Sunday, September 26, 2010

Licensing Brand Jamaica

Recently I had the opportunity to peruse the Guide to the Licensing World 2010, 18th edition. The document was published January 2010, so I’m a little late. Nonetheless, I think these ideas are still relevant so I will share them.

The publication claims to be:
The most comprehensive international directory available on the licensing industry. This year we have over 25,000 property listings, 1,900+ licensors and licensing agents, as well as 1,100+ licensees and hundreds of specialist services… Over 500 pages of licensors, licensing agents and licensees covering characters, brands, TV, films, personalities, sports licensing, artists, and more.

I was very disappointed that the only Jamaican originated brands I could find listed in the guide were Bob Marley and Red Stripe. Bob Marley shows up with representation in Canada, Great Britain and France (the company listed in the index for France does not show up in the body of the directory and therefore it may be possible that Marley currently does not have representation in France. This omission may in fact be an error so I will grant them the benefit of the doubt). Without surprise, Red Stripe appears under Daigeo USA.

I combed through looking for the top earning music personalities of Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Sean Paul, Ziggy Marley, Sean Kingston, as suggested in the Jamaica Observer September 17, 2010 article titled 'Reggae's top earners', but was met with zero success. Neither could I find a listing by VP Records or Riddim Driven. This does not mean that these artists and entities do not have accompanying merchandise, instead it just speaks to the scale and emphasis that is put on that stream of revenue. Some of these artists do have merchandise available via their label partners (eg. Atlantic). However, there is the opportunity available to other artists to negotiate independent agent representation. Artists with significant brand equity do not need to wait for a major label partner to initiate merchandise or service extensions of their brand and that is certainly reflected in this publication.

I was disappointed that a regional institution such as the University of the West Indies (UWI) is not represented in a publication where there are quite a few universities. I suspect though that the institution is challenged to develop a licensing strategy for its properties. In an environment where there are budget cuts all around, this is certainly one budget-augmenting avenue worthy of consideration. I do not believe that UWI graduates, both in and outside the Caribbean, would be any less willing to purchase quality relevant university merchandise were it made available and reasonably accessible.

I have often wondered if the government, perhaps through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, has examined licensing Jamaican properties in a similar fashion to how the city of New York has established NYC & Company Licensing to handle the business of licensing the City’s intellectual property. As a result, all official merchandise from the New York City police, taxi, fire department, parks and recreation, and the transport department benefit the city. We know that there is merchandise sold with the Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston city/town names and replicas of other property. Then there is Jamaica Tourist Board’s signature 'JAMAICA' trademark and related property that serve tourism. In addition, there are the cultural creations that become the property of the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission each year. I wonder to what extent local business, and by extension the state, could benefit from greater sales of products around these properties? This is certainly a business opportunity.

The Guide to the Licensing World 2010 is filled with information about relevant trade shows that creators may attend to seek a licensee or an agent to represent their properties. It would definitely be a plus for Jamaican businesses if they should get more representation at these shows with the name recognition some among us have. I think more of Jamaica's businesses and institutions should seriously seek out a licensing agent. I thought it embarrassing that not one of the English speaking territories in the Caribbean has a licensing agent or specialist service (licensing consultants, attorneys, designers, accountants, etc) listed. The Caribbean agents are to be found in Costa Rica and Panama according to the guide. I think this says something about the expertise Jamaica has on the island. The level of play needs to be raised.

One hopes that these omissions are corrected before the 2012 edition, Jamaican business and brand Jamaica will be better for it. The guide may be purchased at and you may find them on Facebook here.

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