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People Profile: Toni Qiu, Head of Brand Licensing for NetEase Games image

People Profile: Toni Qiu, Head of Brand Licensing for NetEase Games

The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. Each week we’re profiling one of these professionals in this ongoing series.

How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find you)?
In 2003, when I moved my family back to Shanghai, Disney China was looking for a retail sales and marketing manager. That opportunity not only allowed me to join Disney, but it also started my licensing career.

What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
Every day, I talk to partners and our team about product development, pricing structures, marketing mechanisms, and channel strategy. I start my morning with a coffee and surf online for interesting products, creative ideas, and business news. I meet with partners to learn about their accomplishments and challenges, explore business opportunities, and share creative ideas. I train the team on brand licensing strategy, style guide development, and deal reviews.

What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
In my 25 years in the licensing industry, I have developed programs from the ground up to reach millions in revenue. But the biggest accomplishment, for me, is when I see the consumer purchasing products, wearing the apparel, eating the candy, and playing with the toys.

What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
First, more and more companies and licensors are aware that licensing is not just about providing an image or a graphic—you need to have a comprehensive business plan to attract your target consumer. Second, IP value is being recognized among consumers, and consumers are will to pay extra money for that. But the consumer wants trendy, chic, and funny products, licensees can’t just slap an image on a product to expect the sales to be booming.

And the market is changing faster, which means it is even hard to maintain the consumer’s loyalty. For example, the entertainment preferences of young people have shifted from movies and television to gaming. In China, gaming and related licensing collaborations are gaining more popularity, primarily among Gen Z.

What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
There are challenges all that time, but I see them as motivation to bring creativity and innovation to the industry.

In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
You need to understand the market and consumer insights. You also need problem solving skills, communication skills, integrity, and intelligence.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what’s your favorite quote?
Where there is a will, there is a way.

If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
No industry is better than licensing! But if I had to choose, I would maybe be a consultant or coach for a startup company.

The last licensed product I bought was…
The Mickey Mouse X Gucci hoodie. For me, everything started with Mickey Mouse.

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