Building the business in emerging markets
I’m in the midst of a series of visits to shows and conferences in markets where the licensing business is still relatively undeveloped. In recent weeks, that’s included a trip to Zagreb, Croatia for Licensing New Europe, and to Dubai for the Dubai International Character and Licensing Fair. On December 11-12, it will be Brand Licensing India in New Delhi.
It would be wrong to equate any of these markets with another, other than the obvious parallels of trying to build the licensing business — which has various well established business norms that have evolved over the decades around the world — in regions in which the recognition of intellectual property as a business asset is still somewhat new. But some common themes emerge:
1. A crying need for education about how the business works. Several licensing agents and property owners in both Zagreb and Dubai speak of how a portion of the early meetings with potential licensees are devoted to explaining the fundamentals of a licensing relationships — the rights that a license affords, as well as the process and responsibilities that come with the deal.
2. Getting beyond the short-term orientation, into a more strategic mindset. Ghassan Ayoubi of Dubai-based content producer Rubicon mentions that all sides of the licensing equation in the region need to think more about the longer term prospects for properties, rather than just doing quick deals with no thought about where the property is going.
3. It takes commitment and face-time. It’s impossible for a company from outside any of these regions to just parachute in and expect to do deals. Begin with the fact that each of these territories — as they’re commonly grouped in licensing-speak — is actually a collection of countries, each with its own business, media and cultural imperatives. Putting together a deal in Croatia is different from doing one in Poland or Russia. By the same token, a consistent theme during a panel discussion at the Dubai show was that in the Middle East, major business is built on long-term personal relationships that take time to develop. A local agent will of course shorten the learning curve and the familiarization process, but it’s important for the brand owner to understand the nuances of the local marketplace.