Character Licensing for Your Product? Forget Mickey and Bob!

If you manufacture toys and apparels for kids and young adults, then you may have at some point in time thought of licensing a cartoon character to use on your products. Such a licensing deal involves you licensing the rights from the owner of the cartoon character to place images of the character on your products. In return, the licensor (character owner) receives a royalty off every product you sell.

Obviously, your products will enjoy a much higher volume of sales as opposed to having no character licensing in place. People tend to buy ‘character-licensed’ products as a suitable-looking character used on the right merchandise will often boost the aesthetics of the product and drive sales. However, in some cases you do have to give away an arm and a leg in order to license a character.

This topic is my area of expertise and I would like to discuss how you can make more money for yourself and avoid giving away a king’s ransom to license a character.

Do you really have to go for the famous cartoon characters?

Chances are the famous characters have licensing agents in place to negotiate the deals. They are tough business people and will be asking for something called a minimum guarantee which is a figure derived through whatever this means you will have to cough up cold hard cash upfront without having made any sales yet! You can bet your car that folks representing a famous cartoon character like Mickey or Bob the Builder are going to ask you for a hefty MG! Just starting out, you might not want to shoulder this kind of risk. There is no guarantee that your product would sell just because it has Mickey or Bob on it.

On the other hand, owners of lesser known characters are often without agents and much more flexible in the deals. Very often, you can get away without paying an MG and negotiate a better deal as long as you are fair about it.

Don’t insist on characters that appear on TV!

There might not be a need to! All too often product manufacturers insist on licensing only characters that have a movie or cartoon series. Undoubtedly, famous characters with a movie or cartoon series have good exposure. But it is not necessarily true that this will translate to more sales as merchandise is concerned! This is all dependant on the age demography you are targeting.

If your product is for a more matured audience, then chances are they would not be as character-conscious as their younger counterparts. This demography is more concerned about the product quality, functionality and aesthetics. As long as the character looks good on the merchandise, they would usually buy it. If your product is targeted at infants and toddlers, then you have even less to worry about. People just want to buy whatever looks nice, suitable and safe for their babies. Only if your product is targeted at the demography that encompasses die-hard fans of the movie or cartoon series should you consider licensing the characters of these shows.

Choose a character for its look, not its fame!

All too often I’ve seen product manufacturers license the wrong characters for their products, and this undermines the potential of the products. Don’t license a character for its fame. License a character for its look and your product will sell better simply because it looks better. Make sure it complements and boosts the aesthetics of your product before you license the character. Ask the licensor for the style guide and determine if the graphics within can be adapted for your products. Ask the licensor if they could assist in creating customized graphics based on their characters to suit your products. Very often, owners of lesser known cartoon characters would be much more willing to accommodate your requests as they are eager to close licensing deals. There are too many licensing enquiries for Mickey and Bob for them to concede to your requests.

Where to look for these lesser-known cartoon characters?

Animation companies’ websites and forums related to computer graphics, anime or animation are often good sources to hunt for such characters. Many animation companies and enthusiasts like to design characters and put them up on the internet for business or simply for fun. Some of these characters are really well-designed and would look great on merchandise.

YouTube and similar video sharing sites are also good places to look for these cartoon characters. Sometimes animation clips on characters that have never been heard of are created and put on YouTube, and some of them have received as many as a few million views! Talk about starting off with a great exposure for your product if you license those characters!

So as you can see from the above discussion, there are significant advantages in licensing a lesser-known character as opposed to a well-known character. If you are just starting out, be prudent about how you want to spend your money. You could be spending more money on A&P to drive sales than on paying out fat MGs that guarantee nothing except a fat commission for the licensing agents. And if you are a seasoned product manufacturer, hopefully, this article gives you a fresh perspective in considering the least famous characters for your products. The world is evolving, and so is the way people are corresponding to character-branded merchandise.

If you own products or services which can benefit through the use of cartoon characters, Mediafreaks has a stable cartoon character for this particular purpose. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a discussion.