The Laughing Cow partners with Iconospheric for gifts, prints, and apparel celebrating 100th anniversary

The Laughing Cow has kicked off the New Year with a brand new collaboration with the popular prints and merchandise specialist, Iconospheric.

In a deal brokered by The Laughing Cow’s licensing agency, Pink Key Licensing, Iconospheric has launched a collection of gifts, homewares, prints, and more depicting the 100-year-old food brand. The current range from Iconospheric includes mounted prints, greeting cards, tote bags, mugs, and a range of apparel.

More than 30 SKUs make up a collection designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Laughing Cow brand, drawing on the both its vintage and modern appeal with a mix of graphics.

Richard Pink at Pink Key Licensing, who brokered the partnership, said: “We couldn’t be happier about this new partnership. Iconesphric’s product quality is superb and its fantastic to have an all year round on-line destination for anyone who is fan of products carrying the beautiful Laughing Cow artwork.”

The Breakfast Club: Richard Pink on five successful years with Kellogg’s and Kimm & Miller

It’s a partnership that has spanned the last half a decade and one that continues to move from strength to strength with each year that passes and each new range that finds more and more shelf space within some of the UK’s most popular retail destinations. Kellogg’s and Kimm & Miller have become almost as synonymous as eggs and soldiers, or Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

And there in the middle, the broker of this breakfast behemoth’s gifting gallery, is Pink Key Licensing’s Richard Pink. Together, this formidable trio has managed to push the envelope for food brands in the gifting and the classic brand with vintage appeal sector, building up a portfolio that from small beginnings now sits on shelves at some of the country’s biggest grocers.

And still, there is more to come. 2021 has been earmarked as the year that Kimm and Miller takes the Kellogg’s brand into the housewares sector, a ‘key push for the brand’ that has successfully navigated the waters of 2020 so far to have maintained its strength of position in the market, even throughout its most tumultuous moments.

Here, catches up with Pink Key Licensing’s Richard Pink, and Kimm and Miller’s Dave Kimm to talk about those future plans, the demand for the Kellogg’s brand, and the secrets to a successful licensing partnership.


Richard Pink of Pink Key Licensing

Richard, it’s been a while. Thanks for chatting with us and to kick us off can you talk us through the strength of the Kellogg’s brand? 

Kellogg’s is a hugely important brand in our portfolio. Firstly, it has terrific awareness across  every territory that we manage in Europe which allows not only local activity but also  activity that goes cross-border and even global. Secondly, it’s a very adaptable brand and  works on many levels because it has a contemporary aspect as well as a rich heritage. It appeals right across a very large consumer demographic. 

What does the brand bring to the gifting and vintage/classic brand sector? 

Obviously, there is the food element which works so well for the Kimm and Miller gifting  sets, but there is also the amazing artwork which allows it to work almost like an art license as well. 

Your partnership with Kimm and Miller has been one stretching over the last five years. What success have you had with the Kellogg’s range over that time? 

The range started quite small but has expanded each year based on the success that we  have had. Initially, it was only available in Debenhams and it grew there to become the  largest Christmas gifting range. Since then, Kimm and Miller have developed additional products which have been listed by other retailers such as Tesco and Morrisons that still use the same characters but are distinct from the large range that remains in Debenhams.

Every  year the range has grown and become more successful for us. 

How have you seen the collection develop over that time? 

At this point I think I’ll turn this question over to Dave Kimm who has developed and managed the range…

Dave Kimm, commercial director, Kimm & Miller: Working with the UK’s favourite cereal brand has been and continues to be a great experience. In conjunction with Pink Key we launched our first Vintage Kellogg’s gift range in 2015 with seven SKUs and, in a clear sign of the affection the consumer holds for the  brand, that SKU count has grown fourfold since then, helped on with a move into the  housewares category.

It’s absolutely essential to continually update and refresh the winning  core lines with the wonderful assets available to us whilst also introducing new product  uniqueness into the range on an annual basis.  

What makes Kimm and Miller the ideal partner for this sector and for this brand? 

Richard Pink, Pink Key: Kimm and Miller have enormous experience in understanding brands and which kind of  products will work. They understand the core elements of what appeals to consumers and are able to translate that into products the consumers want to buy, either for themselves or as gifts for others.

They also have first class processes to ensure that the quality of the  product is maintained which is always so important for food and to the brand.

