A fun-filled and insightful conversation on modern leadership in the licensing industry formed the focus of the inaugural OpSec Connect™ event – which kicked off with the first in a series of OpSec-hosted webinars by VP Strategic Accounts, Bill Patterson and guest speaker, and friend of OpSec, Maura Regan, President of Licensing International.
The webinar’s discussion focuses on everything from what excites Maura about licensing right now to tackling counterfeiting and what the future holds for the industry:
OpSec: What is it that excites you about the licensing industry?
Maura Regan: The constant innovation is incredibly motivating and the enthusiasm you get from everyone you talk to about the ‘business of their business.’ Even when faced with a pandemic, you are never at a loss to meet someone who is so excited to be a part of this industry. Yet, it’s an industry is built on optimism and revolves around ‘discretionary income goods’ and things that ultimately people don’t really need. And yet they bring tremendous joy to so many people in so many ways and you should never underestimate that value and that’s a good thing.
It’s also the dedication to figuring out problems – which is the nature of the business – and thinking what’s the next thing that will really engage consumers which leads to constant innovation and reinvention. These are things that I never tire of and which really inspire me every single day.
OS: How is Licensing International leading on diversity and inclusion?
MR: Recognising how both the population at large and the consumer are changing is the start. It’s asking, “how can we meet the consumer where they are and serve them with the brands that they need?” We are creating succession plans for the industry to bring in new people and are committed to creating a diverse workplace, from race and religion, to gender identity.
If we don’t do this, from a business as well as a moral perspective, we will become extinct. Alongside these issues, fostering new relationships in the current working-from-home environment is something that we must invest more time in. We all get Zoomed-out and feel exhausted by the end of the day. You have to make a concerted effort to avoid wasting time and short bites are better than hour long meetings.
OS: What are some of the key industry issues right now?
MR: The good news is that consumers are still consuming. They really do want to shop! Of course, the physical realities of COVID-19 mean that the experience is bound to be different, with limits on numbers in store and necessary safety measures. But retail is definitely not going away, it’s just reinventing itself.
The underlying issues around retail have been years in the making though, so we can’t blame its current difficulties entirely on the pandemic. The shift was already being driven by changing consumer behaviors.
It all means retailers must provide a compelling reason to go into the store. It’s not just putting the goods out there. To keep retail alive, we need to provide that emotional immersive experience and I think licensing gives them that. What we’ve lost over the years is the real merchants, those people who really know their product lines. So, it's also about investing more in knowledgeable sales staff.
OS: Besides COVID-19, what’s the biggest challenge facing licensing?
MR: It’s being able to anticipate where things are heading with retail. On an optimistic note, we’ve recently seen some hopeful consumer figures so things are not as bad as they may feel.
I always look at retail as another media outlet. When you went to a physical store it really was a brand statement, but it’s much more challenging to tell that full brand story in an e-commerce space. So how do you engage the consumer on what your brand stands for and what it represents? These are the big questions for retailers.
OS: How will COVID-19 continue to affect licensors, licensees and retail?
MR: All aspects of our industry have been impacted and no one is immune. We are already seeing more consolidation with the smaller companies in the industry with these brands coupling together with other big brands - going under the umbrella of management companies.
Managing brands as a portfolio creates efficiencies and I predict we will see this portfolio mentality to a much greater degree than we have in recent years. It does mean however, that unfortunately, there are bound to be some folk who are not left standing.
OS: What’s the key to tackling counterfeiters?
MR: Ultimately, anyone who has any involvement in a brand has a stake in this, whoever and wherever you are in the ecosystem. Counterfeiting brings everyone down, takes money out of pockets and puts potentially dangerous products on the market.
It’s hard to fight this until the consumer fully understands the consequences, which, at the moment, they don’t. The more they understand that revenues from counterfeiting contribute to everything from human trafficking to the drug trade while taking jobs away from people, the more it will give them pause for thought. That’s where we at Licensing International can do a better job of helping the consumer to understand what’s at stake.
Make sure you sign up for the next webinar in the OpSec Connect™ series. OpSec's Nancy Merritt and Lenny Xue discuss the evolution of e-commerce amid COVID-19 providing a thought-leadership approach that highlights social media and live shopping streaming trends in a new online world. Join us for the second webinar in our series on Wednesday, September 16th at 11:00 am EDT. Reserve your space here: OpSec Connect™ - The Evolution of E-Commerce amid COVID-19: Social Media & Streaming Trends
About Maura and the Licensing Association
After studying Art-History at the University of Massachusetts, Maura worked as a waitress by night and wrote grants applications for non-profit organizations for a consulting firm by day. She moved into programming research for MTV and rose through the world of licensing to her current role with Licensing International, via Nickelodeon, Viacom and The Jim Henson Company, producer of the infamous Muppet Show and Sesame Street.
Licensing International has been at the center of the multi-billion-dollar worldwide licensing industry for 35 years, helping companies profitably grow their businesses through an unparalleled network of information and membership.
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