Catching up with Peter Hollo, Licensing International, Germany
Total Licensing spoke to Peter Hollo, who runs Licensing International in Germany, and is also owner of the TOYS & GAMES Report, a high-profile management consultant and a true insider in terms of the business. Peter gave us his personal thoughts as to the coming year.
We are not doomed!
“At this time of the year I usually get asked, what will happen next? In the licensing business or in all the other projects I am part of. Well, the simple answer is, I don´t know. Because if I knew, I wouldn´t be writing this column or working hard for a living. I would send greeting cards from my private island and sip on a Bloody Mary!
But lightness aside for a moment, 2021 will be tough. It will be tough for licensing in Germany and in any other German market and probably in almost any other country in the world. In my view 2020 has only been the overture to a mighty storm hitting us all in 2021. Why do I use these dramatic words? I will explain to you. Are we inevitably doomed? No, we aren´t. We will fight and we will win, but there will be casualties.
Most of us went into 2020 with full naivity and innocence. We had heard that there was something going on in China …well, it was their own business …and it suddenly struck us. And it took months for the public to understand how threatening it all was.
But we did not only start 2020 with innocence, we started with money in our pockets and with (licensing) agreements that were signed way before Covid. Today licensors or agents, or anybody who owns an intellectual property, does this, generally, with emptied pockets, because they had to respond to the unpleasant situation financial situation in 2020 and had to sell something in a situation, that didn’t look too promising.
Even the industry’s majors have to accept that it’s no longer big against small. It’s fast and flexible against slow. I don’t think it feels too comfortable owning theme parks or cruise ships that currently gobble up ‘everything’ you do well in other fields of your business empire.
In Germany we have the comfortable situation (I´m sure some will argue), that the German government supports businesses with massive payments (which next generations will have to repay) and with a temporarily change of the insolvency law and regulations. Some companies might be in insolvency already under the usual law, but are not obliged to file this. But this will hit us in 2021, when this goes back to normal. We will very likely be facing an insolvency wave of never before seen dimensions, in almost every part of the economy. Not especially in licensing. But we will feel it. Either directly or indirectly. Because we are a part of a deeply interrelated economic ecosystem.
So? Not everything is awesome in Germany? First of all we are Germans, this means there never ever is anything we would refer to as awesome – quite okay is the best you can get. This separates us from the Americans, where everything is awesome, or even more.
But as I said before, this does not mean that we are inevitably doomed. There are industries in Germany that are working quite okay/awesome! Anything that is connected to toys, games, home-decor and others, basically every industry, who sells cocooning as an idea. If you sell board games or puzzles, 2020 and 2021 will make you smile.
And this is such a big opportunity for the German licensing industry. Find the right markets. Adapt your portfolio. Discuss, evaluate and execute new strategies, new franchises and new properties. This crisis challenges every single company and every single person working for it. It’s disruptive power is so outrageous, that it will change our market forever. And you either go with the flow or you will be swept away forever. I admit, this is difficult and will require guts and resilience. But there is simply no alternative. Sticking to the good old times and hoping they will come back might be an entrepreneurial death sentence. If you are not one of the very very lucky ones, who can simply lean back and watch. There’s always an exeption to the rule.
And the crisis shows another reality, we all knew was there, but we still never reacted to. The unhealthy superiority of the movie industry in the licensing business. Please don’t get me wrong. I love a good movie and good popcorn entertainment, but we encounter now what happens when the lights go out.
We’re alone in the dark. The gaming industry worlwide is much bigger, than the movie industry. Why has licensing concentrated so hard on the next massive boxoffice hit and has always seen the gaming industry as nice to have?
Once again, this is not bashing one and celebrating the other. It’s an offer to open one’s eyes. In the current situation, everything is possible and projects are likely to be looked at which in ‘usual’ times would have never been discussed. Do it.
And the current situation is a massive opportunity for well seasoned traditional brands, franchises and properties.
Those who we, and maybe even our parents, grew up with. Brands, franchises and properties, that feel warm and cozy and familiar. Like a warm blanket or a hot bowl of chicken soup. In times of a crisis people (not only consumers) turn to these. Give them the opportunity to lay back and encounter them, to rediscover their propositions and values.
Let me end this with some caring words for those who will not be winners in this all. We will lose companies (worldwide) in this and other businesses. People will lose their roles and positions.
Not only the lazy ones, the slow or the arrogant. It will be people like you and me. Hardworking professionals, who gave their best. To fail is a very human thing, not a personal flaw. Don’t be ashamed, talk to people around you.
Don’t suffer in silence. And to the winners: don’t look down, this could be you.
Be kind, be mindful and help. A good way of going through such hard times is to show a helpful attitude towards the people around you.
Take care …and stay well!”