What’s the secret to a successful and long-standing relationship like yours with Kimm &  Miller? And how has that helped in the success of the range and brand at retail? 

The key word here is partnership: We always work together to understand each other’s  needs and we instinctively know when we need to push things a little with the brand to create innovative product.

Kimm and Miller has fantastic retail relationships; they include us in their discussions when necessary so that we can have a direct understanding of what their customers want. And, because of the huge amount of art we have available, we are then able to give retailers things that they want to build on; past successes or respond to emerging trends. 

Can you talk us through any new developments, launches or plans for the Kimm and Miller  partnership? 

My view is that every year we develop the core range, keeping the bits that work and adding  to it so that it always has a certain amount of innovation as well as the core products that we know work so well.

It’s probably a bit early to say how we are going to develop things for next Christmas, however, now that we are working with Kimm and Miller on a broader housewares range, we are able to access new retailers with an all year round  offering.

Dave might also have a view on this…

Dave Kimm: I couldn’t agree more with Richard – the expansion of the housewares range is key to us for 2021 and we are at the beginning of that process as we speak. Even in these extremely testing times for us all, this year our retail channels for Kellogg’s have grown both online and  with the bricks and mortar retailers. I believe that in itself is proof of the affection and  fondness Tony, Cornelius, Coco et al are held in and we need to ensure both our housewares  range and Vintage gift sets continue to reflect that popularity.

How strong will the range be this Q4 and as we move into the new year? 

Richard Pink: I’m glad you asked me that! Every year the range just seems to get stronger. Even in a  difficult year like this we have been able to maintain the sales of our range. It makes me  believe that, as (hopefully) retail begins to open up next year our range will be stronger than  ever.

Thank you both, is there anything you’d like to add? 

I’d like to leave the final words to Alex the designer at Kimm and Miller for the Kellogg range whose input is absolutely invaluable: 

‘Working with a brand like Kellogg’s is a total privilege – the archive is really well-managed  and it’s always enjoyable to come up with new ideas that work with the classic characters. 

‘Kellogg’s and the Pink Key team give us a lot of trust and flexibility, which we have built on  over the years. I always get a real buzz when I see the finished range come together – it’s so vibrant and bright and I hope it makes people happy when they receive one of our gifts for  Christmas.’

Roundtable: Creating a brand with longevity and the factors that build a programme with steam

Richard Pink, Ashley Holman, Nikki Samuels, Gabrielle Sims, and Asda/George children’s buyer, Ruth Golightly, are among the licensing experts taking part in a specially curated panel session at next week’s Festival of Licensing, exploring the topic of brand longevity and the multitude of factors that need to be aligned in order to nurture one.

Titled, Building a Long-Term Programme: What do Licensors Need to Do? the session will be available from 9am on Tuesday, October 6th, and will be available to view on demand for 30 days afterwards. spoke to all five ahead of the session to offer up a flavour of the topics, conversations, and conclusions that viewers and attendees of Festival of Licensing can expect from the special panel session. So settle in and get your first taste of what’s to come here. Remember, licensees can register to attend for free at

Hello, firstly, to the four of you and thank you for taking the time ahead of what’s looking like a busy four weeks for us all!

To kick off the conversation and give us a flavour of your panel session, let’s jump right in to it. So, can you tell from the outset when a brand is going to have longevity? And if so, what are the key markings of an ‘ever green’ brand?

Richard Pink, MD, Pink Key Licensing

Richard Pink, managing director, Pink Key Licensing: I think it will always come down to the motivation and commitment of the brand owner to put the elements in place, anyone else in the licensing chain will feed off this but if it isn’t there then the brand will struggle regardless of how strong it is. 

Ashley Holman, managing director, Riverside Brands: In terms of new brands launching this is very hard to tell, but if an established brand is getting into licensing for the first time it is easier to tell by looking at how they are entering the licensed market. If it is through considered, well thought out brand extensions that make sense to the core brand values, then it has a chance to build for the long term versus quick win deals that aren’t meaningful to the core values.

Nikki Samuels, CEO, Factory: Evergreen Brands understand what their consumer wants. You can’t tell from the outset if it’s going to be an ‘evergreen property’ but if the brand makes the consumer feel like a hero and positions itself as a guide there is a chance it will have longevity.

