Strength in numbers: The Power of Brand Collabs

Alexa Chung for AG Jeans

Alexa Chung for AG Jeans

If there’s one word in the English language that has risen more swiftly in popularity in recent years than “collab”, we’d love to see it. Littered throughout the comments section of successful designers’ Instagram pages, dominant in the fashion, homewares and beauty worlds and ever-present in the music industry: collaborating is the new black.

And really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’ve long known that, in all areas of life, we’re stronger together. But it turns out this holds true even in the competitive world of business and commerce. The benefits of collaborations are innumerable: the ability to reach entirely new audiences, the creation of fresh ideas, access to different marketing channels, alignment with other positive companies and values, consolidation or clarification of your own brand values and finally, the newsworthiness of it all and the excitement or hype it can generate.

In 2017, American Express’s Business Collaboration Index report found that mid-sized companies could achieve a profit 1.4 times their investment when undertaking collaboration initiatives. Thus, the incentive for brands to couple up is massive.

The concept of a collaboration, however, is wide-ranging. From a short-lived capsule collection created by a celebrity for a fashion brand (like Alexa Chung’s designs for denim label AG Jeans), to two major companies joining forces to deliver an improved service (like Spotify and Hulu bundling their services to make them cheaper for consumers), they come in many iterations.

In the fashion context, collaborations have even more specific benefits. As US Vogue highlighted, established labels can use collaborations to champion young talent or pay tribute to beloved predecessors, become more sustainable, generate social change or form a more organic alliance with a celebrity.

Gigi Hadid’s ongoing collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, for example, has been an incredibly profitable exercise for both parties. For Hadid, it gave her a creative outlet, a vehicle for her influence in the fashion industry and a mass market to tap into. For Hilfiger, Hadid’s involvement reinvigorated his brand (in his own words).

Gigi Hadid working on her Gigi x Tommy collab with Tommy Hilfiger

Gigi Hadid working on her Gigi x Tommy collab with Tommy Hilfiger

Some global companies, like IKEA and H&M, have become so well-known for their brilliant ”collabs” that people anticipate them months out from their launch, attempt to guess who the next collaborator will be and trawl eBay for the inevitably sold-out products.

But their success rests on a number of key pillars, which are easily adopted by other brands wishing to emulate their success. Here they are:

1. The establishment of common goals

Balmain x H&M

Balmain x H&M

According to the Forbes Communciations Council, knowing what both entities want out of the partnership before entering into it is key. The process of forming and agreeing upon these goals can take time, but it’s worth the wait to get it right.

2. Support each other

While typically business is about being competitive, put aside this desire to win and focus on championing your collaborative partner at all times, Forbes advises. Their success will eventually become your success, even if it’s not immediately obvious at the time.

3. Be consistent

One collaboration does not last a lifetime. If you find success in your partnership, look at new ways of extending it, or if that’s not possible, new partnerships to partake in. Crafting an image that’s collaborative, inventive and open-minded can only benefit your business and make people intrigued to see what you will do next. It’s why massive companies like Target, IKEA and H&M continue to change it up.

4. Answer a question or solve a problem

It might sound cheesy, but before you embark on a collaboration, ask why you’re doing it. Is it lack of brand awareness? A desire for a broader market? A need for a change in image? Decide on these goals as you enter into this new collaborative phase and identify points along the way where you can solve mutual or individual challenges.

5. Add value

In 2019, it’s no longer acceptable to just be in it for yourselves. You need to give something to the community you exist in too. Whether it be sustainability, social justice or awareness around an important cause, team up to make more than dollars and institute lasting change.

Apple x Hermes watch collab

Apple x Hermes watch collab

Georgia Tyndale