Toy Networx has been a wholesaler based in the north of Melbourne for many years and had generally played a distribution role for ranges of non-branded toys and represented some national brands, including Mattel Toys. Specializing in servicing the independent trade, bus trips and social clubs, they found themselves in a situation where the ownership of the business changed and the market had become much more challenging. The new owner, Ben Bliss, assessed the situation and concluded he needed some professional assistance. He brought Jonathan Byrnes an ex-Funtastic executive into the business as Chief Executive Officer and then looked to re-model the organization. Bugg Marketing Solutions met with Jonathan at the 2019 Australian Toy Association’s Mid-Year Toy Fair in Sydney and discussed their plans and needs; they engaged our services later on that year.
The Toy Networx Brief
The business was suffering from a lack of identity and did not have a real point of difference in the marketplace. Bugg Marketing Solutions carried out some market research on the organization and the market they were operating in. It quickly became clear that they needed a much higher profile and needed to be able to offer their customers products and services that they could not access elsewhere.
We identified that a rebrand was the first priority and Bugg Marketing Solutions set about developing some options for the Toy Networx team to consider. After proper consideration they chose one of our rebrand options and we integrated this into all touch-points of the business. The new logo has since proven to be highly visible and recognizable and has re-positioned their business.
Our research also found that they had a distinct lack of cohesion with their website, catalogue programs and the presentation of the business in general. We set out to re-format their seasonal catalogue program and will be working to bring their primary website in-line with the new branding.
As part of our role we regularly connect with Jonathan and Ben and recommend and discuss the things that they can do to improve their operations.
An important part of the role with Toy Networx
Over recent times Jonathan has strategically moved to secure exclusive distribution relationships with Hinkler, Toy Monster and has recently concluded a global relationship with Australian Geographic to develop and distribute their toy line. All of these arrangements tick the box in so far as providing them with exclusivity and a point-of-difference.
What Did We Learn?
Re-inventing your business is vital for survival as times change
Engaging the right professional advice is key
Identifying key issues in order of priority requires proper research
Having a point-of-difference is a must
Branding is everything in the eyes of the consumer
Having a plan and then working the plan is sound advice
Squatter, the iconic Australian board game was invented by Robert Lloyd and has been in their family now since the early 60’s. Since that time it has sold in excess of 500,000 copies throughout Australia and New Zealand. Squatter has operated under various licensing models including with Milton Bradley and Murfett in addition being sold via distributors. The game is now under the control of Richard Lloyd (Robert’s Son) and we met Richard at the Australian Toy Hobby & Licensing Fair in 2018.
The Squatter Brief
We sat down with Richard and Chris (his wife) to discuss the journey of Squatter and to learn about his vision for the game and brand for the future. Bugg Marketing Solutions carried out an extensive review of Squatter and it’s current position in the market, then set about developing a proposal to Richard to provide professional guidance to him with the clear purpose of securing the IP for he and his family well into the future.
It became obvious that the existing distributor model (which Richard had engaged when he took control of the game) had a number of limitations and that having only one flagship game also limited the opportunity to be scaled across the market and to new countries. Bugg Marketing Solutions identified that by adding new formats and price-points, we could ensure that the brand would become more valuable across the market and provide greater distribution options.
The New Formats
Squatter Mates — classic card game
Squatter compact version — for those on-the-go
The next step was to move the commercial model for the game to a direct-sales model as apposed to the previous distributor model. This enabled Squatter to focus exclusively on the Squatter brand as the primary task. Bugg Marketing Solutions became the exclusive sales and marketing arm for the business. This included an exclusive partnership with a new logistics partner, Australasian Distribution Network.
We then developed a comprehensive global plan for the Squatter brand, which is based on three pillars:
Squatter Inc. — games & product portfolio
Squatter — custom division
Squatter — brand licensing
This plan provided a clear roadmap of how and where we wanted the brand to progress and included a focus on strategic International markets and all other elements of the DNA of Squatter.
Key takeaway from the case study
What Did We Learn?
In the beginning you must have a valuable brand
Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve
Engage the right professional partners to provide guidance
Bugg Marketing Solutions were engaged as a specialist consultant to source brands and develop a new strategic direction for MJM Australia Imports. Our professional services model enabled MJM to gain access to our experience and contact network at a fraction of the cost for a full time Licensing Director.
MJM are a Melbourne based specialist games, puzzle and stationery vendor with distribution into the mass market, here locally in Australia. Bugg Marketing Solutions were able to work with MJM to establish a medium to long term plan which would provide increasing revenue streams.