Ruth Golightly, head of buying, children’s clothing, ASDA/George: I do get a gut feeling for what will be successful in my section of retail. I engage with licensees and other buyers at my company in other categories to get their thoughts, but you never really know how much longevity brands will have as the customer now wants new and different more often.

Gabrielle Sims, head of licensing, FatFace: I’m a firm believer that a brand that has a strong identity and if it evolves with consistent and clear brand values it will always run the test of time. It’s key that brands listen, inspire and engage their core target market without compromising their values and brand promise.

Ruth Golightly, head children’s buyer, Asda/George

So looking at the big picture then, what role would you suggest each element of the brand creation process – from licensor to retailer – have to play in creating a brand with longevity? 

Richard Pink: The more disparate the elements become, the more difficult it is to have a cohesive programme. The closer communication between the parties, the more a brand programme will become greater than the sum of its parts

Ashley Holman: They are all intertwined, and one doesn’t work without the other. The licensor needs to be clear on the brand positioning and what the consumer might like to see in terms of licensed extensions, as well as provide the tools needed for licensees and retailers to activate through internal resource, style guides and so on.

The licensee needs to have a good understanding of the brand, design interesting and exciting products as well as present to retail in the right way. The retailer needs to buy in to the overall concept, dedicate adequate space in store for it to be visible and not get lost on shelf and support in store where possible.

Nikki Samuels: The licensor must have a very clear strategy and a plan for the brand and who its consumer is. This must be communicated with all the licensor’s partners. If you confuse you lose, not having a clear plan is a guaranteed way to lose longevity.

Ruth Golightly: The most important thing is communication, and listening to ensure you all have similar goals, timing is also a key element.

Gabrielle Sims: All elements of the process have to play their part. It’s really important for brands to partner with the right companies and retailers that have the same vision and goals.

Nikki Samuels, CEO, Factory

So it’s communication, cohesion, and stringent planning. How then do you nurture a brand with longevity through licensing? How important is it to get this element right?

Richard Pink: This is everything and it’s all about patience and doing the right deals to enhance the brand value. Delivering a long-term strategy sometimes means turning down short term financial deals if they don’t fit. 

Ashley Holman: Considered brand extensions versus label slapped quick wins is crucial.

Nikki Samuels: Brands need to be nurtured with great partners that are all working towards the same vision for the consumer. When the consumer interacts with a brand they want to know how this brand can make their lives better.

Ruth Golightly: As a retailer, it’s important that the brand has a presence across all channels – physical stores and online. At Asda we ensure we have a credible offer on across many categories such as clothing, nightwear, toys, home and accessories, so that the customer can buy into the brand for every aspect of life.

Gabrielle Sims: Brands don’t evolve overnight. It takes time and a lot of love and effort. Like anything, the more time and investment you put into a brand, the more you get out of it. It’s so important to listen to your customer, gain trust, and have a clear vision on where and how you want your brand to seamlessly evolve into for licensing.

Your panel session is going to be delving into the topic of ensuring your brand has steam as a key element of creating a brand with real longevity. In such a competitive space that licensing now is, how do you ensure your brand has steam? 

Richard Pink: Always go back to core brand values, as these are the things that differentiate it from other brands. Also, identify the consumer – that way you can match the two together with the right product. 

Ashley Holman: Refreshing of creative and other marketing assets to keep things fresh for the end consumer, even if the brand itself remains consistent.

Nikki Samuels: Brands have to become part of a consumer’s life and be trusted. In today’s world, with so much competition, being authentic and speaking directly to the consumer, making them feel like a hero, will gain steam. Brands that position themselves as heroes don’t last long, they need to be positioned as the guide.

Gabrielle Sims: One of the hardest and challenging things to overcome these days. But if you have a strong brand, loyal customer base and you stay true to your core values, innovate and excite, you are set to come through the other end.

Do you think a brand’s staying power be curated through licensing alone?

Richard Pink: Yes, but it’s harder and there has to be a commitment to delivering everything that is necessary to provide resources to the licensing chain. That’s a how a brand like Pan Am can stay relevant, long after the planes have stopped flying.

Ashley Holman: To a degree, if the strategy is executed correctly then the licensed product itself can become so intertwined with the core brand offering that it can live on, even if the original brand heritage wanes.  

