The Smiley Company
|Industry||Brand licensing, Marketing|
|Franklin Loufrani (Founder & President)|
Nicolas Loufrani (CEO)
|Revenue||$ 538 million (2020)|
Number of employees
The Smiley Company is a brand licensing company, based in London, United Kingdom. It holds the rights to the smiley face in over 100 countries. The company is considered to be one of the most influential licensing companies globally, and creates products including textiles, puzzles, party goods, stationery, automobile accessories, and toys for licensed brand partners and retailers.
As a journalist, Franklin Loufrani designed a smiley face for the newspaper France-Soir in 1971. The image of the Smiley was accompanied with the slogan, "Take The Time To Smile." It was created as a way to indicate to readers which stories held good news. Before the campaign started, in October 1971, Loufrani registered his smiley face with the French trademark office.
While other smiling faces were been used in marketing and advertising elsewhere globally, many of them used terms such as "happy face" and "smiling face." Loufrani was the first documented person to use the term "smiley." 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, England, built around the Smiley brand. In 1997, Nicolas created hundreds of emoticons, including a 3D smiley logo. Some sources incorrectly claim that Nicolas was the first to create portrait-orientation emoticons,[need quotation to verify] but various prior usage of portrait-format emoticons dates back to as early as 1972. 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 1997, The Smiley Company filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2001, Walmart opposed the registration, citing potential confusion between their design and Loufrani's. Nine years later, the USPTO initially sided with Walmart, before another federal court case was brought forward by Smiley in 2009. In 2011, the companies settled out of court.
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. In 2017, the company was responsible for 210 million products, that were sold under partnership and licensing agreements.
License Global magazine listed the company as one of the most influential brands of the 2010s in its December 2020 summary of the brands of the decade list. In early 2021, it was announced that The Smiley Company had produced a short film about the history of the Smiley in the run-up to the 50th anniversary since it was created by Franklin Loufrani.
The Smiley Company's business model was compared to Peter Drucker's theory that corporations could operate with a small team of senior management, with partnerships and outsourcing a major component when bringing products to market. In the book, The Michelangelo Project: Making It in the Digital Century Workforce, author Isabel Wu explained that The Smiley Company deployed a real-world example of Drucker's business theory. Its vast library of images, designs and concepts are then used by other companies to develop and manufacture products.
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- "Tracing 50 years of the iconic Smiley, a symbol of defiant optimism". Dazed. January 6, 2021.
- The Smiley Company official website