Brand Licensing Europe 2019 was full of energy and brightly coloured costume characters as ever, despite being held way out in London’s Docklands on a particularly dismal day when I visited.
Here are some key trends from the show.
With the licensed consumer products industry being responsible for more than its share of plastic and fast fashion items, environmental sustainability is finally on the agenda. The seminar sessions kicked off with a panel discussing sustainability. Ojo makes sustainability its key point of difference, and does so without compromising on the look of its products. And The Natural History Museum is mulling over moving all future apparel development to sustainable fabrics.
Gaming properties were prominent at the show, in particular at Powerstation Studios' arcade. Here a selection of retro and current games were showcased in fun ways, from a Mario-themed selfie flip book booth to a 90's-style kid's bedroom complete with Megadrive playing Sonic the Hedgehog. And it wasn’t all about e-sports and video games. Board games, card games and role-playing games such as Monopoly, Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons featured prominently too, this last one surely being helped along by being featured in nostalgia-fest Stranger Things.
International brand owners and national stands were front and centre at the show, and by this I don’t just mean those from the US. Korea Pavilion showcased a range of content creators, as did the Russian Federation's Ministry of Industry and Trade, including Masha and the Bear creators Animaccord Studio. Meanwhile China’s Fantawild Animation had its own stand again this year. This is a really useful chance to check out design styles from around the world, South Korea in particular has some very strong graphic design. Whether BLE can keep up its international prominence should Brexit go ahead remains to be seen.
The growth of experiential
One category which is growing fast in the world of brand licensing but which receives little attention at BLE is experiential. Peaky Blinders, Stranger Things and Friends, among others, are generating lots of attention with their adult-focussed experiences, and claiming their share of this half-billion pound mega-category.
With its parade of costume characters, celebrity lookalikes wandering the aisles and immersive stands, this trade show is quite an experience in itself and well worth a visit if you are interested in branding and the extremes it can be stretched to. Thank you BLE for another surreal day, I’ll be back next year!