Ashley Holman, MD, Riverside Brands

Nikki Samuels: Definitely not, licensing is only a part of a brand’s marketing and it’s very important that the right consumer products that fit the brand’s values are licensed. Products that don’t fit with brand values will confuse the consumer. 

Gabrielle Sims: Yes, if curated properly – having key strong partners that work together and communicate is key. It’s about partnership, long term vision and investment by all.

What is it that consumers are consumers from their brands today? 

Richard Pink: Value and imagination. The consumer is way too savvy for label slapping, they have strong associations for some brands, and they want them reinforced by the product they see.

Ashley Holman: Authenticity, interesting extensions and something that is relevant to the core DNA of the brand identity.

Nikki Samuels: I believe consumers want brands that they can trust and know what they are doing. They want to know if investing their time and money in this brand will be worth it.

Ruth Golightly: Customers want trust in a brand they are buying into, whether that’s knowing the ethics and sustainability ethos of a brand, or knowing that products are the right quality they expect.

Gabrielle Sims: Consumers expect so much from brands. The obvious being quality, price, loyalty, transparency and sustainability, but today brands need to be nimble and convenient too to allow for that ‘ instant’ ‘I want it now’ turn around.

How has this changed the boxes that need to be ticked to become a brand with longevity?

Richard Pink: It really hasn’t – you just have to be firm of what the appeal of your brand is (which could be many things) and keep delivering on it in spades. Oh, and keep innovating!

Gabrielle Sims, head of licensing, FatFace

Ashley Holman: It hasn’t really, those brands that have stood the test of time, especially those with extensive licensing programmes have always adhered to these principles. They may have just moved with the times in terms of new categories and marketing techniques, but the principle remain the same.

Nikki Samuels: I think that brands now have to have clear values and guide their consumers how to interact with them every day because they are making their consumer’s lives better.

Ruth Golightly: It’s not just about selling ‘stuff’ anymore, it’s about a lifestyle that customers buy into.

Gabrielle Sims: I don’t think this has ever changed I just think brands are under more pressure to deliver on all levels. Especially speed to market.

Available on demand from 0900 Tuesday 6 October at – attendees must register in advance to access the platform and all of the Festival’s content.

Building a Long-Term Programme: What do Licensors Need to Do?
Nikki Samuels, CEO, factory
Ruth Golightly, Head of Buying, Children’s Clothing, Asda/George
Ashley Holman, Managing Director, Riverside Brands
Gabrielle Sims, Head of Licensing, FatFace
Moderator: Richard Pink, Managing Director, Pink Key Licensing

Fruit pickings: Richard Pink talks the history and future of the Vimto brand in licensing

With the tagline ‘Seriously Mixed Up Fruit’, Vimto already spans a wealth of foods and drinks from Vimto Fudge packaged in artwork that will take consumers on a trip through the brand’s history, to the more contemporary looking, and sounding, Vimto Candy Spray. But with a new licensing agent in Pink Key Licensing and the food and beverage licensing specialist, Richard Pink himself, the Vimto brand is about to embark on a seriously new venture entirely.

It was earlier this month that Pink lifted the lid on his company’s new partnership with the Vimto brand, appointed to manage the non-food activity for the 110 year old brand here in the UK, marking the first time in its history that Vimto’s logo, slogans, and imagery would be thrust into the licensing limelight.

Armed with a library of designs spanning more than a century of Vimto, the programme, Pink declared, will cover both the depth of the Vimto archive, as well as the design and style of the contemporary brand. Now, as Richard Pink, MD of Pink Key Licensing prepares to showcase the brand’s style guides at the upcoming Festival of Licensing, takes its chance to talk with Pink about how he got himself seriously mixed up with the fruity new brand.

Hello again, Richard! It’s clearly a busy year for Pink Key Licensing this year. Can you talk to us about the latest addition to the portfolio then, what attracted you to the Vimto brand and what does it bring to the Pink Key offering?

Vimto is a brand that I’ve always felt was a good fit for us. Its combination of heritage and contemporary styling as well as the product categories it lends itself to fits brilliantly into the business model we have already developed for our other brands. At the same time it has some unique features that mean that there is little or no conflict with our existing portfolio. 

What does the Vimto brand bring to the licensing space, spanning its 110 year heritage and its contemporary appeal?

