26 Jan 2021
Art as information science
Digital assets such as brands and intellectual property (IP) compositions are even more portable than seeds – but can be equally fickle about where they will and will not take root and grow.
IP marketing might seem a safe area amid the COVID-19 pandemic – there are no concerns over supply chains – but IP sellers need an intimate knowledge of target-market features such as culture and taste.
Guiding IP buyers and sellers through the global maze, the 19th HKTDC Hong Kong International Licensing Show (HKILS), organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), ran from 11 to 15 January as a five-day online event.
The HKILS attracted more than 250 exhibitors from around the globe and drew an audience of over 6,200 buyers from 47 countries and regions. In addition to buyers from Hong Kong and Mainland China, strong participation from key Asian markets including Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam was recorded. About 1,200 online business-matching meetings were arranged during the show to connect global licensing players with new business opportunities.
The 10th Asian Licensing Conference (ALC), which ran concurrently with the HKILS, featured about 40 speakers from top global brands along with renowned industry elites. The conference attracted more than 20,000 viewers, highlighting how the online format offers networking opportunities spanning the globe. Licensing Academy was among the most popular programme channels at the conference, and participants interested in learning the know-how and practical tips in managing IPs and licensing business shared very positive feedback on the programme.
“Under the impact of the pandemic, the business environment in 2021 remains very challenging. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong International Licensing Show and Asian Licensing Conference were able to attract a wide range of leading international brands and licensing industry elites to participate and explore licensing opportunities with brands, including personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and hygiene products, and stay-at-home products and services, to help create new licensing opportunities amid the current volatility,” said HKTDC Executive Director Margaret Fong.
Ms Fong said the licensing business can bring high-end value to companies and boost competitiveness. Global retail sales of licensed merchandise reached US$293 billion in 2019, showing annual growth of 4.4%. Asian and mainland markets are expected to remain as growth engines for the licensing industry. She said the online business matching service offered through the HKILS digital platform successfully connected buyers and IP owners to help forge valuable partnerships.
Exhibitors at the HKILS were pleased to have the chance to reach out to international buyers during the pandemic through the show’s virtual platform. Many individual artists and young brands in Hong Kong that exhibited at the show managed to meet both local and international buyers and solicit promising leads.
Digital growth engine
Digital IPs were a popular category at the show despite the global pandemic. Quillo Entertainment, a first-time Hong Kong exhibitor focusing on gaming production and animation, met numerous international licensees at the show and decided to develop more animation content to cater for the expansion of the company’s licensing portfolio.
Stella Cheung, General Manager of Hong Kong’s Art Cycle Group, said she had met a mega retail group and a famous fast-food chain from Hong Kong during the show and hoped to explore further cooperation with both companies on her firm’s IP, the Robot Nick character.
Wing Y Li, founder of Hong Kong exhibitor SHIBAINC, was thrilled to meet licensees and licensing agents from various countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. She also met a number of Hong Kong buyers, including a famous Hong Kong food and beverage brand, and expected a potential partnership to be concluded after the show.
Among participating international buyers, Perfect Drink, a Malaysian fast-food restaurant, was impressed by Hong Kong’s creativity and had positive discussions with numerous Hong Kong exhibitors about developing its souvenirs and gifts.
Art and creative IPs show versatility
Art licensing was a hot area for licensing buyers who attended the HKILS this year. Jackson Tan, founder of Singaporean exhibitor Art-Zoo, shared that the pandemic had disruptive impact on its fast-growing creative art business. Art-Zoo Inflatable Parks launched in Singapore (main picture), the mainland, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan were hit with a significant drop in the number of visitors but Mr Tan made the best out of the year by developing content and animations to expand his licensing portfolio. It was the second time Art-Zoo had joined the HKILS and Mr Tan said the online platform assisted the company to effectively explore licensing opportunities amid the pandemic.
CATART (「貓．美術館」) from Japan used the HKILS to arrange fruitful meetings with buyers from Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan. The company had already engaged its Taiwan partner to follow up with potential merchandisers or licensees for its art exhibitions and campaigns.
A total of 40 heavyweight speakers addressed viewers during the online Asian Licensing Conference. The event offered four video-on-demand viewing channels including “Expert Sharing: Culture and Arts”, “Expert Sharing: Digital Entertainment”, “Entrepreneur Dialogue” and “Licensing Academy”, with participants able to view the full conference programme at their own convenience.