License to Brand

Carole Sloan, May 30, 2005

Gloss or substance?

That's beginning to be the question rising from the epidemic of “name brand licensing” in the home furnishings business — and in home textiles in particular.

Most every Tom, Dick and Harry — as well as Sally, Jane and Barbie — is coming out of the woodwork, professing to be a design maven of home products — in one category of the home spectrum or another.

Many haven't a clue about the products they want to design. Even worse, few have any design background — even from a basic color or drawing perspective.

And as the home furnishings world, and especially home textiles, barrels into this arena using licensing as a means of “differentiation,” the scenario is becoming almost bizarre.

How this mass invasion of questionable “brand” names will impact the brands that have been part of the home furnishings scene for some time, as well as some of the newer, relevant names and brands, is still a matter of debate. But it is certain to have implications in terms of sales as consumers ponder what a name means on sheets, towels or window coverings.

One of the key issues, beyond design credibility, is the marketing of the brand. Few have even the slightest concept of the word “marketing” let alone how to develop and implement a marketing program.

To many, it's a matter of getting a willing supplier or retailer partner, agreeing on minimum sales rates and hoping the bucks flow in. Others analyze attitudes of the potential licensee to see if their social outlooks are in synch and still others look to showrooms that would live up to their interior design aspirations or actual standards — all mostly irrelevant when it comes to product design or marketing.

As new players try to come into the home arena, almost on a daily basis, it might be time to take a deep breath and try to see where this mass invasion might lead.

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