The Smi­ley Com­pany: How a Hap­pi­ness Cam­paign Turned into a $268 Mil­lion Per Year Busi­ness

How a Hap­pi­ness Cam­paign Turned into a $268 Mil­lion Per Year Busi­ness

Images Retail - - CONTENTS - – By Surabhi Khosla

The Smi­ley Com­pany co-cre­ates a range with Lifestyle in In­dia, tar­geted to­wards the depart­ment store’s con­sumers...

The Smi­ley Com­pany co-cre­ates a range with Lifestyle in In­dia, tar­geted to­wards the depart­ment store’s con­sumers. This range of­fers colours, and choice of the mes­sages rel­e­vant to lo­cal con­sumers, pro­vid­ing buy­ers with the best of both worlds...

On Satur­day 1 Jan­uary 1972, jour­nal­ist Franklin Loufrani wanted to spread a lit­tle hap­pi­ness in a time when bad news seemed to pre­vail. On that New Year’s Day, French news­pa­per France Soir printed a smi­ley logo next to all pos­i­tive news sto­ries.

The idea be­came such a huge hit that peo­ple started buy­ing the news­pa­per more, look­ing for the now iconic smi­ley, which would lead them to the ‘good news.’ Be­fore long, the pro­mo­tion gained trac­tion and an icon and brand was born.

Be­fore the cam­paign started in Oc­to­ber 1971, Loufrani reg­is­tered his smi­ley face with the French trade­mark of­fice.

When Franklin’s son, Ni­co­las Loufrani came on board 20 years ago, he looked at the logo – which he had been see­ing his en­tire life – and re­alised that he wanted to bring in some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing new.

“I started chang­ing ex­pres­sions, bring­ing in dif­fer­ent emo­tions – which later be­came emoti­cons. I put them on­line and they be­gan one of the big­gest phe­nom­e­non in dig­i­tal his­tory – it’s a new form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion now used by peo­ple all over the world ev­ery day,” Ni­co­las told IM­AGES Re­tail Bureau on the side­lines of the In­dia Fash­ion Fo­rum 2018.

By the 1990s, Franklin and his son Ni­co­las Loufrani held trade­marks for the sym­bol

in around 70 coun­tries and had li­censed the smi­ley to brands in­clud­ing Levi Strauss & Co. In 1996, the Loufra­nis founded the Smi­ley Com­pany in Lon­don built around the Smi­ley brand.

In 1997, Ni­co­las cre­ated hun­dreds of emoti­cons, in­clud­ing a 3D smi­ley logo. His im­ages, reg­is­tered with the United States Copy­right Of­fice in 1997, were first pub­lished as GIF files on the In­ter­net in 1998, mak­ing them the first graph­i­cal emoti­cons used in tech­nol­ogy. He launched the Smi­ley­world brand shortly there­after.

In the early 2000s, the com­pany li­censed the rights to their emoti­cons to tele­com com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Nokia, Mo­torola, Sam­sung, amongst oth­ers. Ni­co­las Loufrani com­piled his graph­i­cal emoti­cons, along with other ex­ist­ing im­ages used for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, into an on­line dic­tionary which was di­vided into cat­e­gories, and by 2002, the dic­tionary in­cluded over 3,000 im­ages.

In 2005, the com­pany an­nounced the cre­ation of the Smi­ley World As­so­ci­a­tion, later re­named Smi­ley Fund, as a charitable arm of the com­pany, to which it do­nates 10 per­cent of its prof­its.

Smi­ley: The To­tal Lifestyle Brand

To­day, The Smi­ley Com­pany is present glob­ally in al­most 200 coun­tries, work­ing with some of the largest re­tail groups in the world.

“In the lux­ury seg­ment, The Smi­ley Com­pany works with ma­jor brands like Moschino and Fendi. We also work with the VF Cor­po­ra­tion – their

Lee brand – in the denim seg­ment. Apart from this, we have a li­cens­ing busi­ness with in a lot of other in­dus­tries in­clud­ing food, home dé­cor, gift­ing, sta­tionery, pub­lish­ing and toys. The Smi­ley brand has a ma­jor li­cens­ing pro­gram which gen­er­ated US $400 mil­lion in 2017,” stated Loufrani.

In In­dia, the com­pany has been work­ing with Lifestyle depart­ment stores for many years now, where they cater to men, women and chil­dren. The Smi­ley Com­pany co-cre­ates a range with Lifestyle tar­geted to­wards the depart­ment store’s con­sumers. This range of­fers colours, and choice of the mes­sages rel­e­vant to lo­cal con­sumers, pro­vid­ing buy­ers with the best of both worlds.

“Our prod­ucts in

Lifestyle have been quite suc­cess­ful and that’s why the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the depart­ment store has con­tin­ued for so many years now. We keep re­new­ing our of­fer­ings, which has al­ways been very ap­peal­ing to the In­dian lifestyle cus­tomer,” said Loufrani.

He added that in the gift­ing mar­ket, their In­dian part­ner was Archie’s Gift Shops. “We have been work­ing with them for quite some time now too and our of­fer­ings in­clude greet­ing cards. These are im­por­tant for us be­cause they are the kind of halo prod­ucts which cre­ate the buzz among the young au­di­ences – teenagers and young adults. They’re happy, fun and cool,” he said.

Grow­ing in In­dia

The com­pany has been suc­cess­ful so far in both its col­lab­o­ra­tions in In­dia, with its best­selling prod­uct in the coun­try be­ing the Smi­ley T-shirt. Now, it’s look­ing to grow busi­ness in the coun­try. Open­ing EBOS is part of its on-go­ing ex­pan­sion strat­egy, but this of course, will de­pend on the part­ners it can sign on.

“We have ap­pointed a ma­jor li­cens­ing agent – Jiggy Ge­orge, Founder, Dream The­atre Pvt. Ltd, a pi­o­neer in the In­dian li­cens­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing in­dus­try – which works with ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies in In­dia to help us grow our busi­ness in In­dia,” said Loufrani.

Cur­rently, The Smi­ley Com­pany works with in­ter­na­tional part­ners present in In­dia. For ex­am­ple, its part­ner Lee has our prod­ucts in In­dia. Then there are chains like Zara, and the likes, which sell The Smi­ley Com­pany’s in­ter­na­tion­ally de­vel­oped prod­ucts in In­dia.

“Our trade strat­egy is to co-cre­ate. We work to­gether with our li­censees and part­ners, with each one bring­ing in their own val­ues, their own abil­i­ties and their own think­ing to come up with a prod­uct that will be the best pos­si­ble prod­uct for con­sumers,” said Loufrani.

The Smi­ley Com­pany has re­cently signed a deal with Simba, which is a big backto-school prod­uct com­pany to de­velop back­packs and sta­tionery and school items. It has also a signed ma­jor deal with Mon­delez, one of the largest food com­pa­nies in the world for the Cad­bury cookie brand.

“We also do a lot of work with Raza Beig, Di­rec­tor, Land­mark Group and CEO – Splash and his team in the Mid­dle East. They are one of our big­gest part­ners in the re­gion. These sorts of deals are go­ing to fur­ther spread our mes­sage of bring­ing hap­pi­ness and pos­i­tive val­ues and spread smiles,” con­cluded Loufrani.

Ni­co­las Loufrani at an out­let of The Smi­ley Com­pany

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