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Highsnobiety Commentary October, 3 2013
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What Makes a Successful Collaboration?

Dual entities have been coming together under one collective banner for many years – spanning from technological advances that pool millions of dollars of capital to more simplistic ventures agreed to upon over a cold beer in a dive bar. Yet, it’s the fashion industry that has taken the word “collaboration” to new heights. Thanks to the exclusivity created by taking the already pined after and adding another layer of decadence, consumers feel like they are being gifted with some kind of golden ticket when in actuality they are shelling out extra money just for that tiny “x” in between each brand’s name. More times than not, a collaboration delivers more on that aforementioned moniker-laden promise than actual products that innovate, inspire and reach new sartorial heights. True “collaborations” need a few key ingredients to get things right.

Relevance to One Another

Look no further than the recent collaboration between Pepsi and A Bathing Ape’s AAPE as to a union of companies that seems a tad askew. Sure, they’ve partnered on a number of limited edition bottles over the years – specifically targeting distribution in Japan – but the end product screams of “youthful grab” from the bottling company. Neither necessity or need should be the starting point for any successful collaboration. Rather, there should be mutual admiration amongst the parties with a shared goal serving as the light at the end of the tunnel. To borrow from Henry Ford, “A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one.”

The “Wow” Factor

A collaboration should have that certain “je ne sais quoi” that really impresses right away. That feeling that the product and the situation before you are really something special and that perhaps it’s something that could not have been achieved by one brand alone. Whether it be transcribing one brands aesthetic onto an existing product in way that hasn’t been seen before, or simply creating a moving lookbook or video that ties it altogether in a way that creates new value, this feel can be what makes or breaks a collaboration. Of course most of this comes back to the two brands relevance to each other, the way the project is marketed and/or the final product, but the way it all ties together to create that “wow” in the eyes of the consumer is in many ways the elusive key to creating a powerful collab.

 Marketing

The current problem with most collaborations is, that brands believe simply putting together two big names is enough marketing by itself. Sure, a collaboration, if done right, can be great marketing, but it certainly is not automatically so. Finding the right partner is just as important as releasing the product at the right time, in the right setting, with the right marketing plan in place. From production, to producing a fitting lookbook and/or video, providing the information to the right blogs, news outlets and tastemakers and maybe even throwing a great event. You do not have to do all of this, but some of it for sure in order to create a world around the collaboration that supports the story telling that is taking place. The right marketing strategy makes the collaboration even stronger, while the wrong or non-existing marketing strategy might make an initially great product fade away into no-mans land.

The Final Product

The final product of a good collaboration should be one that highlights the strength of all parties involved. Rather than just slapping a logo on a standard item, why not make use of each company’s strength and deliver something fresh? Obviously, that can only go so far when it comes to clothing brands, but I’ve always been fond of the ones who manage to take advantage of the union and create something that tells a story or has some actual meaning to it. When I think of great collaborations in footwear, two names that instantly come to mind are Size? and Concepts. Why? Because both brands manage to take a core product and elevate it with a story that paints a picture through colors, material choices and even packaging. Sure, you can throw some swatches together and call it a day, but when theres meaning behind what you’re trying to create, its evident in the final product.

Selectism