Many businesses are cyclical, and in the case of Thermos L.L.C., each year it’s back to the drawing board for its licensing department after they prepare many products months in advance for the six- to eight-week back-to-school season. The majority of that licensed business is lunch kits, hydration and food storage. The best licenses for this seasonal business are popular summer movies combined with the right mix of hot, new licenses and evergreen properties.
“Hot and new summer movies are one of our key focuses,” Thermos L.L.C. Vice President of Marketing Julie Ryan emphasizes. “Since summer is when the back-to-school season is happening, holiday movies aren’t as highly supported at retail as the summer blockbusters.”
Thermos L.L.C. ensures that it has all the major consumer segments covered. “Our marketing strategy consists of developing and marketing products targeted to specific consumer segments,” Ryan stresses.
Among the consumer segments Thermos targets are parents who want their children to eat healthy food, but who also are influenced by kids’ desires for lunch kits that display the latest characters, such as Hello Kitty or Spider-Man. “We know the child influences those purposeful parents, so we want to make sure we have a broad licensed assortment for them to choose from,” Ryan says.
Thermos has other segments covered, too. The hydration bottle assortment features licensed products for Under Armour and are targeted to the active achiever consumer segment. Members of the fashionista segment can purchase Thermos brand lunch carriers that coordinate with their favorite outfits. And outdoor enthusiasts know they can keep their beverages and food hot or cold for up to 24 hours when camping overnight.
Food storage products are necessary for consumers who are focused on health and wellness and like to prepare their own food at home and take it with them on-the-go. Super-commuters want to carry their beverages and lunches in cars or on trains to their offices. “They really just want something that works great that will get them to and from work during the day,” Ryan explains.
A new consumer segment that Thermos is investigating is the epicurean who brings food to social events at friends’ homes. Similar to tailgating – where food is consumed picnic-style at an outdoor event such as a football game – Thermos is calling the practice “homegating,” since it requires similar products to keep food hot or cold and fresh. “We’re developing a line of products that are great on-the-go for bringing casseroles and wine and all different types of products,” Ryan says.
“We’re constantly working on new products and bringing new innovation to the category,” Ryan adds. “That’s one of our main objectives.”
A new product released in February was the Food Jar with Microwavable Container – which is made of Eastman Tritan – that is placed in a stainless steel, vacuum-insulated sleeve. Leftovers refrigerated overnight can be put in the jar and kept cold in the sleeve during transport until consumption, when they can be microwaved in the same container and kept hot in the sleeve.
All of the Thermos brand products are candidates for licensing to enhance their sales. Ryan estimates approximately 60 percent of Thermos brand lunch kits are licensed. Founded in 1904, Thermos L.L.C. has some long-time licensing partners.
“Some of our longest relationships have been with Mattel, Warner Brothers and Disney,” Ryan recalls. “They go 30-plus years, and almost 50 years with Mattel. We’ve had the Barbie lunch kit line for close to 50 years. Disney is unique. They have an assortment of core evergreen brands, but they also have hot new movie properties, as well.”
Licensors are both sought by Thermos and seek out Thermos, Ryan says. “It’s a little bit of both,” Ryan reveals. “More often than not, we’re going to the licensors to seek out the opportunity, but oftentimes, licensors will come to us because they know of our 100-plus-year brand equity in creating warm beverage and lunch kit products for people on-the-go.”
Thermos brand products are manufactured overseas and at the company’s 500,000-square-foot factory in Batesville, Miss., and are sold in more than 70 countries. The company has more than 250 patents worldwide and is a licensed trademark in over 115 countries. “One of the main reasons why we license is because it is the key way we can differentiate ourselves in the marketplace,” Ryan says.
Licensors are attracted to Thermos brand products because of their reliability and the company’s reputation for high quality. “The licensors know that when they work with Thermos, they are going to have their brands associated with the highest quality product in the category,” Ryan insists.
“They know they will get the highest quality product that their license can be featured on,” she adds. “They don’t have to worry about product recalls or delivery issues at retail. We have a responsibility to uphold our tremendous brand, and we feel the same way about maintaining the brands we feature on our products.”