After analyzing Luxury brand and art collaborations which included aspects of success and failure, a fail-proof (will ensure the brand doesn’t incur an adverse effect on equity) model was created. Even brands that had an overall successful collaboration had few visible faults that were taken into consideration while creating the model. The model divided into four stages of collaboration – pre-collaboration, during collaboration, during launch, and post collaboration. Each of these sections has ingredients that vary in importance based on their impact on the success or failure. The importance of each was corroborated using the commonalities between the twenty-eight chosen collaborations and the four expert artist interviews. The importance of each ingredient is represented through the size and color of the box. The ingredients are ordered based on their occurrence from first to last. The ones placed parallel to each other can be addressed simultaneously or one after the other based on the collaboration.
- This model specifically applies to luxury brands and art collaborations because, some of the ingredients (eg: cultural aura, highlighting physicality, hyper-real / conceptual perceptions, exclusivity, emulation) may not apply to mass or fast fashion brand. However, if other brands wish to use this model, some ingredients can be applied to an extent.
- Some ingredients might not apply to certain types of luxury collaborations. For instance, a collaboration through sponsorship might not have to address marketing techniques or maintaining exclusivity. A collaboration that is done as a campaign might not have to address exclusivity.
- It is also not necessary to use all the little important ingredients, but they do carry value in many collaborations.
- Depending on the type of collaboration, brands can choose to switch around the order of the ingredients under each heading.
Define the Purpose
Every collaboration has a purpose, varying from getting new customers, or reinforcing brand associations, building a new identity, increasing brand loyalty, building density, or increasing profits. Defining the purpose of the collaboration is a crucial ingredient, without which implementing other components would be pointless. The purpose of Gucci’s partnership with Ignasi Monreal for its SS18 campaign was to build new associations in the minds of old, new, young, and aspiring customers, and bring about wider awareness to maintain and increase loyalty through the purchase of SS18 collection. Though the final goal was commercial, the purpose was broader – to acquire brand density so the brand can survive for years to come.
Commercial or Non-commercial
Apart from and after deciding the purpose, a brand needs to think of whether they want the collaboration to make direct revenue or would it be philanthropic, experiential which could build brand equity.
Deliver strong PESE message
PESE stands for Political, Economic, Social, Environmental. The message could be just for one or for all depending on what the brand chooses. Around 10 out of 28 collaborations had a message attached with their purpose. These collaborations spread wide and garnered a broad target audience in the process. Messages tend to catch people’s attention as it shows them a brand believes in something. Even secondary research shows that luxury consumers prefer buying from brands that have positive impact positively on the society and environment. (Reputation For instance, when Yeezy collaborated with Vanessa Beecroft to showcase its collection through performance art, it delivered its strong disregard for stereotypical body images (social message). This allowed Yeezy to entice a customer segment that had similar beliefs.
Voice an Unnoticed Cause
This is part of PESE message, however, is a bit different as the general population hasn’t yet noticed the problem. Having a valid cause and justifying the message through the collaboration will allow a brand to set the trend in motion. Rei Kawakubo in collaboration with Merce Cunningham revealed to the world that stereotypical clothing (which used to make women with different body shapes feel uneasy) is not the only garment style and brought in deconstructed and shapeless clothes to the limelight. Even, Fendi with its ‘Fatto a mono for the future’ brought to light the need for even luxury brands to utilize its waste productively to keep the planet healthy.
Support new Art/Artists
There are risks in supporting something that is entirely new to the world. However, 7 out of 28 of these brands chose an up-coming artist as their partner. This type of association provides the brand with a new aesthetic that could belong solely to the brand. While using known artists can be advantageous in getting a wider audience, the artist’s work could be too diffused (many brands have collaborated with them) or could have set multiple brand’s images that they might not bring in a new perspective. Rolls-Royce is among the seven brands that chose to work with new artists and display modern art (particle display art) continuously through its art program. This has helped the brand get its unique ‘one of a kind identity.’
Artists that Compliment
Artists that compliment a brand is very crucial. An artist should have goals that are similar or parallel beliefs as the brand for a collaboration to be successful. 26 collaborations out of 28 along with expert interviews point to the importance of picking an artist that has the same belief system. This allows the artist to understand a brands DNA and in return gain the trust of the brand to have creative freedom.
Calvin Klein’s partnership with Sterling Ruby was beautiful. However, the artist’s creative direction wasn’t similar to Calvin Klein’s (rather only similar to Raf Simons). Hence, the brand has decided to change the works of Sterling in its NYC store to match its new creative direction. This misjudgment resulted in financial loss (investment in store) and conflicting brand image.
