Fifty years and $500m: the happy business of the smiley symbol | Business
, 2022-09-25 10:00:00,
Nicolas Loufrani, CEO of the Smiley Company, has sharp features, and a sharper grin. I find him in his London office wearing grey pin-striped dungarees, beaming energetically, clutching a poster that says: “Take the time to smile.” Around him, the room fizzes with iterations of the icon – you know the one. Fluorescent lights in the shape of that unmistakably simple, upbeat expression. Clothing, homeware, bottles of prosecco… all stamped with it. A basketball net boasts a smiling backboard to hurl a ball at. A bowl of fruit? Also happy. I spot a small framed print of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, her face replaced with a yellow smirk. Nothing is off limits. The Smiley Company puts smileys on things. Last year it sold $486m worth of products.
Loufrani, 50, greets me with fast-talk and a French accent, steering me between desks to a small meeting room. We brush past employees in smiley-smattered harem pants, bearing MacBooks slapped with smiley stickers. They smile politely. We smile back. Across the open-plan room a fashionable young workforce busies itself at computers. Every season Loufrani and his team come up with hundreds of new concepts for smiley-based products and promotions and pitch them to brands. The Smiley Company owns the rights to the image in over 100 countries. Yes, the smiley – at least, this particular version of it – is a trademarked image. Want to use it? You gotta pay.
Today, the Smiley Company is ranked one of the world’s top 100…
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