Wiley’s properties like For Dummies (reference books) and Frommers (travel guides) are successfully doing licensing businesses endorsing different product categories ranging from CDs to travel gears. For over 200 years, Wiley has grown and evolved, taking pride in its ability to meet the changing needs of its customers. The company’s current migration to the digital world is the latest example of this kind of transformation.
Brand Licensing (BL): What are the recent updates with regards to licensing and merchandising (L&M) at Wiley?
Marc Jeffrey Mikulich (MJM): Among many interesting developments in our global L&M programme, television rights to the “For Dummies” series were optioned in the French and Dutch markets. A series of guitar instruction videos under license to Danish company – Bellevue, is about to release in the market. A Classical Music For Dummies CD compilation is currently the number 1 bestseller in France.
Our successful international line of For Dummies musical instruments has extended from guitars to include bass, keyboards, violin, harmonica and ukulele. A USA best-selling GPS Navigation For Dummies has been released in South Africa and is releasing in China. Tech Support and Online Backup For Dummies licensed service websites has been launched. Our Frommer’s travel guide has been licensed for travel accessories and luggage and the CliffsNotes brand is licensed for video and optioned for television in the USA.
BL: How have you witnessed growth over these years when it comes to licensing and merchandising in the publishing category?
MJM: As a licensing and merchandising property category, publishing has historically been dominated by juvenile properties, from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter. In 1996, when For Dummies was licensed to EMI as series of classical music enhanced CDs. Such licensing of all-age how-to publishing brands was practically unknown. Today, the licensing market is more receptive to such properties.
BL: How potential, do you think, is licensing in the publishing category? What is the kind of revenue that you generate from L&M activities at Wiley?
MJM: Wiley is a public company, and our brand licensing revenues are not reported as a separate line item. I can say that our licensing programme has three goals: protection, promotion and profit and it succeeds in meeting all of them. The potential for publishing brands is only growing with the expanding markets for digital content and services.
BL: What are the product categories that you’re present across via your L&M initiatives? What is (are) the intellectual property that is a part of Wiley’s licensing portfolio?
MJM: Wiley has licensed into a wide array of product categories over the years, including accessories, apparel, electronics, food/beverage, gifts/novelties, health/beauty, houseware, music/video, sporting goods, stationery/paper, toys/games, and video games/software.
Publishing properties in our licensing portfolio include How to Cook Everything, Frommers travel guides, Cliffs Notes study aids, the tech brands Sybex and Wrox, and the global bestselling For Dummies series.
BL: What is the kind of research that you undertake before entering a foreign land, extending your brands via potential licensees?
MJM: We are fortunate that For Dummies entered foreign markets as a publishing property through translation and reprint publishing, and export sales. So, licensing the For Dummies brand into markets is initially validated by the performance of the book series in those markets.
We further research foreign markets through participation in licensing shows and conferences, and as well as working closely with local Wiley offices we have in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.
BL: Across how many countries are you present and what remains to be your target audience?
MJM: The For Dummies series is distributed in over 100 countries and has been published in over 30 languages. Brand merchandise licenses are in effect in over 35 countries including licenses across all 27 countries of the European Union.
BL: What is your view of the Indian market with regards to L&M?
MJM: When we refer to the Indian market, I must say that there lies tremendous opportunity. In our case, For Dummies was introduced to India in early 90s, so the brand is known here. Existing Dummies licensees in the electronics and software categories are now planning to expand into the Indian market.
For licensing as an industry, India is becoming a place to be, as the Indian market continues to grow and globalisation of properties continues via today’s digital lifestyle.
BL: What are the basic dos and don’ts when it comes to licensing in the publishing category?
MJM: Well, first of all, a publishing property needs to be present in a market for any product category licenses to work. Then a publishing property needs have to have its voice heard in the particular product license category. This is critical for a content brand. It must speak to consumers in the licensed product with the same voice used in the core brand content. This is an integral part of the purpose and value proposition of the brand. In the case of For Dummies, it is to enrich people’s lives by making knowledge accessible. Dummies brand is in the business of making everything easier. So a Dummies licensed product must be easy to use, and must work!