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The Force is Strong on This One:
LucasFilm's President of Licensing Howard Roffman Takes You Behind the Scenes of a Toy Industry Blockbuster

By Tim Connolly
November 1, 2002

Howard Roffman

Toy Directory Monthly: Given that Star Wars' mythology has been so deeply absorbed by our culture, is the creation of brand-awareness a non-issue for Lucasfilm?

Howard Roffman: We never rest on our laurels. With new films coming out, as well as a constant flow of new products from toys to games to books, we are very much focused on brand awareness as well as brand management. Rather than say that awareness is a non-issue for Lucasfilm, I would say that because of the deep roots of Star Wars in our culture, we are conscious that a number of forces are already at work outside of our own marketing efforts that contribute substantially to creating brand awareness.

Probably the chief factor is the fact that so many parents who were influenced by Star Wars when they were children or teenagers are now introducing their own children to the Saga. You couldn't ask for a stronger brand endorsement. At the same time, we have to recognize that their children are growing up in a different time and they are bombarded with messages from other properties that are vying for their attention. We have to exist in that environment as well!

TDM: Along the lines of brand awareness... Has Lucasfilm ever entertained the idea of creating its own retail outlets, such as Disney and Warner Bros have done?

HR: A long time ago we evaluated the concept and decided that it was a bad idea for a number of reasons. I'm very glad we made the decision we did. We have a wonderful relationship with the major retailers, who in turn have done a terrific job of featuring and promoting Star Wars products. And I think that is exactly where Star Wars belongs.

TDM: Does Lucasfilm take an active approach to licensing, such as working alongside manufacturers and retailers in creating new products, or by creating "point of difference" amongst retailers to allow them each their own niche?

HR: I think most of our partners would say that we are a pretty proactive licensor. We take our role as shepherds of the brand very seriously, particularly because it is a long-term prospect and needs to be managed accordingly. We try to have the kind of working relationship with our licensees where both parties are bringing good creative ideas to the table and working together to offer the best products to the consumer.

We respect the expertise of our licensees in their product areas, and hopefully they respect our expertise when it comes to Star Wars. Similarly, we've found that retail differentiation is an important part of our marketing strategy. Each of the major retailers IS different, and they deserve to be differentiated in a meaningful way when it comes to their Star Wars programs.

TDM: The number of licensees for Attack of the Clones was one-third less than with Phantom Menace, but without a major drop-off in sales; is this less-is-more approach something that Lucasfilm plans to stick with for future film releases?


Previously published in the November Issue of ToyDirectory online Magazine.


The Lowdown on Licensing: ToyDirectory talks with Lucasfilm, McFarlane Toys, and Toys R Us for a view of the whole food-chain

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