Working with licensed toy and entertainment properties is heady stuff. It’s important to know how to leverage a licensed brand fully. Playfulness and whimsy can be brought out and ownable visual creative achieved and standardized in a style guide to drive consumer demand if deftly executed.

The trick here is to make it timeless and flexible, so that as trends come and go, and consumer culture changes, the property adapts easily and “goes with the flow” while reinforcing the brand and its unique DNA. Creative that is too rigidly standardized becomes stale and encourages licensees to freely “ad lib,” eroding brand strength in the process. This has to be avoided at all costs.

Love how perennial kid favorite brands like Hello Kitty are pushing the boundaries of their brands outward by licensing forays into logical consumer product categories. Sanrio recently announced that its Hello Kitty brand inked a deal with Swarovski, the ever-popular Austrian crystal company. A line of jewelry, leather accessories, and figurines will be launched later this summer. The products will be available in a number of the company’s 1,900 retail stores.

The iconic Hello Kitty face will be designed onto each product by itself or in conjunction with another visual associated with the brand: flowers, bows, and stars, for example. The possibilities are endless. This makes it fun for kids to look for items featuring their favorite character. Swarovski spokeswoman Nathalie Colin stated succinctly in a recent interview: “As a fan from day one, I saw an obvious connection between the magical sparkle of crystal and the bright, playful world of Hello Kitty.”


  • Think of your kids’ favorite licensed brands. Which can you easily ID in retail stores, regardless the categories of products they appear in?

  • Did you ever see licensed kids’ products in categories that made no sense to you?

  • Is it important to you to identify both licensed property and companies that manufacture the licensed products? How important is it that they both have shared values?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni