If you’ve ever wanted to be friends with John Wayne, now you can—on Facebook. John Wayne Enterprises is reaching out to new audiences and using social media, such as Facebook, and new licensing programs to do it. Lisa Streff, recently named senior vice-president, global partnerships and licensing at John Wayne Enterprises, talks about two new John Wayne licensing initiatives—a new lifestyle licensing program and a kids licensing and entertainment program—and the company’s plans for expanding the brand.
Laurie Leahey: You recently joined John Wayne Enterprises. What is your main focus for licensing this brand?
Lisa Streff: John Wayne Enterprises has done an incredible job with the brand to date, but they’ve brought me on to broaden their licensing program, their categories. They have really been in the classic collectibles, and we really want to expand this brand into areas of publishing, apparel, consumables, home furnishings, advertising, and promotions. The brand is currently a domestic program and so my focus is also to take it global.
L.L.: What types of products will make up the lifestyle program? Who is the target demographic?
L.S.: Apparel is going to be the major launch platform for the lifestyle program. We have developed a vision book, which beautifully tells the story of John Wayne from his personal style to his movie style. His style was so authentic but always very fashionable. And [there are] so many similarities with what’s happening today in the fashion world. But we’re also looking at home furnishings as being another major area. Not just soft goods, like bedding, but we’re also in conversations about furniture lines.
The target demographic is the contemporary male, 25–40. But based on the research and the Q scores [which measure familiarity and appeal of a celebrity or brand], John Wayne’s familiarity with males 18 and older is 98 percent, so we feel that some of the more novelty type items like T-shirts and accessories are going to do very well.
L.L.: With the licensing and entertainment program for kids, how do you get kids interested in a person who is probably more recognizable to their parents and grandparents?
L.S.: There’s always credibility when you have a brand that’s trusted by parents and grandparents, so that’s always a great start. But it’s really about telling a new story to a new audience. It’s taking all those great core components of John Wayne—being trustworthy, a man of integrity, doing the right thing, standing up for the good of the group, being independent. All those great traits that he had in his personal life as well as his movie life, it’s telling that story, taking the platform of this western era, this western icon and using that also as an appeal.
We just recently launched a Facebook page for John Wayne and we are rapidly growing our fans. It’s another great way to get out and keep your fans interested, as well as attract new fans.
L.L.: Will John Wayne Enterprises still be focusing on its classic collectibles program?
L.S.: The collectibles program is a major focus of the program. In tough economic times, our program continues to be as consistent as it was a couple years ago. I think that that shows the strength of the core fan base that exists for John Wayne.
The focus here since Ethan Wayne [John Wayne’s son] took over in 2003 has really been about making products that were core to John Wayne and his passions. One of the iconic products that continues to do well time and time again is W. R. Case knives. John Wayne was an outdoorsman and he always had a pocketknife of some sort. We are continuing to develop that program, doing new material types, adding new branding to it. And then we do everything from our typical wall calendars to magnets, all the great collectible pieces that people want within their home or to give as gifts. We have Sideshow making collectible action figures. We have USAopoly making a collectible Monopoly game.
We currently have 45 licensees and our program is growing. We’ve just, over the last couple months, signed on some great new partners and we’re going to be putting out press releases on that on the first of the year and the business is going to be expanding into a lot of really wonderful areas. We’re even looking at the world of gaming.