramatically, and business models have diversified, from the global multi-licence group to the capsule licence, covering licences from pre-schoolers to adults. The development of promotional activities, the world of manga and the integration of sporting or artistic collaborations have considerably broadened the scope of licensing. And while mass appeal is still the aim, collaborations have moved towards higher quality, with an emphasis on meticulous design and meaningful messages, marking a shift towards a more thoughtful and sustainable approach. We’ve also seen the growth of capsule and ephemeral collaborations, or co-branding showing a closer collaboration between different brands. All customer strata are now being addressed, from discount to luxury.
The growth of retail players, both physical and digital, has opened up new opportunities with direct access to the consumer. The power of retailers and pure players means that we can work on the visibility as well as the promotion of derived products. These new capabilities have enabled manufacturers to become producers of content and their own licences (e.g. Lego, Spin Master).
The Licensing industry has undergone a major transformation over the last two decades, moving from a less strategic approach to a more global, targeted and sustainable strategy, while integrating ethical practices and exploiting the advantages of retail to reach consumers widely and directly.

3. Collaborations and co-branded licensed activations are now mainstream. What is your perspective, and how Co-Brandz reflects this trend?

Co-branding and collab’ have had their hype and have become almost normal. Consumers are increasingly divided into niches, and licences are being associated with highly specialised designer brands, for which brand awareness is no longer the only factor, but the association with values that engage the brand with the expectations of these new followers. This is particularly true of fashion accessories, beauty and textile collections.

4. Finally, what is your opinion about the future of the licensed market, in France and overall? Where do you think it is going?

I’ve noticed that the market is evolving and continuing to grow, testing new approaches to adapt to the current era. In particular, digitalisation and hybridisation of models are expected, with a multiplication of players at all levels, including an increase in the toy licensing market. The growth of real experiences, such as pop-ups and corners, expresses a desire to combine digital with tangible experiences. Similarly, the expansion of the licensing-experience market with licensed theme parks and themed experiences is a trend that is set to continue in the years ahead.

All over the world, the rise of second-hand products will have to be taken into account in the management of product ranges, as will a ‘CSR’ commitment on the part of manufacturers and brands, potentially influenced by rights holders. A trend is emerging towards more environment-friendly derivative products, with distribution geared more towards direct-to-consumer (DTC) thanks to digital technology.