Condé Nast can no longer be defined as a magazine publisher. With Condé Nast Entertainment, full-service agency 23 Stories, digital-only publications including Clever, them, and Epicurious, and the investments that have been poured into social and creative capabilities, it's now a media empire. These diverse offerings have turned this "magazine publisher" into an attractive partner for product manufacturers and licensing opportunities.
Over the last decade, our publishers have become multifaceted marketers through social media, first-party customer data, and retargeting on top of traditional brand and print circulation. And, according to 23 Stories chief experience officer Josh Stinchcomb, all of Condé Nast’s brands have done at least one brand-licensing program.
“When you combine the insight we can glean from hundreds of millions of consumers, the relevance of iconic brands in our stable and the power of our distribution platforms, I like our chances in any market environment,” Stinchcomb said in an interview with Digiday.
No one at Condé Nast knows this better than Cathy Hoffman Glosser, SVP of Licensing. I sat down with Glosser to discuss the company's history with licensing, her favorite projects, and the art of telling a brand story in a completely new way.
What's the origin story of Condé Nast's licensing department? How did you get involved?
Conde Nast has been in the licensing business for some time across product, image, and endorsement licensing. I joined Condé almost three years ago. Over the last few years, we have taken a close look at the three areas of the business, driving awareness and growth across all.
I actually started my career at Conde Nast, working at Glamour in the editorial fashion department! I made a move to LA, where fashion publishing opportunities were pretty scarce, so I shifted my interest in fashion and creativity into the entertainment licensing business, where I was involved in the development of new products and merchandising. I was in the entertainment licensing business for a number of years, working for companies such as Saban (in the original Power Rangers hey day!) and Marvel, where I ran their domestic licensing business. I ultimately made a move back to New York and had my own consultancy where The New York Times was one of my primary clients.
What's a typical day like in licensing?
I think my love of licensing really stems from the multi-faceted nature of the business. It blends sales and deal making with brand management and product development. Each day is like no other. It includes pitching opportunities, deal negotiation, immersing people into our brands, product development and merchandising, and ultimately seeing actual product in market and making it into consumer’s hands.
The licensing business is a relationship driven business. We create deals with partners and manufacturers that need to balance brand guidelines with distribution opportunities with manufacturers, distributors and retailers. In fact, I’ve done deals since being at Condé Nast with companies I’ve worked with many times over the years
I oversee the Licensing division at Condé, which is inclusive of product, image and endorsement licensing. The online Condé Nast store rolls up to Licensing as well. It is our print-on-demand site that primarily sells wall art, as well as giftable items. I also oversee the Condé Nast Archive, where we house millions of iconic assets. It is a treasure trove for photography and complete issues of Condé’s magazines, which have been collected and preserved since their inception.
How has the licensing industry changed in the last 5-10 years?
Ten years ago, the licensing business was primarily focused on traditional brick and mortar sales. Today, diversified distribution is critical to reaching a wider swath of prospective consumers, inclusive of e-commerce, print on demand, direct to retail, off-price, big box, and direct to consumer.
Describe some of the coolest projects you've worked on
Since being at Condé, one of the most rewarding projects I worked on was the collaboration between Glamour and Lane Bryant. It was a real partnership between Glamour (both on the edit and business side), Licensing, and Lane Bryant. Everyone was engaged and committed to making the collection a big success and the results were great with more than 80,000 units sold!
Getting immersed in the endorsement licensing business has been a lot of fun. We have growing franchises across most of the Condé brands including our most iconic and successful, Allure Best of Beauty Awards, as well as Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards, the GQ Grooming Awards and the Golf Digest Hot List, to name a few. We’ve been laser focused on partnering with the brands to ensure best practices are in place to help drive awareness and revenue.
I also really enjoyed working on the Vogue 125th anniversary deals. Licensing partnered with Vogue on a variety of collaborations, including sweatshirts with Kith (which sold out online in less than five minutes!), Splendid sleepwear, a Comme Des Garçon branded fragrance, Pressed Juicery for two unique lemonades, and Urban Stems for editor-designed floral arrangements. In addition to the anniversary deals, Licensing developed a beautiful wall covering deal with Schumacher in partnership with Hamish Bowles as well as a furniture deal under the Vogue Living brand.
Splendid Sleepwear celebrating Vogue's 125th anniversary
Comme Des Garçon branded fragrance celebrating Vogue's 125th anniversary
What made those experiences stand out so positively?
Those experiences stand out so positively because we are extending brands in a way that stays true to the brand, but also creates an element of surprise for the consumer. It has been exciting to deliver new branded products for Vogue across an array of categories, a fashion line at a retailer for Glamour, and a line of cookware and cutlery at major retailers for Epicurious.
The real benefit of licensing, outside of driving revenue, is telling a brand story in a different light, which captures new eyeballs and diversifies the business. Consumers are ingesting brands in new ways all the time. The more targeted the exposure that tells our brand stories, the more opportunity we have to expose our brands to new audiences and drive more sales!
If you were to advise a brand with no licensing experience, what advice/guidance would you give them?
Be flexible. While having a focused strategy is super important, having an open mind to products, distribution and possible licensees is critical. Another important thing to do out of the gate is protecting your trademarks across classifications!
Glosser is an accomplished senior licensing and merchandising executive with a strong sales, brand development and product strategy background. With deep expertise across corporate, celebrity and entertainment properties, Glosser has been successfully licensing, merchandising and monetizing major brands for over twenty years.
As Senior Vice President of Licensing for Conde Nast, she oversees the development of product, content and image licensing for the iconic portfolio of 22 Conde Nast brands including: Vogue, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker, GQ, and Glamour. Successful projects and collaborations have included: A partnership with Getty utilizing archival imagery for editorial and commercial use, Glamour/Lane Bryant apparel, Epicurious product at Bed, Bath and Beyond, GQ/Steve Madden footwear and bags, the Allure Best of Beauty Awards, as well as the Condé Nast Store, a print-on-demand site.
Glosser has a BA from the University of Vermont. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children and has an awesome golden doodle.