Much of the buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, at least from a licensing perspective, has been about wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, which are starting to emerge as opportunities for property owners. Brands ranging from Montblanc and Under Armour to Guess? and Swarovski are touting their new wearable devices (some licensed) at the show.
Generating less excitement, but far more significant in terms of retail sales of licensed merchandise to date, are the many brand-extension deals in the electronics category. In fact, a number of new licensed product lines—many highlighted at the show—have been announced just within the last month:
- Nokia authorized Foxconn to market smartphones and tablets, representing the relaunch of the brand into the consumer electronics market; it sold its mobile device business to Microsoft in 2014.
- Sharp direct-licensed retailer Best Buy for an exclusive line of LED TVs, positioned as a complement to the Sharp Aquos line, which is available across a variety of retail chains.
- Kodak paired with Seedonk for cloud-based mobile video-monitoring products, starting with a baby-monitoring system, as well as with the Bullitt Group for smartphones.
- Philips named Woox Innovations as its licensee for a line of headphones that can be connected to iOS devices through a Lightning connector, which reportedly eliminates interference and other audio problems.
Although hot categories such as personal electronics and wearables are currently top-of-mind, televisions, audio equipment, battery charging devices, and other products associated with lucrative and long-term licensing deals remain strong. Properties including Roku, RCA, Bell + Howell, Honeywell, Energizer, Polaroid, and many more all have granted rights for licensed products in the CE category, and some have been present in the market for years.
These types of deals are true brand extensions. The licensed products are closely related to the property’s core attributes; manufactured, marketed, and distributed under long-term deals; and by and large invisible to average consumers, who (unless they read the fine print) often believe they are buying an item produced by the IP owner and not by a licensee.