While there are a number of brands that have heritage programmes, there are very few who also continue to change and develop the way that Vimto has. This is a unique combination that gives it the broadest possible appeal to the older consumer who will be drawn to the heritage aspects that play into what they remember growing up, but also the younger generation who see it as a brand for them. In addition there is an ‘Englishness’ about the brand that is at the core of its identity. 

So why is now the right time to be bringing the Vimto brand into the consumer products space for the first time? And, what are your plans to make this an impactful launch into the market?

The launch now is because the brand feels that the time is right for them – they have a proven track record of food licensing that they have made a great success of and they can see the value in also leveraging their unique heritage to consumers who have grown up with the brand. Our plan is to identify the categories and products that are the most natural fit for Vimto and build a platform from there for the long term. 

What is the strategy for tapping into both the heritage/vintage style of the brand, as well as its more modern look? 

We are very lucky as we feel like we have two distinct audiences to go after, and while there will be some product overlap it will mean the range of categories and styles will be bigger than it would have been with, for example, just the heritage.

If we know the kind of brands that catch your eye, Vimto will be one with a rich history and story to tell… How will you be telling that story through its licensing programme?

It think that’s going to come down to the licensee execution – the archive is a story in itself, and if the licensees feel that it’s appropriate to support what they do with the story of the development of Vimto, then we have all the tools they need to allow them to do it.

What is it about Vimto that keeps it relevant to audiences today? How big a part will licensing play in maintaining that?

The modern execution of the Vimto brand is very different to its heritage – the product stands for different things today, but it always carries its history with it. Part of the reason why it’s more popular now than it ever was, is because it hasn’t stood still, its adapted to consumer tastes and styles – our programme is going to reflect and re-enforce the brand position. 

What will be the first steps taken in this new partnership for you? What product categories do you think Vimto will perform best within?

It’s important to make sure that we’ve identified the categories that we think are most relevant. Obviously things related to the core product will be key such as drinkware, but the archive is almost an art gallery so that gives us endless possibilities for development into categories where this might work. 

If I know one thing about licensing – whatever you think will happen probably won’t! I could guess that housewares and food gifting will drive this programme but all it take is a retailer to find design they like for a T-shirt and the whole game could change!

How will you guys be pushing the envelope of innovation in licensing as you develop the portfolio?

It’s funny; the words ‘heritage’ and ‘innovation’ would seem to be mutually exclusive, but we’ve seen some great ideas from licensees we’ve worked with that has given a whole new take on the brands we manage that can make a difference. I’ve learnt that the more focus there is on innovation the more longevity there is in a programme. There are products that will be obvious for this programme and driven by the design from the style guides but we are always open to new ideas on any brand.

We want to hear from any licensees who think they can do a great job with this brand – the art we have available is amazing and we can’t wait to hear what licensees could do with it.

In the (food and) drink with Richard Pink – Pink Key Licensing and the moveable feast of F&B licensing

Richard Pink and his Pink Key Licensing business has become almost synonymous with the food and beverage licensing market, with a portfolio ranging from Kellogg’s, Colman’s, and PG Tips through to the likes of Pringles, SLUSH PUPPiE, and who can forget The Laughing Cow?

But it’s by Pink’s own admission that this was never a deliberate move, but moreover a natural gravitation of the firm towards the kind of brands that have a story to tell. There’s a rich history of cultural affinity with brands like Kellogg’s, Colman’s, and PG Tips that is shared the world over that arguably places this particular trio in the bracket of heritage licensing, while Pringles, SLUSH PUPPiE, and The Laughing Cow (La Vache Qui Rit for our French speaking friends) certainly tap into today’s demand for brands of pop culture status.

No, it may not have been a deliberate move in Pink’s part to find the common thread that ties all of these brands – and the extended Pink Key Licensing portfolio of those outside of Food and Beverage licensing – together, but it was certainly a very smart one, curating a central hub for some of the most iconic brands to have dominated the supermarket aisles and homestead across the decades.

Here, catches up with Richard Pink, MD or Pink Key Licensing to talk about the latest trends in the Food and Beverage licensing space, the strength of the Pink Key Licensing portfolio within it, and what the future holds for the market.

It’s always enjoyable looking at the Pink Key portfolio for its Food & Beverage brands and those iconic names with real history. How would you summarise the Pink Key approach to F&B licensing?

