KFC Bucket Hats and the sell-out success of INK Branded

KFC, Warburtons, and the World of David Walliams, if you’ve spotted licensing activity across any or all of these brands over the past few weeks and months, then you’ll be aware of the work INK Branded, a specialists in the licensed apparel and merchandise space that is currently working with some of the tastiest… yes, we’ll stick by that… in the market right now.

While finger lickin’ may have been taken off the menu thanks to social distancing this past 12 months, the cookers certainly haven’t been switched off at KFC HQ, who, via the now-traditional licensing ‘pivot’ has managed to maintain plans to build out a merchandise and retail strategy with the help of the licensing chiefs at INK Branded.

KFC UK and Ireland has now joined the ranks of global lifestyle brands to roll out its own merchandise range, as well as found a new way to reach consumers through the launch of its direct to consumer merchandise platform, KFCshop.co.uk. Meanwhile, Warburtons, too, has been keeping things fresh, taking a humourous approach to its own licensing plans.

In essence, 2020 was anything but a slow year for the team behind so much of the plans put into action across these globally favoured brands. And with business only set to increase over the course of 2021, Licensing.biz thought it high time it got chatting with INK Branded’s director, David Taylor to learn a bit more.

Hi David, thanks for joining us. To start then, how has business been for you guys over the past year?

We’ve been really fortunate over the last year to work with some amazing brands that give us the opportunity to work on a number of exciting projects.

We began working with KFC at the start of the year, developing a line of merch products, while building an overall merchandise and retail strategy. However, many of the plans were delayed due to Covid. Given the circumstances, we worked on a number of internal merch and gifting projects with KFC, creating gift boxes filled with merch that were posted to staff as a thank you for their hard work throughout the pandemic.

From the middle of 2020 we started developing KFC UK&I’s first ever merch range, while also building KFCshop.co.uk, where the merch could be sold direct to consumer. The range and store was launched in November, focusing on four Christmas jumpers which were used as part of KFC’s overall Christmas marketing strategy. They even appeared in the Channel 4 documentary, ‘Inside KFC at Christmas’. The store did great over the festive period – and with 10 per cent of sales going to Comic Relief, it meant we were raising funds for a good cause.

In November we also developed a pair of Crumpet slippers and launched a similar DTC store for Warburtons. To be involved in another big product launch at Christmas time was brilliant. The slippers sold out inside a week and were seen on the likes of Rosie Ramsey, Ollie Murs and Jax Jones. All proceeds were donated to Fair Share which was amazing to be involved in.

How is INK Branded reflective of the current trends in licensing/consumer products? How are you guys pushing innovation in licensing?

We have a talented design team who keep up to date with current and predicted future trends, which informs our product or collection design process.

We also have great supply partners that allow us to manufacture or source just about any product we can imagine. So, innovation for us really starts with the idea and developing products that are different and can stand out. Sometimes that’s creating a product that hasn’t been seen before, or our client hasn’t been involved with before. A hero product that our client can build a piece of marketing around or even challenge our client to innovate.

We’ve also had to innovate how we take products to market. The pandemic has had such an impact on retail, we’ve pushed ourselves to offer a direct to customer solution to our clients, setting up supply chains, create good looking and interactive webstores, overseeing customer care. We’re really proud of our work within this service that we’ve provided over the last year.

What projects have you got lined up for 2021? How are you guys moving with the ever-changing licensing/retail space?

We’re continuing to work with KFC on their merch and retail plans, we have some really exciting things lined up… stay tuned! We’re also continuing to develop and evolve the DTC store; with lots of new product drops planned across daywear and accessories throughout the year.

What’s the next big move for you guys?

I guess it’s working with more big brands, taking the model of both DTC and Retail opportunities to other brands along with our creative approach to product design and development. We’ve got some interesting conversations lined up so hopefully 2021 is exciting for the right reasons.