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Interviews

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NICOLAS LOUFRANI, CHIEF ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, SMILEY

7 Jun - 2022

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Nicolas Loufrani is participating in a panel at Europe’s Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit in London on 21 June

Alongside The Point.1888’s founder and CEO Will Stewart and Products of Change founder and CEO Helena Mansell-Stopher, Nicolas will talk about how purpose breeds success, why it’s important to business and customers, what role the licensing industry has to play and what opportunities it can create.

Tell us, who are you and how does your business fit into the licensing eco-system?  

I am CEO of the Smiley Company.

We’re a licensing company, which means we exist by co-creating with our brand partners and retail partners.  We have products across 14 different categories including fashion and accessories, beauty, home decor but also publishing, food and beverages.  We work with the biggest and best global and local partners to spread happiness through unique and engaging co-creations with a positive marketing message.  Our vision is to focus on innovation, creativity and a unique approach to every partner in order to create truly interesting and inspirational products.

What is the biggest challenge for the licensing industry right now? 

Well, if I speak about challenges linked to my panel at B&LIS, you have to understand that the purpose of the licensing industry is to constantly create new pop culture trends. What people in our industry want is to ensure new generations of kids and teens will like new cartoons, new movies, new pop stars, new global events so you can sell new products that will be outdated as soon as possible and you can sell something else. It is an industry based on novelty, which is the opposite of sustainability. And you also have evergreens like us obviously who could be seen as sustainable as long as people only buy them second hand. You don’t need to buy a new Barbie doll when there are hundreds of millions of used ones, you don’t need a new Lego set when billions of bricks are already in existence and you don’t need a new Smiley t-shirt when millions are available on vintage platforms. Yet our industry is part of a supply chain that makes billions of people on earth have a job in various industries and sustain their families. The only way we can reconcile those opposite issues is by creating the standards to maintain those jobs we need to survive while respecting the environment we need to survive.

And this ties neatly into your B&LIS session which discusses how purpose breeds success? Tell us more about that and about the role that the licensing industry has to play.

Purpose means a lot of things. Right now, there is hype around sustainability, but purposeful IPs have always existed. Sesame Street to me is the best example of a brand that has a real purpose to educate kids and support communities. And, of course, Smiley, whose mission has always been to spread happiness and positive thinking. Many brands are clearly educational, and STEM is also something important with children. We could discuss examples of purposeful IPs in many fields.

How do those tastes differ throughout Europe?

Well, as we know, Europe still has very different cultures and iconic local IPs in every country. And you also have global ones. Same with brands and big retail chains. So, with everything, there is a mix of both a global and a local culture in each country.

Happy Birthday, by the way, please tell us how you are celebrating your 50th anniversary? 

Our 50th anniversary is a milestone for us, and we have planned a year-long series of activations and very special brand collaborations. We have spent the past two years working on an amazing anniversary campaign on a scale no other IP has ever reached and that is the result of our creativity and network.

We have opened more than 80 pop up shops with world-leading department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Nordstrom. Within the stores, we feature brand collaborations from 65 major designs and brands, with unique collector products based on the works of art created by André Saraiva. We launched a global street art manifesto for positivity with him in the heart of 10 global cities, which featured a guerrilla fly postering to spread our message of ‘Take The Time To Smile’. This was supported by working with David Guetta to feature the campaign’s posters in his music video.

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