When selecting an artist, it is also important to see what kinds of brands the artist has worked with, as some artists work with a wide variety of brands from fast fashion to star luxury brands. Consumers question the uniqueness and rarity of luxury brands when the same artist works in a similar style with a fast fashion brand. For instance, Hugo Guinness collaborated with Coach and J Crew in similar ways using his famous dog sketch on a Coach’s wallet and J Crew’s shirt. (Fashionista, 2014).
Choosing an artist who isn’t an identity for another brand is crucial too. Valentino worked with Vanessa Beecroft to showcase their 2017 collection, but the collaboration brought Yeezy to the limelight as Beecroft is Yeezy’s identity. It is crucial to choose an artist that wouldn’t overpower a brands name. In the case of Calvin Klein and its sponsorship for Andy Warhol’s exhibition in the Whitney Museum wasn’t mentioned much in any of the articles because, Warhol is a brand in itself, and has a larger cult following than many brands, which makes the name more powerful than CK’s. This could have been avoided if CK would have reinforced its commitments towards arts in the interviews or at the museum entrance for example.
Art that Compliments
It is equally critical for a brand to pick the right kind of art that will enhance the brand’s identity and associations. Every artist has multiple styles of work. For instance, Jeff Koons is known for his balloon dog as well as his gazing ball collection. When Louis Vuitton chose to commission Koons for their 2017 collection, it was a wise choice not to implement his balloon style as it was already widely diffused from brands like H&M and Google adopting it. Vanessa Beecroft is known for her unique style of performance art. Each work is unique in its own way as it sheds light on different issues (cancer, body image) through a similar form of performance. However, to a non-art audience, it appears the same. When Valentino collaborated with Beecroft, the collection brought more attention to brands like Yeezy and Gucci (whom Beecroft had already worked with).
The Equation of Art/Artist
Collaborations are a partnership; hence, it is essential for the brand to decide ahead of time how much control they want over the partnership and how much power they are willing to give the artist. It also varies from project to project. When a brand decides on the level of control, it becomes easy to communicate with the artist and set the terms ahead of time. For instance, Louis Vuitton in its collaboration with Chapman brothers decided only to commission art works and not allow them to be integrated into the creation of bags. While with Koons, they took the backstage and allowed Koons to work with the bags.
Levels of Target Consumers
This ingredient mainly applies to collaborations that can be bought or owned and to an extent, to experiential collaborations. Every collaboration targets one/more consumer segment, it could have just a single level (extra-ordinary customers) and the rest could be just admirers or can have more levels like averagely priced goods for extraordinary, regular, and aspiring consumers. This ingredient will decide the collaborations, location, price point, and marketing technique. For instance, the Hermès scarves in collaboration with Daniel Buren targeted the aspiring customers, but even their regular and extra-ordinary customers could purchase the product.
Levels of Target audience
This ingredient can be applied to any collaboration, but mainly to experiential. When a customer segment is targeted, the rest of the viewers become the audience of the collaboration. Target audiences can vary in levels. It can be an extraordinary segment that witnesses and forms associations from the collaboration targeted at brand immigrants, or vice-versa. Audiences could also be anyone who doesn’t interact with the brand but hears and sees the collaboration and forms images and associations about the brand. Hence, it is vital for brands to address the target audience as that helps to create wider awareness. Fendi’s renovation of Trevi Fountain had numerous levels of audiences, from its VIP clients who attended the private show, to the tourists who visit the fountain and hear about Fendi for the first time. On the other hand, its target customers were its extraordinary clients who would purchase the collection showcased in the fountain.
First of its Kind
It is crucial that the outcome of a collaboration should be first of its kind. Half of the 28 collaborations are first of its kind. Statistically, they leave a longer and wider impact and eventually set the trend in motion. First of a kind refers to anything from a message, technique, to an end product. Rei Kawakubo was one of the first designers to partner with a photographer and use her as an artist (Cindy Sherman) and not portray the product on the marketing campaign. Instead, she used the unconventional photos to send a social message.
Align with early signs of a trend
Every brand looks at the current trends in the industry (both Luxury and art) before starting a new project. It is crucial for brands to analyze the life cycle of that trend before venturing into a collaboration. If a trend is at its last stage or is too diluted, it is not advisable for a brand to adopt that type of collaboration. More than half of 28 collaborations were in the middle or early in the trends while the rest was first of its kind (set the trend).