This program was driven by assembling a brand portfolio that positioned them as a market leader in these categories.
Key takeaway from this Case Study
Using Bugg Marketing Solutions’ services, MJM were able to leverage their position in the market based on a sound distribution model combined with a fantastic brand portfolio. Over time MJM were able to secure rights to brands including Toy Story, Disney Princess, Spiderman, Thomas & Friends, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and many more!
The New MJM Australia Direction
MJM are now in a position where they are recognised as an innovator in the games and puzzles category. They are generally offered first right of refusal for leading brands in their field.
This very special case study for Bugg Marketing Solutions and is testimony to the fact that if you take the time to develop a plan (with all the correct ingredients) and then put that plan into practice, it will rarely fail if you keep your eye on the ball. The other important factor to remember in this case study is that Rome was not built in a day. This is also very true for the Consumer Products business.
Jamie Cooper is one of the most respected and talented sports artists in the country, having held Australian Football League (AFL), National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) memorabilia licenses.
JCAP Australia is an Australian based business, owned and operated by Jamie in Melbourne.
About JCAP Australia
Bugg Marketing Solutions (BMS) had been working with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) for some time, and recognised the growing (and significant) opportunity that the Hong Kong International Licensing Show (HKILS) provides on a global scale. Hong Kong is an international hub for doing business and the HKILS is a perfect fit. BMS hosted the Australian Pavilion at the HKILS in January of 2014 and approached Jamie in August of 2013 with a focus on helping Jamie develop his business by exhibiting at the show.
The JCAP Interview
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jamie, some 7-months after the conclusion of the show. He had carried out his rigorous follow-up after the show and shared with us the JCAP Australia case study.
Jamie, when we first spoke to you last year after sending you the HKILS brochure, we discussed the opportunity and how it could benefit your business. In terms of the cost to exhibit, this show is reasonably priced. I know you had to consider other commercial costs to present your work in it’s best possible format. Can you tell us a little bit about what you needed to consider here?
What I need most, which is also the hardest to achieve, is direct access for myself, my art and to large sporting organisations around the world. The show for me was not about who walked in the door, but who was already there, in terms of other exhibitors. I knew several top European Football Clubs were exhibiting and that their licensing people would be attending the booths. This was a captive audience for me. It was worth putting some capital in to get in front of them.
I know that you place a lot of importance upon presentation of your work. Can you tell us a little bit about how you took the decision to go the extra step and present your work in it’s original format to give the best possible impression to your prospective clients?
I needed to present my concept and work in the flesh to have the most impact. To create a ‘wow’ factor, I felt the images should be near life size to the original art. So, I produced a number of large reproductions on canvas up to 3.5 meters long. These had to be transported to Hong Kong and then stretched around wooden frames (stretcher bars) to look and feel like real paintings. I sourced a small frame shop in Hong Kong to produce the frames and stretch the canvases. This was an expensive process, but the need to have the client understand the scale and impact of the artwork and to personally engage with it, was key to any chance of success. I created a mini-gallery in my booth.
In terms of making your decision to exhibit, I believe you were looking to target specific organisations in the sporting field. I believe that the HKTDC ‘business matching’ service was invaluable here. Can you tell us how this worked for you?
My sole reason for being at the show was to meet fellow exhibitors. Specifically to pitch my concept to the licensing departments of large European Football Clubs. The aim was to be able to introduce myself, and my work, then to pursue licensing deals to create artwork tailor-made for each club, with global rights to produce and distribute the reproductions. It was not to access the Asian market through people that might attend the show. The ‘business matching’ service gave me a guaranteed official introduction directly to the people that I needed to speak to in these organisations. I would never have had this kind of access contacting them out of the blue, AND, from so far away (Australia). Having them standing in front of my artwork whilst I sold my idea had a dramatic and vital impact.
I know you had a very well organised and rehearsed presentation platform during the show. What advice would you give to prospective exhibitors, in terms of engaging potential buyers whilst you have them on your stand?
You should know exactly what you are trying to communicate and achieve. Be excited about your product and have a very tangible plan as to how and what your product will do for the client. Also be open to client ideas as to how they see the product being applied for their needs. They may teach you something you didn’t know.
I believe you undertook some very extensive and exhaustive follow-up after the event. Can you tell us how important it is to commit the time and energy to a follow-up plan, in terms of closing a deal?
