Higher Profiles for Brazil and Bloggers at Annual Licensing Meeting

Plus: A History of Licensing

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Even though the annual Licensing Expo has dropped the word "International" from its name, the show retained its global character this year.

Japan was back with its usual large presence and "Cool Japan" pavilion. Not to be outdone, Taiwan answered this time around with a "Fresh Taiwan" pavilion. But the brands and licensees from Latin America in general and Brazil in particular stood out the most.

Licensing activity from Latin America has been on the rise for the past few years, spurred by plans for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Widespread protests in Brazil this week, partly fueled by complaints over spending on the Wold Cup and the Olympics, don't change the fact that we're on the precipice of a "Brazilian moment." What interests me most about Brazil is not necessarily the opportunity for U.S. brands to extend into Brazil in time for the games, but Brazil's interest in capitalizing on the games to expand out into the rest of the world.

There was only one Brazilian exhibitor at last year's Licensing Expo, according to Advanstar, the show's organizer. This year there are 11. That's not a coincidence; it's part of a concerted effort called Brazilian Brands, a project of the Brazilian Licensing Association and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency to encourage exporting Brazilian brands, images, and intellectual property throughout the world.

So don't say I didn't warn you if next holiday season your children are begging for Macakids plush toys or Lottie Dottie Chicken apparel.

Of course, the exchange of brand properties is always a two-way street, and Brazilian licensees are here looking for U.S. brands to import as well. So what do Brazilians like? Apparently it's Strawberry Shortcake. As it turns out, Brazil is the top global destination for Strawberry Shortcake -- known locally as Moranguinho -- where there are already more than 70 active licensees country-wide.

Bloggers Extend Themselves
Another trend that has been percolating at the show for a while but seems to have fully emerged this year is the presence of blogs and bloggers -- not to report on the Expo but to push their brands to potential licensees. Apartment Therapy was early to the game, appearing at previous Licensing Expos, but other such as Bag Snob and Cupcakes & Cashmere have now joined them. All are looking to ink publishing, apparel, and home products deals, to name the most obvious extensions. And since I am a guest blogger this week for AdAge.com, I too am currently accepting offers. You know where to find me.

Light Traffic or an Optical Illusion?
Many attendees have remarked that traffic seemed light at this year's show. But Advanstar says attendance was up by 15%. So why did this year's show feel a little less busy than previous years?

It has everything to do with the new layout of the Expo. This year the show was re-configured into five distinct categories: Art & Design, Brands & Agents, Entertainment, Fashion, and Innovation Zone. The goal was to create more efficiency by showcasing similar exhibitors together. But In my opinion, it ruined one of the most exciting elements of the show: serendipity. The best part of the Licensing Show was finding a brand or licensee you had never heard of before and making a deal. Or running into a long-lost colleague who moved to a company you didn't know about.

So traffic may have appeared thinner because there was less exploring going on. The show should return to its previous layout next year.

But for now, let me conclude with a tour of some big moments in licensing so far, going back to the debut of Flinstones vitamins.

Licensing beanstalk infographic
Michael Stone is president and chief executive officer of Beanstalk, an Omnicom Group-owned global brand licensing consultancy. Follow the agency on Twitter.