Even the biggest brands in the world can benefit from an effective licensing agreement. There was a time when a cable television network didn’t put too much thought into its brand identity outside of the new fall lineup it trotted out every year. Gradually, those networks, along with a host of other big name brand products, have taken advantage of the licensing programs implemented by companies like the New York City-based Joester Loria Group.

Founded by industry experts Debra Joester and Joanne Loria in 1999, Joester Loria Group conceives and puts into action licensing, corporate marketing, brand building, product development, retail program management, and direct response sales programs for some of the world’s top brands. Joester is currently the company’s president and CEO, and Loria is the executive vice president and COO.

One of the company’s most recent success stories involves the Discovery brands, which include the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Planet Green, and a number of series broadcast on those networks. “The strategy developed for each network is in various phases of development, but overall, we are delighted with the progress made in the past year,” said Joester.

Discovery Channel viewers who want to explore some of the exotic destinations featured on the channel can now book a vacation package through Discovery’s new branded adventure travel program. “Discovery Adventures was officially launched in September, offering 30 trips to amazing destinations,” Joester said. “On-air and online marketing initiatives were the focus this year, and early bookings have exceeded expectations.”

For those who may be happier sticking a little closer to home, Joester Loria Group helped launch Discovery Expedition, the official apparel and functional gear brand of the cable network. Joester said the brand is off to a great start, with electronics gear posting impressive sales in retailers such as JC Penney and more products ready for store shelves in 2010. Joester’s company also has big plans in the works for the Animal Planet brand.

“The expansion of Animal Planet in pet categories is an ongoing priority, as is the introduction of lifestyle products and toys for animal lovers,” said Joester. “Animal Planet pet toys, leashes, and beds launched in PetSmart in March, over 50 pet care titles are in key pet and book retailers, and the distribution of pet beds, blankets, and other categories has expanded to Bed Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, and Kohls. Retail development has really paid off in 2009 and continues to be a 2010 priority.”

The Discovery network is just one of the many well-known brands Joester Loria Group is helping to expand its reach and market presence. The company’s brands also include Jeep, Pepsi, and Entenmann’s and popular children’s properties Baby Genius and Pinkalicious. Past successes include the relaunch of American Greetings Care Bears and Comedy Central’s breakthrough series South Park.

Brand identification

“Brands have a dynamic and emotional relationship with customers and influence how consumers respond to product,” said Joester. “As brands evolve through brand extensions and expand how they touch people’s lives and those of their families, we see positive impact on the core brand identity.”

Discovery Adventures is a prime example of the how Joester’s company can help strengthen that relationship to the core brand. Frequent Discovery Channel viewers who go on one of the travel adventures will feel a stronger bond to the network, and less frequent viewers who go on one of the trips may be more likely to tune into Discovery programming as a result of a positive experience, Joester said.

In addition to the immediate extension of that brand identity for its clients, Joester Loria Group focuses on making sure the new licensing ventures will survive the long haul. “Building success is an ongoing commitment to product excellence, direct to consumer messaging and working with retailers. Our goal is long-term,” she said. “That’s quite different from most licensing ventures, where a two- or three-year run is considered pretty good.”

The company’s relationship with Jeep is a good example of a licensing venture that is built to last, Joester said. Even as the economy as faltered in the US, Joester Loria Group expanded the Jeep brand globally, especially in China and other Asian countries.

According to Joester, nearly 50% of Jeep licensing revenues now come from international markets, driven primarily by nearly 100 freestanding stores and hundreds of in-store departments. “We were able to grow the Jeep business by double digits in 2009 as a result of continued, robust expansion in markets like China over the past 18 months,” she said.

Smart growth

Joester and Loria founded their agency in 1999 after heading up Hamilton Projects for nearly a decade, which was a licensing arm of Viacom. Because Hamilton Projects was responsible for handling third party representation, Joester said it made more sense for she and Loria to strike out on their own.

“When Joanne and I started our agency, we were fortunate to pick up a number of the clients third party clients we had serviced as part of Hamilton, including Jeep, American Greetings, and Parents magazine” she said.

Although Joester and Loria operated fairly autonomously as part of Hamilton projects, Joester said opening an independent agency has given them greater freedom. “We can take the kind of risks and make the kind of decisions that aren’t always available to you as part of a bigger corporate entity,” she said.

As Joester Loria Group continues to grow, Joester said the agency faces the same challenges faced by many small companies: juggling the day-to-day business of servicing clients while expanding expertise and seeking new client opportunities. “It’s a dynamic process, so we staff up as we add new clients to our roster and continually assess our inhouse capabilities to ensure that we have the expertise and enough hours in the day to achieve our goals,” she said.

The agency’s marketing goals include promoting itself to the business community as well as driving the awareness and sales of licensed products and programs it develops. The most effective way to market her agency is through client referrals, Joester said.

“It’s easy to claim success and results, but once you’ve been in business for a few years, client referrals are the best testimonials,” she said. “When a potential client calls an existing client, often, it’s another big corporate player, and there’s no reason for them to be anything but candid about their experience. The quality of our work and resulting success has resulted in client testimonials that are truly priceless.”

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