My View: Inagural Nordic Licensing Conference in Helsinki

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on November 30, 2016

I’m just back from representing LIMA at the inaugural Nordic Brand Licensing Market. Held in Helsinki, Finland, the event was organised by AGMA, the Finnish Association for Agents and Managers in the Creative Industries. For some years now AGMA has been at the forefront of promoting licensing in their home market, organising a pavilion at Brand Licensing Europe for instance. I was also at their very first national licensing conference three years ago, also in a cold and snowy Helsinki.

The Market drew almost 150 delegates from all the Nordic countries, and even from Estonia, a close neighbour. Incidentally, after years of uncertainty I learned that to use the term ‘Nordics’ is to include Finland, whereas Scandinavia does not. Useful for future licensing agreements. The large attendance packed the seminar room leading to a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere, with great encouragement from a diverse range of speakers.

A keynote address was made by Magnus Scheving, the Icelandic athlete and campaigner for healthy lifestyles. You may well remember Magnus’s creation, Lazy Town, which was a worldwide TV hit a few years ago. Other keynote sessions came from Alex Lambeek of Rovio, still the shining example of Finnish licensing success. Risto Voutilainen, CEO of historic Finnish textiles brand Finlayson, spoke about growth at home and in export and the challenges for a brand from a small home market tackling much bigger territories. Finlayson as a company was founded as long ago as 1820 by an immigrant Scot, hence the distinctly non-Nordic name.

We also heard in detail from the current custodians of the world-famous Moomins, Sophia Jansson and Roleff Krakstrom. The growth of Moomins licensing in the last twenty years has been nothing short of spectacular, and they explained that much of it comes from a shift of positioning of the brand from focusing on the several past animated TV series to its true heritage as the creation of the artist and writer Tove Jannson.

The event had another interesting twist. This is the first time that I’ve seen conventional licensing seminar content mixed with business pitching.   More than twenty small enterprises presented a series of products and brands that they hope to license. The content varied greatly. We had several design companies but with very different offerings, from bags made from recyclable heat-pressed felt to swimwear designed for single-breasted women, a large market largely made up of survivors of breast cancer. A former sea icebreaker marine captain had attracted a partner to make 52 x 13 minute episodes of an animation very much based on the creator’s own history, Icebreaker Snow. Several publishers offered content for licensing, from Finnish hit Onni-Boy to the already world-famous Mauri Kunnas who has sold nine million copies worldwide of his uniquely-illustrated children’s books. The digital and gaming worlds were represented by Drive Ahead, a combat-vehicle app, and Star Stable, the number one horse-themed online universe for girls. We even had a live performance from Mimmit, a female folk duo who, with books, CDs, live shows and TV, are following a licensing path which brought great success in Australia for The Wiggles.

The two-day conference was framed around a gala dinner for all attendees with Finnish delicacies served, closing with the offering of classic cognac (just to keep out the cold, you understand) or Cloudberry liqueur for those of a more adventurous palate. We were even graced by a visit by, a gift from, the official Santa Claus himself, fresh from his home in Rovaniemi, Lapland.

The 2016 Nordic Brand Licensing Market was a fine event, which LIMA was pleased to support, and we look forward to future collaborations with AGMA.