The COVID-19 crisis, for all the disruption and challenges it has brought to the licensing business, has also given rise to some wholly new opportunities. Face coverings are a notable example, of course, with the category going from zero to ubiquitous almost instantaneously. As the pandemic has worn on, additional brand-new categories are springing up to meet evolving consumer needs and desires, offering potential for licensors to jump in while there is still white space.
Examples noted recently include:
- Maskne. This is the facial irritation and acne caused by frequent mask-wearing, especially in warm weather. Celebrity facialist Sophie Pavitt has introduced an anti-irritation face mask made from satin, while a number of cosmetics marketers are touting the effectiveness of certain of their products for this new malady. Hero Cosmetics is selling a “maskne bundle” including three of its acne-fighting products, for example, while Swiss Line by Dermalab collects 16 “maskne essentials” on one page of its e-commerce site.
- At-home vacations. Although travel is starting to come back to a degree this summer, particularly driving excursions to nearby locations, many consumers are still leery of flying and staying in hotels and are missing the travel experience. IKEA launched Vacations in a Box, which combines themed IKEA home décor items such as pillows, rugs, and glassware with a downloadable booklet featuring music, recipes, activities, and movies designed to make the recipients feel like they’re at a specific vacation hot spot. Tokyo, Paris, the Maldives, and Turkey are the first destinations available. There have long been niche subscription boxes containing themed products along these lines, such as Vacation Crate, available on subscription box platform Cratejoy, but the current situation has expanded their mainstream appeal.
- Drive-ins. Drive-in movie theaters have made a big comeback as they allow the enjoyment of films, concerts, and other entertainment in a socially distanced way. Walmart is turning 160 of its parking lots into free drive-in movie theaters from August 14 through October 21, with a total of 320 showings of popular family-friendly films—from E.T. to The Lego Movie—each paired with a short film, curated through a partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival. Drew Barrymore is the virtual host; live appearances from celebrities are scheduled at some of the events. Meanwhile, author Stefenie Meyer is supporting the release of her new book in the Twilight franchise, Midnight Sun, with select appearances at drive-ins, in partnership with local bookstores. Each has slightly different components and fees; one costs $62 for one vehicle with up to four occupants, including a copy of the book with a signed bookplate, three additional bookplates, a Twilight-themed face mask, and a showing of the original Twilight film.
Another opportunity that has been evident almost since day one of the crisis but has taken until now before a licensor made a move into the category: Disinfecting wipes. Arm & Hammer paired with CR Brands for Arm & Hammer Essentials Disinfecting Wipes, in a deal announced this week. The citrus-based product is EPA-certified to kill 99.9% of viruses, including COVID-19, as well as bacteria, without harsh chemicals. The product is an extension of licensor Church & Dwight’s existing deal with CR Brands, which already includes a fruit and vegetable wash launched in January 2019. Brandgenuity represents Arm & Hammer for licensing.
This category was plagued by shortages due to high demand at the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to be sought-after throughout the coronavirus era and probably beyond, making it ripe for licensing. While there have been deals for various types of licensed cleaning wipes over the years, typically as part of a broader agreement in the cleaning category, this is one of the first examples specifically addressing COVID-19.
Only a few brands are positioned to really bring added value to a category such as disinfecting wipes, no matter how in-demand. This is a reminder that even when new opportunities arise post-COVID that seem to have partnership potential, such as those listed above, licensing fundamentals such as the fit between property and product remain as important as ever.