This boutique-licensing agency removed the barriers often associated with licensing and developed a new niche in the industry. If the best way to tell if your company is healthy is by looking at how well it’s evolved to meet the needs of its customers, then CopCorp Licensing should be described as robust.
New York City-based CopCorp Licensing began as a retail-consulting firm, offering licensors direction on how to position their licensing programs in the retail community. The key, said Carole Postal, founder and president, was helping the retailer understand the program and helping the licensor understand retailers’ needs.
“Our start was not as an agency but as a licensing and consulting firm,” said Postal. “But with our consulting projects, we were brought in and asked to handle licensing.”
For example, Britt Allcroft retained CopCorp Licensing to work on a lesser known property at that time called Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Postal said her first response was to change the name of the property. “How many two-year-olds can say that entire name?” she asked.
The name was ultimately changed to Thomas and Friends and has since become a worldwide phenomenon. “Even though changing the name is considered heresy, these are the things we do,” said Postal. “We’re mavericks. We’re honest. We tell it like it is.”
It’s not unusual in the licensing industry to have all of the pieces fall together simply because of whom you know and when you know them. During this evolution of licensing handling, Postal and her husband sat down with a longtime colleague to figure out how to initiate a licensing program without the benefits of media.
At the same time, Postal sat down with another colleague, who happened to own a small, goth-oriented retail chain, to discuss distribution. This collaboration resulted in a partnership between Jim Benton, creator of It’s Happy Bunny, with Cindy Levitt, then senior vice president GMM for Hot Topic, and Karen Kiefaber, then vice president DMM at Hot Topic.
Postal calls their first meeting together instantaneous combustion, which resulted in the then-unknown non-media brand’s launch for back-to-school that same year. “We have our 10-year anniversary with Jim Benton’s It’s Happy Bunny this year,” she said.
“We developed an entire new type of licensing, which has since been called trend licensing,” she continued. “It started with It’s Happy Bunny. That’s where we are unique; we look to create new areas and new opportunities where no agency has before.”
To fully capitalize on trend licensing, CopCorp thinks outside the box when it comes to developing licensing opportunities. Traditionally, outside of the US, the only opportunities that have been licensed are media based and more specifically focused on children’s programming.
“We were one of the first agencies that said, ‘Hey, look what we’re doing in the US with our properties. I think we can do this overseas,’” said Postal. “We have at least 35 agents representing us around the world, not only for Jim Benton’s It’s Happy Bunny, but also for a property we took seven years ago called Barcode Cats. We renamed it Barcode Kitties, and we are licensed all over the world except in the US.”
The move to pursue international licensing came, in part, from Postal’s 20-plus years of experience in the industry. Having always worked on a global basis in the past, she knew there were should be no limitations when it came to understanding the fast-shrinking global marketplace.
“People tend to think of themselves as the center of the universe when, in fact, they are not,” she said. “Consumers are consumers and are the same everywhere in the world; we all want pretty things, superheroes, and to laugh. We offer that.”
Bigger isn’t always better
CopCorp differentiates itself from others in the licensing industry by more than its maverick style, however. Unlike many other larger licensing agencies, this one lives by the idea that bigger isn’t necessarily always better, especially when it comes to overhead.
“We work closely with our licensees,” said Postal. “They work with the president of the company, which is me. I set the tone for how this agency works, which is with the mandate of service, service, service.”
Postal and her husband started the company 13 years ago. Six years later, they moved into their first office with six employees and have expanded twice since then. CopCorp now has more than 3,000 square feet of office space overlooking Herald Square and a staff of fewer than 20, but it capably handles the hundreds of people who report in on the agency’s brands from all over the world. “There’s a talent to doing that,” said Postal.
Part of that talent comes from CopCorp’s concept of what growth means. To grow the business, the agency builds its current properties and brands rather than growing only through taking on new clients. “Most of the agencies out there have high overhead, so they have to take on a lot of properties to keep the lights on,” said Postal. “We do take on new properties, but we also focus on growing our current ones.”
CopCorp’s focus is to work on a small number of properties but dig deeper to get involved and develop them. In addition, by giving a lot of empowerment to the licensing representatives who are on the ground at these international ports, the agency has a better ability to understand and communicate with partners in countries as far away as Singapore, South Africa, and Australia.
Postal also attends tradeshows across the world, from the Central Eastern European Licensing Show to the Brand Licensing Show in London. “There are no limits because we work so closely and everyone understands their role in developing the business,” she said. “It’s a hands-on family approach, and it’s a credit to our clients who allow us to work this way.”