The follow-up is so important. I knew I had them engaged at the show, so I couldn’t afford to let that connection slip. Many people, especially in large organisations, have many things to focus on… so I had to keep the momentum going. I began discussions within a day of returning back to Australia. What followed was 8-months of communications and negotiations. It is still on-going!
Jamie, can you tell us how do you rate the HKILS, and more specially the marketing opportunities your presence at the show generated for you?
It is BY FAR the most effective marketing opportunity I have ever had. I could NEVER get 10 of Europe’s largest Football Clubs to sit in front of my work and hear my ideas, let alone all under one roof in the space of a week. Whether or not I end up signing multiple deals as a result of the show, the direct and personal access to globally significant clients has been priceless. The $10,000 AUD it cost me to be there is nothing compared to the exposure that it has given me.
An important part of closing a successful deal at an International Licensing Show is making the best possible impression in front of the right executives. Did this apply to your experience at the HKILS?
100%. Over the past five years I have tried emailing some of these clubs (and others) presenting the same artwork and concepts. It has nowhere near the same impact as meeting them in person does. I am in contract negotiations with one European Club at present; still negotiating terms with another and I currently have my work in front of four more for initial discussions.
Jamie, we really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us. We trust that this case study will encourage others to make the commitment to showcase their work at the HKILS in the future.
What Did We Learn?
The best way to get results is face-to-face
When presenting your work you need to be passionate
Listen to your clients to understand and learn more
Your investment will pay off if you have a sound plan
Luna Nameplate Industries (LNI) is a professional automotive badge manufacturer. Their business is conducted under a Business to Business (B2B) model, with the leading local and global (imported) automotive car companies. With the volatility of the industry, and the news that Ford, Holden and Toyota will progressively cease production in Australia, LNI felt pressure to investigate a longer-term direction for their business.
The Fan Emblems Brief
In 2013, LNI contacted Bugg Marketing Solutions via our website with an interest in making an enquiry as to whether they might be able to develop a Consumer Products (CP) business dealing in premium quality licensed emblems. We arranged an introductory meeting with LNI and discussed the available options with their team. With our experience in the industry, we were able to take a brief from LNI and set about developing a strategic plan for the business, underpinned by a desire to develop a CP division in their business. After much discussion, we concluded that the Super Hero angle was the most appropriate for their company at the time.
Bugg Marketing Solutions negotiated a license for LNI to the Warner Bros. DC Comics Super Hero stable of characters. We developed a short list of names for the business and Fan Emblems was born.
Key takeaway from this Case Study
A unique online platform was soon developed and launched for LNI, including a website, social media presence and on-going program of exhibiting at many consumer shows around the comic book genre.
LNI have since exhibited at several shows, and the product is gathering momentum every day. We soon hope to secure global rights for Fan Emblems and we are actively investigating other key brands to further develop the program. LNI has a long-term goal for their new CP business to develop into a significant component of their overall business, and compliment their manufacturing programs.
In 2012, the owners of the iconic surf brand Piping Hot engaged Bugg Marketing Solutions to provide strategic direction advice on the future of the brand. Piping Hot had operated as a “Direct-to-Retail” model with Target for many years. Because the model was exclusive to Target in Australia, the owners determined that a possible global expansion or sale of the brand to a global operator could be an option for them.
The Piping Hot Plan
We spent many months dissecting the brand and formulating a plan to speak to the market about global expansion. The option to sell the brand was also a consideration. With our experience in brands and the licensing model, we proposed that Piping Hot should invest in a booth at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas in 2013.
With the global connections that Bugg Marketing Solutions has, we were able to secure meetings with brand representative agents and brand owners to discuss the option available. Along with the Piping Hot team, we developed a pitch process and stand design and locked in the activation with the event owners Advanstar (UBM Advanstar). We negotiated an editorial package with License Global and also covered the activation in The Bugg Report.
During the time at Licensing Expo, we facilitated meetings with brand owners and global retailers to understand the interest and appetite for the brand. We put in motion a review process with the Piping Hot team after the show and followed up our leads.
Key takeaway from this Case Study
One of the meetings facilitated by Bugg Marketing Solutions was with Saban Brands. Some time had passed and Saban Brands moved to set up a lifestyle arm of their business. A short time later a deal was struck for Saban Brands to acquire the Piping Hot brand as part of this venture. What Did We Learn?
The take out here is we were able to deliver the mechanism for Piping Hot to solve their dilemma based on our professional services and experience in the business. The brand continues to grow with Target Australia under a new ocean clean sustainability model today.