Last week, our CEO and founder Kalle Törmä set off from our headquarters in Espoo, Finland to San Diego, Calif. to attend Comic-Con, the world's preeminent entertainment and comic book convention. Held once a year, the expansive festival attracts top Hollywood talent, creators and fans with shared interest in pop culture. Full of or new entertainment franchises and classic properties, Comic-Con is a hotbed of licensing opportunity. Below, find photos and our insights into one of licensing’s must-attend events.
Comic-book fans and avid moviegoers were delivered a game-changing throw when Marvel announced that it cast actress Natalie Portman as Thor in the fourth installment of the franchise, dubbed Thor: Love and Thunder. The decision reflected a marked effort to cast people of different genders or races in classic roles, to tell heroic character’s stories in new and exciting ways. The push should make licensing professionals as excited as fans. Each time a franchise expands, an opportunity to create new products emerges. Moreover, role reversals may open your brand or product up to an audience that hadn’t felt served by it in the past.
There is no better display of pop-culture fandom then Comic-Con. From cosplay parades to lines for one of a kind branded goods, it's safe to say that established fandoms are getting stronger and new fan groups are emerging every day. It was worth noting that franchises such as "Game of Thrones," which just finished its final season, and "Stranger Things," now entering its third season, appeared to have more engaged fans than ever. When you build lasting programs and collaborate with reliable, quality-focused partners, you have the ability to keep fans satisfied long past the initial release of the core property and to pacify them in between content releases.
Flowhaven's CEO and founder, Kalle Törmä at Comic-Con 2019
Kristin Bell, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a roster of other A-list talent flocked to Comic-Con to engage with fans and to discuss their latest projects. While current theory suggests that influencer branding is a better move for your business, it was evident that celebrities still have the power to enhance and legitimize entertainment properties. Today, celebrity branding is about more than just adding a name and face to a product. The product must line up with the celebrities core values and speak to the audience that most identifies with them.
A striking foreign rights panel spotlighted the move toward local approaches to brand expansion. The big takeaway? If you alter your branding according to local trends and tastes, you can make a more significant impact. Today, comic book companies that once sought to have a mass appeal and to deliver global messages are finding greater success by telling stories that appeal to more niche or hyper-local audiences. For example, the U.S. is very superhero focused and responds best to English-language heroes that reflect the nation's values.
Patience in Practice
The word of the week was passion. But how does a feeling impact brand licensing? As we mentioned before, passionate new observers can become passionate lifelong fans. Brand owners must do proper research, tell compelling stories, and continuously engage with new tactics to keep audiences emotionally invested in their IP. Licensees have a different challenge. It can take an average of two years for a branded product to be released, including shipping and approvals. To sustain an interest in the final product and its potential impact on the marketplace, manufacturers must be passionate about the product their putting out and believe that it will resonate with audiences when they see it on shelves and when they take it home.
Thousands of excited fans flock to see their favorite celebrities and characters.
Once again, Comic-Con proved that the licensing industry is a wide-ranging field with a myriad of opportunity. From fashion collaborations to dolls and games, the entertainment industry shows no signs of stopping. Licensing professionals should walk away from the event understanding that successful licensing programs, no matter how much anticipation surrounds them, must be well thought out, excite fans and encourage participation to be truly successful.