The Smiley Company is smiling again, thanks to Nicolas Loufrani’s plan to create a lifestyle brand with more style.
The smiley face symbol was once associated with the 1990s rave scene, but Loufrani has turned the firm into a licensing business, co-creating designs for fashion, home decor and marketing on behalf of retail and manufacturing clients, but also the likes of Dior and Adidas by Stella McCartney.
Loufrani’s father Franklin trademarked the original smiley in the early 1970s and founded the company through a newspaper promotion aimed at making people happy, using the logo to highlight good news.
The smiley face symbol was once associated with the 1990s rave scene, but Loufrani has turned the firm into a licensing business
Nicolas joined in 1996 and transformed it into a consumer merchandising licensing model. Today it is one of the world’s top 150 licensing firms with 230 global licensees and sells more than 210 million products. It has worked with H&M, McDonald’s and Renault.
The London-based firm has 40 staff and last year turned over €185 million (£168 million).
Loufrani said: ‘The brand was not doing very well in the 1990s. Sales had declined and I decided with my father to try to revamp it. Smiley was started in 1971 and throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was doing really well.
‘He was doing everything from food products to gifts and advertising campaigns. It was on a lot of things and the brand became massive and sold hundreds of millions of products. It was really licensing a logo without any branding.
‘It was very original to want to trademark a logo. He was the first to say ‘I’m going to start a business, and this will be about spreading happiness and I’m going to use this logo as the trademark for my brand’.’