Our focus on F&B licensing is a strategy which has evolved organically rather than deliberately. I think people have seen what we have done with Kellogg’s and SLUSH PUPPiE and begun to associate us with these types of brands. Having said that, we have developed a bit of a mantra as we’ve grown: we have to love the brand – genuinely; if we don’t love it, I don’t think we can make anyone else love it and we have to want to keep it in our portfolio forever.

Kellogg’s, Colman’s, and PG Tips arguably straddle both F&B and heritage/vintage thanks to their history and cultural role across the decades, while Laughing Cow, Pringles, and SLUSH PUPPiE are iconic in their own right. Is there a common theme for all of these brands? What do you look for in a brand?

That’s probably the third part of our mantra and something all our brands have in common: they all have a story to tell. Sometimes, as you say, this comes from the heritage of the brand but with a brand like SLUSH PUPPiE, although it plays on people’s memories, it’s still very much a contemporary brand and its story is all about what the brand is going to do in the future, where we can go and how it can develop. This is exactly the same as Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Pringles.

What are some of the key trends in F&B licensing at the moment, and how is the Pink Key portfolio tapping into these right now?

The trends for food and beverage licensing tend to be around particular eras, and luckily, we have access to a broad bank of artwork for each of our brands. As a result, we are able to allow licensees access to artwork by particular decades, for example.

Additionally, with SLUSH PUPPiE, we are very fortunate to work with the licensing agency in America, Design Plus, run by Carol Janet who has managed the brand globally and developed the style guide and assets for many years. As a result, we can be really proactive in developing artwork very quickly to reflect any trend that comes to the market.

What is the strength of the F&B licensing market like right now? Have you seen it evolve and grow over the last year, and how have events of recent months affected or influenced this market in particular?

The Food & Drink licensing market has been very strong now for a number of years. I think this is principally down to the depth and breadth of available assets. Retailers and licensees have become more aware of the amount of amazing artwork that is available because of the rich heritage of many of these brands. I think this is why the trend towards brands with strong logos and a large body of available art has been sustained over the last few years. The fact that interest in these brands has maintained has been extremely exciting for us and, although the lockdown has ‘paused’ things for everyone, I don’t see this changing.

What do you think the future looks like for the F&B licensing market coming out of this peculiar period? How responsive to this sector is retail at the moment, and how will this look going forward?

It’s very hard to say how the market will be affected by Covid and the lockdown, in the same way that it is difficult to predict this for any market sector. However, because of the rich heritage, I believe that consumers are likely to gravitate towards things they find familiar, and I believe inevitably this will have a positive effect for the food and drink licensing sector.

Can you talk us through some of the latest updates for the F&B portfolio, what have been some of the key partnerships you’ve lined up this year? Anything that’s taken you by surprise this year?

We’ve had an extremely strong year with all of our brands. I don’t think we are alone in looking into the possibilities of getting closer to the consumer through Direct to Consumer Print on Demand websites, to try and give ourselves an all year round presence as an additional distribution channel that will support our main business through licensees.

I always say that the brand in our portfolio that completely took me by surprise is SLUSH PUPPiE: we have been amazed by the consumer response and it seems to go from strength to strength driven primarily by the amazing work done by Fizz Creations and their ubiquitous SLUSH PUPPiE machine (available at all good retailers!) along with a range of accessories.

We have also been really pleased by the sales of Manchester Drinks frozen pouches, and we have some very exciting new licensees lined up for the brand who will be bringing product to market later this year.

There seems to have been plenty of activity surrounding The Laughing Cow over the course of 2019/2020 – why is this brand resonating the way it is, and what is the UK strategy for this one?

It’s still early days but the initial response we’ve had has been very positive, particularly in apparel. I believe it resonates because of the heritage and people’s positive associations with it, and the graphics are incredibly strong, but principally because the brand is so positive – it’s all about laughing, and we all need a laugh these days.

Also, we are delighted that our partners for SLUSH PUPPiE and ICEE in the US, Design Plus, have also been appointed as the US agent for the Laughing Cow – we work so well together and I think it’s going to be hugely positive for the brand and its programme.

What further developments in the F&B space can we expect from Pink Key this year and next?   

We are always looking at ways to strengthen our portfolio, but it has to meet the criteria that I outlined at the start. We do have a couple of ongoing conversations which are proving to be very positive indeed and hope to be able to make an announcement nearer to BLE about an addition to our portfolio.


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.