The Smiley Company’s Evolution From Licensor to a €350m Lifestyle Brand

Based in 1971 by Franklin Loufrani, The Smiley Firm constructed its enterprise on distributing its “Smiley” icon by means of greater than 300 licensees throughout 12 main classes, promoting 68 million merchandise a 12 months throughout trend, house, magnificence, artwork, design and meals.

In the present day, the corporate is reinventing itself. Below the management of Loufrani’s son Nicolas, The Smiley Firm has moved away from a mass-market licensing enterprise mannequin and right into a strategically pushed world trend and way of life model.

To allow this trade shift, Loufrani focus was to push the corporate in direction of catwalk collaborations with among the world’s main trend homes and designers. To this point, The Smiley Firm has collaborated with luxurious homes like Dior, Moschino and Loewe, and partnered with retailers and types like Ma(r)ket, Ellesse, Reebok, Puma and Champion, trying to additionally interact the streetwear group.

This spring, The Smiley Firm will introduce its unique Collector’s Version, that includes over 50 designer collaborations throughout a spread of classes. The gathering was developed in partnership with graffiti artist André Saraiva and Sarah Andelman, artistic director of former Parisian boutique, Colette.

Now, BoF sits down with The Smiley Firm’s CEO Nicolas Loufrani to study extra concerning the firm’s cultural influence and its plans for the long run.

Nicolas Loufrani, CEO at The Smiley Company.

What prompted Smiley’s repositioning as a life-style model?

Smiley began as a mass-market merchandising phenomenon within the early Nineteen Seventies. Within the late Nineteen Eighties, it grew to become related to the underground motion from London to Detroit, with home and digital music, which led to overexploitation and little artistic management.

After Smileys developed into the primary graphic emoticons within the late 90s, I made a decision from 2007 to reinvent Smiley as a trend emblem, to refocus the unique Smiley manufacturers and enterprise that my father began. This led to splitting the enterprise into two distinct programmes — the unique Smiley model, our way of life icon, and Smiley World, which is our emoticons enterprise.

To reposition the unique Smiley 15 years in the past, we began working in collaboration with designers, similar to Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Jeremy Scott with the mission “Smiley for Moschino” and Ora-Ito designed our perfume and sweetness vary. That is when Smiley started to achieve higher relevance on the earth of trend and sweetness, and our merchandise began promoting in Selfridges, Henri Bendel and Fred Segal, amongst different division and idea shops the world over.

How has Smiley approached repositioning itself into a life-style model?

Inside the enterprise, we arrange a design studio in London, hiring individuals from throughout the style trade to work inside the trend division, in advertising and throughout the model. We additionally employed PR in key world markets to create hype round Smiley and its merchandise. This helped to strengthen the model we have been constructing round values of happiness, positivity and inclusivity.

We discovered that these are the type of values that attraction to plenty of designers, world manufacturers and trend chains. As we developed extra partnerships throughout the trade, working with luxurious designers and main retailers, we imagine the model grew to become extra related. It’s been a 15-year mission since we started the method in 2007 and now, as of 2022, we generate €200 million value of gross sales globally inside our trend division, working with the largest manufacturers and retail chains on the earth.

What key challenges arose in launching the model?

We had aimed for an preliminary launch of the Smiley model in February 2020, however when the world went into lockdown, sentiment was low, companies have been struggling, individuals have been on furlough — I used to be even questioning if there was any future in promoting garments. However after a couple of months, we began to obtain suggestions that this was what individuals wanted — Smiley was an important message of hope and positivity throughout a time of such uncertainty.

Values of happiness, positivity and inclusivity […] attraction to plenty of designers, world manufacturers and trend chains.

So, we persevered and finally managed to launch the mission in Galeries Lafayette throughout France, Germany, in China and the Center East in addition to Indonesia, Nordstrom within the USA and Canada, City Outfitters in 6 nations for our sport and streetwear choice, and lots of different division retailer chains. We’ve got since signed over 50 model collaborations, similar to with designers similar to Raf Simons, Karl Lagerfeld, Caroline Herrera and Dsquared.

How does Smiley strategy selecting its model collaborators?

Repositioning for us is all about choosing the proper collaborations and dealing with the best manufacturers and influencers. It’s about creating tradition. With this sentiment in thoughts, we made the choice to not put Smiley Originals within the mass-market. We’re as a substitute transferring to create the best appear and feel for Smiley by being selective concerning the designers we work with.

We’ve repositioned from the highest of the pyramid, focusing first on luxurious, sport and streetwear collaborations, like designer a sneaker with Reebok, jerseys with Champion and a backpack with Eastpak. We even have a big mid-tier focus to achieve the Gen-Z shopper, working with trend teams together with Inditex and its manufacturers, like Zara, Pull and Bear and Bershka. Consequently, we create an enormous quantity of recent artwork our studio creates each season and we persistently create unique artworks for every associate.

How has this strategy formed your upcoming assortment launch?

For our fiftieth anniversary marketing campaign, we wished to create one thing distinctive that has by no means been performed earlier than on our scale of enterprise. So, we employed Sarah Andelman, the founding father of Parisian boutique Colette, who has labored with Smiley earlier than on some unique editions. With Sarah’s distinctive popular culture imaginative and prescient, we now have developed a method to make our brand a singular collector’s version, together with hiring creatives similar to avenue artist André Saraiva who recreated the Smiley brand, making our “Take the Time to Smile” message world, translating it into varied languages — from Arabic, Chinese language, Korean, French and German — to talk to a common shopper base.

We’ve repositioned from the highest of the pyramid, focusing first on luxurious, sport and streetwear collaborations.

Our technique is to deal with storytelling. Each programme we launch is supported by artistic movies, visible merchandising, PR, occasions and social media campaigns, with collaboration nonetheless on the centre of our strategy. David Guetta has produced his newest music video with us to unfold our slogan “Take the Time to Smile.” Our avenue artwork will even be a part of his live shows and membership gigs all year long, which began together with his New 12 months’s Eve live performance in Abu Dhabi.

What are The Smiley Firm’s mid-term targets?

We lately trademarked the slogan “Future Optimistic’’, by means of which we plan to create 25 % of our merchandise as sustainable, beneath the “Future Optimistic’’ branding. We’re aiming to realize a one hundred pc dedication to sustainability throughout the life-style manufacturers we work with by means of collaborations and licensing offers. inside 5 years. We’re going to use this as our marketing campaign theme to open corners in malls and to develop model collaborations.

It’s additionally a marketing campaign that we began with Model Licensing Europe, an annual licensing present in London, again in November 2021. We need to present all corporations concerned within the licensing trade {that a} key factor of the long run for us is to indicate we’re right here to advertise and assist change in the way in which we produce and upcycle. This marketing campaign is designed to align with the sustainable growth targets that our non-profit the Smiley Motion has been selling for the previous 4 years.

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