Coca-Cola and Skechers Offer Brands New Halos at Annual Licensing Show

Observations from Day Two at the Annual Licensing Show in Las Vegas

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The success of Toms Shoes and Warby Parker eyewear, which give their products to the needy whenever they make a sale to consumers, has inspired other businesses to become more social enterprises too. But it's tough for large, established brands to really rethink their business models. So I was excited while walking the Licensing Expo show floor today to see two marketers using licensing in innovative ways to not only give back but to help other brands to do the same.

The first program is called Ekocycle. Created together by The Coca-Cola Company and, Ekocycle is a new brand dedicated in part to helping consumers recognize that items they consider waste today could have a use in another product tomorrow.

Lifestyle brands that are willing to manufacture products with at least 25% of recycled materials can license the Ekocycle logo. Coca-Cola Company makes their recycled plastic bottles and aluminum cans available for use. I saw a pair of Ekocycle Levi's Jeans, for example, made partly from eight plastic Coke bottles. Other brand partners include Beats by Dr. Dre, New Era, Adidas and the NBA.

Standard royalty rates apply, but Coca-Cola is committed to donating a minimum of $1 million over five years to various recycling and sustainability initiatives.

The program is smart on so many levels. First and foremost, it raises awareness of an important issue: waste and our need to live more sustainable lives. Second, it helps The Coca-Cola Company achieve its 2020 goal of becoming a zero waste company. And third, it enables the company, along with its licensees and brand partners, to reach and engage its target millennial audience in a new and authentic way.

The second impressive program I saw on the show floor comes from Skechers. Clearly inspired by Toms Shoes and its "buy-one, give-one" model, Skechers has created an entire sub-brand dedicated to philanthropy: the Bobs Collection line of shoes for women and kids.

The line, which gives a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair sold, was introduced a little more than two years ago and has already donated some 4.5 million pairs of shoes to children in 30 countries including the U.S.

At this year's Licensing Expo, however, Skechers is introducing an interesting licensing program. It is meeting with manufacturers hoping to secure Bobs licensees in a variety of categories including apparel, bedding, luggage and accessories such as bags and eyewear. Licensees will help cover the costs associated with gifting Bobs Collection shoes with each purchase of a licensed product. So if a consumer purchased a Bobs Collection bag, for example, a needy child would still receive a pair of Bobs Collection shoes from Skechers thanks to support from the licensee.

Like Ekocycle, the Skechers program works on multiple levels. It allows Skechers to help more children and inspire more people than they possibly could on their own. And it gives licensees an easy way to give back.

I hope both of these initiatives will inspire other licensors and licensees here in Las Vegas to think of new ways to achieve not just their marketing and sales goals but also to achieve some good.

Because of its hybrid nature combining marketing and manufacturing, the licensing world may be perhaps more aware of global poverty and unsustainable manufacturing processes than other marketing disciplines. That makes it our responsibility to help tackle these problems too. It's actually an exciting challenge.

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