Key Takeaways (4 minute read)
- Co-branding can be an asset or a detriment to your business.
- Disruptive collaborations can expand your audience to new demographics.
- Collaborations should work with your existing branding, not against it.
“Collab” is such a buzzword these days—but is a design collaboration or other co-branding effort really an effective way to market your business? Yes and no… It’s all about who you trust, who you work with, and how you stay on-brand.
When the famed Fifth Avenue department store Bergdorf Goodman invited New Orleans pop artist Ashley Longshore to be its first solo female artist in residence, the store never expected such a rave review. They had even tried to tamp down Longshore’s irreverent attitude—to which she rebelliously replied by creating the hashtag #nocryingatbergdorfs to use on all BG x Ashley Longshore Instagram content in place of her usual #fuckyeah.
The gamble on Bergdorfs’ part paid off—Longshore’s gallery exhibit opening was a packed house with celebrity guests that brought a younger, art-centric yet still designer fashion-driven crowd into the store. Many of the paintings sold, some for upwards of $25,000, and Longshore’s Fifth Avenue window displays were some of the most talked-about ones the store had created in quite some time—many of Longshore’s hundreds of thousands of followers trekked to NYC to see them.
This was a case of a wildly successful collaboration in design leading to another co-branding venture: Bergdorfs unveiled the redesign of their in-store restaurant, Palette, that same year. Longshore’s art covers every inch of the walls, not to mention the tables and custom chairs, bringing a new throng of fans into the store to dine, shop, and admire the rainbow explosion of art. It provides not only a fun gallery for patrons but also proof that collaborations can build excitement and help expand both brands’ reach. Longshore has gone on to collaborate with other like-minded fashion brands since the BG venture, including Gucci, Judith Leiber, and more.
But there is an important thing to understand here:
Collaborations don’t work unless they are on-brand.
Recently, the world-renowned champagne atelier Veuve Clicquot released a limited-edition “Clicquot Tape” gift box containing a bottle of their Yellow Label bubbly. Although arguably cute, the retro-chic cassette tape design of the boxes is so off-brand for Veuve that one has to wonder what they were thinking. It missed the mark for such a high-end global brand.
The designs themselves seem more like something one might find on a tween’s notebook than a case for a bottle of $50-plus champagne, with zebra stripes, holographic silver, and tie-dye making an appearance. Not to mention the brand’s official description for the project harking back to the 1960s when the designs are clearly 1980s inspired. It’s all over the place, and not indicative of how consumers should perceive this luxury brand.
“Retro, Chic!” misstep aside (yes, the official name for the collection also includes a completely unnecessary comma), Veuve has released some exceptional co-branding products recently, as well. The beverage purveyor’s collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama might even make up for the cassette tape boxes. Kusama, touted as “the most successful living artist,” exemplifies Veuve Clicquot’s luxurious yet visionary brand. Her trademark polka-dot designs cover the packaging for the 2020 release of limited-edition bottles of La Grande Dame 2012 and a sculpture announced in September.
Veuve’s website states, “Previously in 2006, Yayoi Kusama had already played with her famous polka dots by revivifying the original portrait of Madame Clicquot for a charity auction in Tokyo. So, the dialogue between the artist and the Maison has never stopped and has reached another milestone in its most inspiring and sharing ways. . . From Yayoi Kusama’s work to Madame Clicquot’s development of the House of Veuve Clicquot, these two daring figures demonstrate strong and flawless commitment. And today, their destinies converge in an unparalleled collaboration.”
Unlike the retro collection, this co-branding effort has a clear meaning and true brand collaboration behind it, as the two personalities and styles dovetail nicely with each other to create a special product that Veuve’s high-end clientele and Kusama’s fans will both enjoy for a respectable $195 a pop.
Whether it’s a fashion collection, a packaging endeavor, an event, a series of content online, or any other collaboration, you must make sure the endeavor is worth it. It should be on-brand for both parties and create something truly unique that your audience will be excited about. Like Veuve Clicquot x Yayoi Kusama, it should tell a story. And yes, sometimes disruptive or unexpected collaboration can turn a whole new audience onto a brand in need of revitalization, like BG x Ashley Longshore. Other times, they can just fall flat. Make sure your story is good and your execution is flawless, and you’ll come out with a co-branding win.
A&P, a brand agency, excels in finding innovative ways for clients to provide exceptional experiences to their customers. Their work includes consumer insight, brand innovation, creative development, mobile and technology solutions for global brands such as AT&T, Mini USA, DIRECTV, Newell Rubbermaid, Tenet Healthcare, and Barco Escape. For more information about A&P, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or antonioandparis.com.