A Strategy, Not a Tactic

AuthorMichael Sanford Stone
ProfessionB.A. from Hamilton College and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law
A Strategy, Not a Tactic
You would be surprised to learn how many companies fail
to think strategica lly about licensing opportunities. It’s
surprising on many levels, not the least of which is that licensing
is about allowing a third par ty to use a company’s most valuable
asset—its brand. When licensing is reactive and tactica l, it’s
implemented in a vacuum—objectives haven’t been determined,
product categories haven’t been vetted, and management is not in
place to oversee the process, among other shortcomings.
Would an iconic brand launch a new product without well-
thought-out goals and a strategy to achieve them? Probably not.
Organizations will fail to take advantage of licensing’s marketing
power if they treat it as a tactic, as an opportunit y to which they
can react. Being proactive, str ategic, creative, and managerial (i.e.,
operationally ready) are re quirements for a ny licensi ng program.
To meet these requirements, best practices and processes must be
use d to de velop an ex ecuta ble st rate gy. o se as well a s il lust rati ve
examples will be d iscussed next.
Every company has its variables that need to be addressed in a
licensing plan, but certain elements are crit ical to establishing and
then executing any plan, including:
The Power of Licensing
Licensing Goals and Objectives
Description of Brand Equities
Licensing Positioning Statement
• Target Consumers
Distribution Channel Strategy
Market Dynam ics and Trends
Product Categories and Competitive Landscape
• Design Guideli nes
• Financial Forecasti ng
Program Mana gement and Support (addressed in the next
e majority of these elements involve a comprehensive eval-
uation of the brand—the identication of the brand’s equities
and the brand’s marketing and licensing goals. Without a clear
understanding of the brand’s equities and what the brand wants to
accomplish through licensing, a company is essentially licensing
in the dark. Following a comprehensive analysis of equities, goals,
and objectives with which licensing must be aligned, the brand
needs to evaluate appropriate product categories through a variety
of lters—for example, distribution channel strategy and market
dynamics—before nalizing the plan and moving forward. And
to ensure that licensed products meet the quality expectations of
the brand, the company must be operationally ready to handle
oversight of product design, development, and production.
Several brands will be used as examples in this chapter—
mostly Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and content provider
HGTV,1 although ot her examples will be sprin kled throughout.
1. Cr acke r Ba rre l is n ot li ste d in “ Top 15 0 Glo bal Lice nso rs.” H GTV i s ra nke d #69 in “ Top
150 Globa l Licensors.” Id . HGTV HOME has won ve prestigious L IMA International
Licensing Exce llence Awards that are awarded each yea r in various categories by the
industry fol lowing voting by the membersh ip and expert judges. Two of the awards, i n
2013 and 2014, were for the Sherwi n-Williams program (pai nt), one in 2014 was for the
Bassett prog ram (furniture), and HGTV HOME won Be st Corporate Brand Progr am of
the Year in 2013 and 2015. For more on HGTV HOME in th e context of retail exclus ives,
see Chapter 7.

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