King of the Castle

Brand and artist collaboration has fast become an effective way to surprise and attract new consumers and fans, and we are now seeing a growth in brand-to-brand collaboration. There are lots of positive reasons for brand collaborations; they not only refresh a brand’s image and introduce new features, but can also be profitable for both participating parties.

Friendships between like-minded brands and even artists can allow them to enter new markets, to reach new targets, to change perceptions or to enhance and develop their image. Collaboration is becoming a mutually beneficial business trend, but only when the collaboration is smartly chosen – think of Fred Perry & Amy Winehouse, Superdry & Idris Elba, Nike & iPod or Blackberry & Starbucks.

In the luxury sector we are seeing lots of collaboration between hotels and beauty brands, ensuring exposure for each party in the other industry’s press, e.g.  hotels in the fashion and beauty magazines read by affluent women. A branded apa product offers guests a compelling reason to choose a particular hotel over another, adding another luxury string to its bow.

In an increasingly saturated luxury market, cross-industry collaboration’s are becoming more and more important in providing potential consumers with a unique value proposition and offering the brands stand out in a very competitive market place. It’s an interesting trend – right now the luxury sector is riding a wave and sales of many high luxury items are up, despite any perceived economic uncertainty and trepidation.

Collaboration is playing a big part in the battle for stand out in the luxury and fashion markets, and we saw some rather interesting brand collaborations coming to life in the past year in an effort to gain the upper-hand in the market. Take for example Apple Joining forces with Hermès in 2015. Up until this point, Apple has always believed in the aesthetic supremacy of its products and it has lived by this mantra, which has served it well while the primary focus has been on items that are functional and clinical in their design. However, with its expansion into the more appearance-driven watch market, Apple discovered the one area its brand isn’t cool enough to conquer on its own.

By collaborating with luxury fashion brand Hermès to produce a range of watchstraps Apple shifted the entire paradigm around its product, making it not so much the key stylistic focus as the core functional element. And, in doing so, they effectively paved the way for its long-term future and a place at the top table of watch manufacturers, damn clever marketing I’d say. But it’s not just the luxury and high-end brands that are benefitting from the collaboration: in 2015 ICNY teamed up with Puma, and worldwide there are few names that command more fervent überfandom than the Supreme and Jordan Brands. So, when they announced their collaboration it was as if two hype-fuelled suns had collided to form a street wear supernova.

Keeping things very deliberately classic, the collection consisted of little more than a thorough range of co-branded capsule staples — everything from tees and hoodies through to snapbacks, sweatpants and a bomber jacket. However, what it lacked in complexity, it more than made up for in the sheer perfect coincidence of the branding, replacing the ‘R’ of Supreme with the inimitable ‘Jumpman’ logo.

Such was the anticipation over its release that Supreme had to cancel their in-store release of sneaker range in New York and L.A – most likely on grounds of personal safety. But then, would you have expected anything else?

I have been activating a number of brand partnerships and Collaboration’s over the past few years and some interesting lessons have been learned. The key ones are:

  • Always ensure equal value for each of the brands involved, the very essence of collaboration and partnership is to ensure that both brands and both audiences benefit.
  • Ensure there is a match of brand values. You need to be seen as mutually vetting each other’s core values and making absolutely sure there is never any question that the collaboration is a perfect fit.
  • Make sure that the consumer gets it. If it does not make sense to your target audience you have an instant problem and one that can last longer than the collaboration itself.

I’m going to leave the last word to a gentleman who has activated many formidable brand collaborations in his time: Timothy Everest, MBE. He says: “brand collaborations are relatively risk-free if the chemistry is right and the vision is shared. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, a strong collaboration can be truly heavyweight, packing-a-much-needed-punch in a market, which increasingly requires added value in order to encourage shoppers to engage. The luxury market has grasped that there is much value in drawing upon names that really carry cachet, and fusing them with their own brand ethos. To stay in shape currently brands must always update themselves, it’s a continuing evolution.”