17/02/11

Shall we dance?

Categories: GQ, Magazines, Opinion

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It’s a well-known fact that the power of two can be stronger than one. Look at Posh and Becks: she’s a former Spice Girl and he’s a footballer, but together they are a world-class, international lifestyle brand peddling everything from high fashion to sugary drinks.

So it is on the High Street, as more and more brands are collaborating with each other to gain those valuable extra column inches. Collaborations of course are very clever but, as with every good idea, we always end up taking it too far.

I saw a collaboration the other day that was between three brands and the logos looked so ridiculous, fighting it out on the product, that you actually lost sight of who had made it. Collaborations risk going the way of the infamous “shaver wars”, where it often seems like all the marketing men can think of to create a USP is adding another blade for each new launch. In fact, can anyone remember how many blades we are up to these days – is it six or seven?[Actually, it’s 80.]

As with pop-ups, we must look to strip out what was originally clever about them and then apply these principles to our own brands. Here are a few of my totally unscientific rules for those who are thinking of collaborating:

1. Both brands need to have equal respect in their marketplace. You won’t see Kate Moss designing baguettes for Silvio’s Sandwich Bar in Charing Cross.

2. The idea of two people coming together must add something that otherwise wasn’t there.  Jil Sander at Uniqlo, for example, is perfect. Uniqlo gets great design and fashion credibility, Jil Sander gets the power of a big retailer to bring her product to a massive audience. Both are respected equally but for different reasons. There is one collaboration currently that is between a sock brand and a hotel, and I can’t for the life of me understand why I need a hotel’s input into the design of my socks – or vice versa for that matter.

3. Be careful not to collaborate with people who are, shall we say,promiscuous with their collaborations. Some brands will jump into bed with anyone – and we all know what that behaviour does for your reputation. A certain T-shirt brand (named after a country famous for Edam cheese) has collaborated with more people than have actually bought the products.

4. Finally, don’t collaborate if it makes the price of your product significantly higher for what is clearly the same thing as you usually sell, as the punter will get pissed off. A designer and a footwear brand recently did a shoe that was identical to the original except for a tiny cloth tab at the back. The price was 50 per cent more, which made it obvious that the designer was pocketing about 49.9 per cent of the difference.

Basically, clever collaborations can really add something for both brands, keeping them fresh and interesting, but poor ones can at worst, actually damage your brand.

Personally I’m off for a meeting with Joe Swash as I’m hoping there might be something we could do together to inject some credibility into Grenson

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