Joan Website | Joan Bio | Joan Licensing Info | Joan Contact Info | Blog Main Page

Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
give me credit and link to my blog when using it on your site. Thanks.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Art Licensing: The Importance in Knowing What Sells at Retail

It is important for artists to know what sells at retail to realize what art themes have the best chance in being licensed so that products sell through. But it is complicated because artists must create art that first please the manufacturers who think they know what the retailers want and the retailers think they know what consumers will buy. To find out what art sells, the artist must research, research, research by constantly walking retail stores, trade shows, trolling retail and manufacturer websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and asking questions of sales reps, manufacturer art directors, and shop owners/managers. It is a lot of work but it is an important part in the business of licensing art. Art licensing is NOT just creating art!

Way to find out what art sells at retail
 Manufacturers and retailers are always looking at their customer demographics (age, sex, where they live, income, etc.) to help them predict their spending habits. They survey their own customers, hire independent survey companies, and subscribe to newsletters and purchase reports on trends in consumer behavior from companies such as EPM Communications, inc. Artists can also purchase these publications to gain insight into the retail market but they are pricey.

A newsletter that I have found really interesting, helpful, and more affordable is Gift Beat. It tracks trends in the gift industry that is aimed at the retailer but also has very useful information for artists. It has informative articles, some top selling art on products, and lists charts of top manufacturers selling different products in the different regions across the United States. It is interesting to find out that if a particular manufacturer is a top seller in the Northeast they may be at the bottom or not listed at all for the Midwest or West. And it is interesting to see what type of products are top sellers for themes such as birds. Flags may be top sellers in the Northeast and South but figurines are the top sellers in the Midwest and West. All this information is useful when creating themes and knowing what manufacturers to target when submitting art.

More ways to find out what art sells at retail is to:
• read comments posted by retailers on manufacturer blog and Facebook sites

• ask art directors when talking to them on the phone

• ask managers and owners of small gift stores that sell licensed products. They are a wonderful source in finding out what sells. Managers and store owners have a surprising amount of knowledge about the artists and manufacturers of the products. And they love to talk about them when they are not busy helping customers.

• engage in a conversation with reps at wholesale trade shows.  It is sometimes possible to get information at regional shows but I have had a lot more success when walking the Atlanta gift show. One time I happened to approach a flag manufacturer when the traffic was dead and the owner was manning the showroom at Atlanta. He spent a half hour discussing with me the art on their flags, what were popular and what makes a great flag design.  Another time the owner of a melamine tabletop manufacturing company was helping to man the booth at a regional show and she made time to tell me what art themes are the most popular on their products.  That type of information is invaluable!

• check-out the best sellers on manufacture and retail websites. Some manufacture and retail websites allow the viewer to sort the products into different categories including best sellers. Look at websites of your favorite retailers and manufacturers to see if that capability is available. Below are a few.

Kohl's (retailer)
Lowe's (retailer)
Evergreen Enterprises (manufacturer)

Suggestions from artists:
Jill Meyer –  I always like to glance at what is on sale as well.  Often it is just seasonal that is on sale, but when there are other things, I try to notice if there is a theme to what is put on sale, then I make a mental note to avoid that theme!  

If you have other methods in finding out what sells at retail, please share the information. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a complete URL address).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Art Licensing Editorial: What can artists, designers and cartoonists learn from the creator of Garfield?

Most people are aware of Garfield the cat comic strip character created by Jim Davis and that it is wildly popular and continuously earns many millions of dollars from movies and licensed products each year. But what many people do not realize is that Garfield's success did NOT happen by chance. Jim used a strategic plan by thoroughly researching the cartoon and licensing industries and applying what he learned to fill a niche. Jim admits that his Garfield cartoon is "static," is “essentially a formula,” and his intention was to "come up with a good, marketable character".

Creative director Caroline Zelonka who worked on advertising for Petsmart stores in the mid-90s recently commented in "Is Garfield Supposed to be Funny?" about the true story on why Garfield was created. In reading the article, it became apparent to me that using a strategic plan to license art is very important now more than ever because of lower licensing revenue and more competition in getting deals. Using what I call the "shot-gun" method of indiscriminately sending art to manufacturers for licensing consideration is not effective.

What learned from the article
Below are a few points on what Jim Davis did to bring Garfield to stardom and how his strategy can be used by artists, designers, and cartoonists to increase licensing potential.

• Research what is popular and why

– what Jim did: He thoroughly researched the cartoon industry and used the popular Peanuts cartoon strip as a model. He discovered that
1. the most popular and licensed character was Snoopy and not Charlie Brown,
2. there was no popular licensed cartoon character for cat lovers, and
3. the more mundane the character that does not offend anyone is the most popular and licensable. For reasons why, read "Where popularity never meets critical acclaim: Why bland entertainment is worth a fortune."

– what artists can do: Artists should target particular product industries (greeting cards, jig-saw puzzles, decorative flags, art prints, etc.) and decide where their art is a good fit. They should learn everything they can about the industry they plan to contact such as what art themes are popular. Whenever possible, contract licensee art directors and ask questions. For more information on licensing strategies, read "Eight Steps to Become an Art Brand".  Note: If you are new to licensing or have trouble in getting deals, hire an art licensing consultant to get constructive criticism of your art and suggestions on what manufacturers you should contact.

• Spend more time marketing than creating
– what Jim did: Jim spent 13 or 14 hours a week writing and drawing the strip, compared with 60 hours a week on promotion and licensing.

– what artists can do: Obviously licensing your creations are not a 40 hour work week. Jim spent four to five times the amount of time promoting Garfield than he did creating the comic strip. Spending a lot of time promoting it sure worked for him. Most artists spend more time creating their work than promoting it - including myself. The Garfield story is a good reminder that we artists should spend more time promoting our work to gain visibility and increase the potential in getting more licensing deals.

• Have visibility
– what Jim does: Jim uses the cartoon strip and Garfield movies to keep Garfield in the public eye to sell licensed merchandise. But he is very leery of over exposure and controls it as much as he can. For more information, read "Garfield: Why we hate the Mouse but not the cartoon copycat".

– what artists can do: Artist can gain visibility of their art by submitting press releases, advertise in trade magazines, exhibit at SURTEX, have a website, use social media such as blogs, Facebook etc., have online stores such as Etsy, Zazzle, Cafe Press etc. Also read, "Art Licensing: Marketing Art Outside-the-box". Artists can also gain visibility by constantly submitting art to manufacturers and by following-up. Read "Art Licensing Tip:What does follow-up really mean?"

All the above points have been made many times before. But how many artists actually implement them? Do you have a strategic plan on what products your art should be on? Do you spend more time marketing your art than creating it? Do you consistently contact your licensees and follow-up? If you do not, maybe by doing so you will get more licensing deals ;)

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people seem to have problems leaving a comment. The most successful method seems to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog complete URL address).