Travel Man: Richard Pink captures the glamour of Pan Am

The air bridges have been opened and the holiday makers are scouring the internet for the best deals this summer, but Richard Pink, MD and founder of Pink Key Licensing recalls a time when travel had a certain glamour to it; a time when it was a little less about shipping the hordes from one airport to another, and a little more about enjoying the ride.

That’s what the Pan Am brand signifies; not only for Pink but for the thousands of consumers that engage with it on the same level, and whether today – a period in which we could all do with a touch of glamour about our travel arrangements – that’s an escapism to a ‘time that was’ or a rosy-tinted nostalgia, Pink is very certain of the opportunities abound for the lifestyle brand. catches up with Pink Key’s Richard Pink to discuss Pan Am, the pandemic, and how licensing life – and lifestyle licensing – looks on the other side of the world’s ‘Great Pause.’

Richard Pink, MD and Founder of Pink Key Licensing

How has this period impacted you guys and the brands in the portfolio – how did you ‘control the controllable’ in this scenario and what key take-aways or insights did this period offer you?

It’s pretty much been ‘business as usual’ at Pink Key Towers – the team has always all worked from home so the only real difference was that we were unable to go out to do the face to face meetings and socialising that we would have expected to do through this part of the year. Zoom has become our contact life blood.

I think the big takeaway for us has been that, right at the start we were pro-active in contacting our licensees to understand what their situation was, what issues they were facing and identifying possible solutions, so that we could work with them to establish a practical way forward and also manage our clients’ expectations. This was hugely important.


How do you think the past few months have changed consumers’ mind-sets and their approach to brands/brand engagement? How do you think this affects the brands under the Pink Key portfolio? For instance, Pan Am is a heritage travel brand – is there an opportunity to be found in recent events that tap into that ‘luxury’ feel of the Pan Am brand?

I think this is very hard to define. I wrote recently that I thought licensing was going to benefit from a surge in consumer interest post-lockdown, as I think consumers will have been starved of interaction with the things that make them happy, and I stick by that. However, you do make a good point here, and a brand like Pan Am will benefit from being one that represents a certain escapism for consumers – evoking memories of a time when we COULD go places and fly in a certain glamour and style, rather than what is it now, effectively being treated like cattle!


What have been some of the latest developments for Pink Key across the portfolio? There always seems to be a project on the go or news shared – how is the portfolio looking for this year and beyond?

You’re absolutely right,  we have got some really interesting developments currently going on. I think it’s safe to say that we have a project or at least one new licensee that we are excited about for each of our brands. The programmes are at different stages of development: some, like Kellogg’s, are quite mature with established licensees, so we are asking ourselves how to find opportunities in terms of products and territories where our representation could be better. Some, like Colman’s, are at very early stages, so we are appointing our first licensees in core areas like housewares. Pan Am is especially interesting as we are looking at ‘lifestyle’, and that may allow us to look at licensees in areas we’ve not really considered for our other brands, particularly as the brand has a unique combination of ‘cool’ and ‘heritage’ qualities.

One of the areas we are particularly keen on developing is the on-line distribution of our brands: the current crisis has exposed the over-reliance on ‘bricks and mortar’ stores. Whilst I don’t sense a sea change, I do think it’s accelerated the whole industry’s aspirations in this area and particularly the rise of ‘print on demand’.

As for our portfolio, well …. watch this space….

Talking about Pan Am specifically – what have been the latest developments for you guys here? What partnerships have you secured and in what categories? Are you pleased with the consumer/retailer reception to the brand?

There have been a few developments that have given us a bit of lift recently and this has meant that we are in a much better position to talk to people about product distribution. We were given an early boost by our apparel in H&M and our good friends at Nostalgic Art in Germany are distributing a great range of nostalgic gifting. As with all of our brands, it’s a slow build, however – but we like that.

We have some great licensees building a solid range of products across Europe, but one of the key developments is a new partnership which will see us seriously venturing into ‘print on demand’ with two new licensees placing product in a variety of on-line market places. It is hugely important for us to be able to reach Pan Am fans regularly through social media and allow them to get the kind of products they want whenever they want. One of these new licensees is about to launch a website called ‘Iconospheric’, a print on demand site dedicated to the kind of retro-cool product that Pan Am is so indicative of. We are really proud to be one of the first brands on the site when it launches in September.


Where would you like to take the Pan Am brand next? How do you think the licensing industry has evolved over the past 12 months, and where now do you think Pan Am sits within the lifestyle sphere?

I spoke to Stacy Beck who is VP of Brands and Licensing at Pan Am and her comments would also be mine:

‘Pan Am has traditionally been positioned as a heritage brand due to its over 90 year legacy as “The World’s Most Experienced Airline”. That said, there is a massive opportunity in the market to align Pan Am with a plethora of products and services that embody the highest level of quality, style, and innovation. It is innovation that we feel will provide the most opportunity going forward. With tourism still a massive part of global economies, travellers will be looking for a trusted partner in navigating the new normal of travel. From luxury personal travel accessories, to branded hotels, tours, digital apps, and travel concierge services, Pan Am can emerge as a beacon in a cluttered and mediocre marketplace. We are very excited for the next chapter in this legacy.’ 


How has Pink Key evolved and adapted to changing landscapes over the last 12 months? How do you maintain your strength of position in the market?

For us it’s about growing in line with our portfolio – we know the kind of brands that we are looking for. And I believe that’s what we are known for. We have not wavered in the last few years in our mission to develop solid programmes for brands that we love and that have longevity. As our brands have grown, we’ve put in the resource to support them. We’ve tried not to overstretch ourselves which is tricky sometimes when the success of a brand like SLUSH PUPPiE takes you by surprise.

Where do you think the future of the lifestyle licensing space is heading, and what role do you think Pan Am has to play in it?

I think the consumer is of the mindset to think about the things that the current crisis has taken away and there is going to be a tendency not to take these things quite so much for granted going forward. I think developments in the lifestyle space will reflect this, with people appreciating the finer things in life even more: Pan Am’s personality of glamour and a ‘better life’ is perfectly placed to reflect this and we are looking at products right now that will do just that.


What’s next for Pink Key now?

There are so many unexplored opportunities in our portfolio that all our time is being taken up maximising them to their full potential – but it doesn’t mean we won’t have a couple of new things ready to be announced very soon.