Welcome to the Year of the Ox

Tomorrow (February 12) marks the start of the Lunar New Year. As brands increasingly mark this occasion with collections of products—especially in China and other parts of Asia, but in other regions as well—some look to the year’s Chinese zodiac symbol for inspiration. This creates opportunities for licensed properties that happen to be associated with the relevant animal imagery.

Some examples from 2021 and recent years include:

  • Year of the Ox (2021). The Laughing Cow/Vache qui Rit cheese-spread brand paired this year with H&M, in a deal negotiated by Laughing Cow agent Pink Key Licensing. The collaboration, centered on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies, is being featured in shops in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, among others.
  • Year of the Rat (2020). Disney’s Mickey Mouse was front and center in a Lunar New Year collaboration with Gucci, billed as the “Year of the Mouse” collection. The large assortment included ready-to-wear apparel, footwear, bags, and other accessories, all highlighting Mickey. Gucci and Disney have partnered on a number of collaborations throughout the years.
  • Year of the Pig (2019). eOne’s Peppa Pig (now part of the Hasbro family) starred in a series of themed episodes and a feature film called Peppa’s Chinese New Year. Egmont released a tie-in book and there were limited-edition toys featuring two new characters, the Panda Twins, that were introduced as part of the Chinese New Year-themed content. Online retailer Tmall and Merlin Entertainments, operator of the Peppa Pig World of Play in Shanghai, were promotional partners.
  • Year of the Dog (2018). Peanuts Worldwide teamed with Levi’s for a capsule collection of crewneck sweaters, t-shirts, tote bags, headwear, and a bandana, all featuring Snoopy in combination with Levi’s graphics. There were no specific Year of the Dog–related elements incorporated into the design of the items, but the Lunar New Year timing was touted at the launch.

As these examples show, a degree of literary license is often taken with these collaborations. An ox is typically a steer and not a milk cow, as the Laughing Cow’s illustrated spokescharacter presumably is. And a mouse is certainly not a rat. But the association is close enough to create an opportunity for a fun and timely collection. (It should be noted that there are also many Lunar New Year promotions and products, some involving licensed properties, that feature themes and imagery unrelated to the year’s zodiac animal.)

Next year (2022) is the Year of the Tiger, offering potential for owners of the growing number of tiger-related properties that have come to the fore of late, not to mention for licensors that want to take some liberties and consider the broader arena of cats.

We will not publish a post on Monday (February 15) due to the U.S. President’s Day holiday, but we will be back to our regular twice-per-week schedule on Thursday. In the meantime, watch for this month’s Raugust Communications e-newsletter, which will be distributed on Tuesday (February 16). The Licensing Topic of the month will examine the role of licensing during the pandemic, while the Datapoint research spotlight will be an analysis of the use of blockchain within the licensing business. If you do not yet subscribe to this free publication, you can sign up here.

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