Brand agencies moving in new direction?

Posted by Marty Brochstein on November 13, 2009

Speculation of about a possible purchase of Playboy by Iconix Brand Group – owner of such fashion brands as Ecko unltd, London Fog, Joe Boxer, and Starter — spotlights the vibrancy of strategic brand licensing as an important business model. Iconix’ interest in Playboy stems from its value as a lifestyle brand, not as the iconic magazine and media brand from which it sprung.

Brand ownership – rather than brand representation — has been an essential part of the Iconix business model, and it seems that more and more agents are coming around to the same view. To cite two recent examples, last month Brand Sense Partners acquired the Shabby Chic home products brand, and earlier this week licensing agent Gator Group became an equity partner in – as well as the licensing agency for – a nascent women’s golf brand, Birdie.

Other agencies are thought to be looking in the same direction, seeking a cushion against the threat of being jettisoned if a brand owner decides to take the business inhouse or simply go in a different direction. Of course, that’s not a new problem, and brand ownership , with its inherent risks, is hardly a panacea. But it’s obviously a direction in which an increasing number of agents are looking.