Feb 15, 2019

“We have content and product for every age and every aisle around the globe,” said the president of Viacom/Nickelodeon Global Consumer Products.

A Gucci leather jacket with the Paramount logo on the back. A Pink Ladies bomber jacket. A rainbow sweatshirt and matching wide-legged trousers with the MTV logo by Fyodor Golan. A JoJo Siwa-inspired rainbow sequin jacket-and-pant set from Target.

These were some of the ensembles modeled by Viacom employees before Pam Kaufman, president of Viacom/Nickelodeon Global Consumer Products, took the stage at her Spark talk, “Consumer Products Innovation: How We Will ‘Disrupt and Diversify’ Our Licensing Business.”

Kaufman’s message: Viacom’s intellectual property is iconic and fan appetite for it is seemingly endless. She spoke of the importance of having something to offer everyone, from a $2,700 oversized Gucci sweatshirt to a PAW Patrol fire truck sold at Walmart to a one-shoulder MTV logo dress from the online retailer ASOS. “We have content and product for every age and every aisle around the globe,” she repeated.

There’s a lot of money at stake. Viacom ranks seventh in the $15 billion character and entertainment license market, she says. But consumer products are a powerful way to drive fan engagement and spread the word about new and old shows.

“For us, retail is another screen,” Kaufman says. “It can amplify our products and serve more content to our fans.”

And you know you’ve made it into the zeitgeist when Jimmy Fallon discusses his kids’ love of PAW Patrol with guests on The Tonight Show. Kaufman showed a montage of celebrities like Dax Shepard and Justin Timberlake talking about the show, and Lin-Manuel Miranda singing the PAW Patrol theme song.

The billion-dollar brand that unseated Barbie

Kaufman and her team have had to get creative to draw consumers back into stores instead of shopping online. “Traditional retail is shrinking but everyone is shopping all the time,” says Kaufman. “I see you shopping right now.”

They’re holding retail events, like toy demonstrations and Halloween shopping parties. And they’re collaborating with designers and retailers to create store-exclusive merchandise like JoJo Siwa’s recent apparel line at Target.

With Siwa’s 16th birthday approaching this Spring, Kaufman and her team are gearing up for a merchandising bonanza. “JoJo is now a billion-dollar global brand,” says Kaufman. “She’s the first product to unseat Barbie at Walmart. With her 16th birthday coming up, it’s only going to get bigger.”

Meanwhile, executives are actively working to find the next global social influencer. She pointed to Germany, Amsterdam and New Zealand as locations they’ve already found interesting contenders.

Turning classic IP into consumer products

A big push this year is nostalgia, in particular revisiting some of the greats from Paramount’s archives. For instance, there’s a black flask for The Godfather’s 50th anniversary; oversized sunglasses honoring Breakfast at Tiffany’s, t-shirts with Mean Girls’ Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) favorite saying, “that’s so fetch;” plaid mini skirts that Cher (Alicia Silverstone) from Clueless would approve of; and a Top Gun-themed duffel bag.

Reinventing existing franchises like the live-action Dora the Explorer movie premiering in August and It’s a Wonderful Sponge in May 2020 are opportunities to create new lines of merchandise.

When asked whether Viacom is considering a direct to consumer platform, Kaufman notes there’s a lot of product with limited retail shelf space. “The natural progression is to create our own platform to give fans what they want,” she says.

She promised there will be more to come on that front and urged the audience to stay tuned.

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