The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Collab. A Better Twist Than The Sixth Sense Ending …

Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of collabs between brands and artists.

I don’t mean bullshit influencer social content, but proper collaboration in terms of product creation … albeit that it often ends up being just ‘logo swapping’.

Of course that is still marketing, but it’s a bit more effort than a celebrity just fronting a TV or print campaign.

Or is it?

You see, while the people at the brand all think they’re going to become cool and rich by associating with someone influential with millions of fans, the reality is somewhat difference.

Maybe once upon a time that was always the case … and when it’s done right it can absolutely still be the case … but for a lot of the bullshit collabs we’re seeing being pimped out by certain brands [you all know the ones, especially the tech bros desperately trying to look like they’re part of youth culture even though all they are is a fucking ‘productivity tool”], they don’t understand the artist and their fans have a very different view of the ‘partnership’.

To them, the association is not an act of endorsement.

Nor does it make the brand partner cool.

And it absolutely won’t define their loyalty.

The reality is the association is nothing more than a ‘get rich quick’ scheme for the artist and their fans love them for it.

Unlike previous generations, they don’t see it as an act of selling out.

In fact it couldn’t be more opposite because they see it as an act of awesome.

Taking millions off a brand for a moment in their day.

Something that will be forgotten as soon as it’s done.

A novelty for the fans to buy but not to keep buying.

Basically, playing the corporations at their own game but they end up the real winner.

That’s success right there.

Not that most brands understand that.

Most of them still think they’re playing the artist. That money means they can get whatever they want out of them. Why wouldn’t they, brands have been using, abusing and stealing from artists for decades.

But it’s very different now.

Years ago, I was working with a very famous brand who did a collab with a very cool, up and coming rapper.

The brand were beside themselves because they thought this association was going to change their fortune forever.

On set, the artist was a bit of a nightmare – not saying or doing anything the brand wanted them to do – in fact they even used their social channels to tell their fans they weren’t doing this because they loved the brand, but because they were getting big money.

Unsurprisingly, the brand team were not very happy about that, but they reasoned that the association would still be worth it for them in terms of awareness and sales.

And maybe it was … but the real winner was the artist because their fans thought what they’d done was even more cool.

Talking shit about the very people who had hired them and still getting paid millions upon millions for a few hours work.

That’s power.

That’s influence

That’s a life goal we should all have.

So while collabs can be cool when done for the right reasons and the right ways, many brands need to understand that while – at best – they may have a boost to their short-term profits, the cool doesn’t actually rub off on them. In fact, if anything, their desperate desire to look cool to millions has just made them the laughing stock to the very millions they wanted to appeal too.

Because while they think they’re hustling the artist, the artist and their fans are hustling them.

Welcome to the new definition of power.

23 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is brilliant Robert. I agree. Lots of collabs in name but few in terms of representing real collaboration. Gap and Kanye is a case in point. The output could be phenomenal but it’s not a collab, it’s a desperate move by Gap to find some relevance. Sports and luxury tend to do it well, electronic and automotive don’t.

Comment by George

Hahahaha … I’ve written about this for a post next week [I think]. You’re right … the GAP x Kanye collab could be amazing, especially as they are basically writing the future of e-commerce. But given the state GAP are in, it’s an ‘attention seeking’ move by them. Which might – and probably will – give them a boost in the short-term, but unless their fundamental product evolves, they will be back to where they are in a relatively short time.

Some say this is all you have to do … keep making cultural or PR moments to grab the attention. That can work too, but the effort and equity you have to put in to try and be relevant is a hell of a lot.

At least with the McD x Travis Scott there’s a deeper relationship … both in terms of the history between them and the products created by them … but even that seems a quest to get a short term boost. But it definitely has worked, the key is to see if it maintains after the collab is done. I would imagine it would as it’s about rediscovering something people once loved versus wearing a hoodie that still looks like it’s in the 80’s.

That said, while the McD is a deeper relationship with the artist than many alleged collabs – getting ‘a celeb’ to front your campaign is nothing new, however much some people want to portray it is.

There’s some amazing collabs out there. There’s a lot more that aren’t. Ha.

Comment by Rob

So you think a short-term boost is enough to justify the cost? Isn’t that just sales promotion?

As for the future of e-commerce. I’ll be interested to read how you think that’s going to be shaped by a clothes store.

Comment by John

Good point, it is a sales promotion. We live in a world where tactics are considered strategy – which says it all.

And I don’t think GAP will be the future of e-commerce, but the thing they are working on with Kanye could evolve into that … in so much as it will reveal a new way to approach e-com which other more pragmatic brands – will ‘borrow’ to turn into something that has more substance and transferable value.

Jesus, I said transferable value. Who am I?

Comment by Rob

travis scott is taking mcd to the fucking cleaners. mcd will get their boost but scott will benefit for years. and they paid him millions for it. thats better than any fucking business deal trump has pulled off. or even campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

The shift in attitude towards selling out and making it is also fascinating. I love the story you wrote about.

Comment by George

Probably because those tech companies obliterated their traditional income streams.

Comment by John

As brands increasingly look to increase speed of sales, collabs and drops will only get increasingly common. What I find confusing is if these brands appreciate the value of creativity, why do they not let their partners actually do what they’re paid to do. I get there’s a lot of agencies who have given up on creativity but there are many who still are doing wonderful things in interesting ways.

Comment by Pete

because the lazy marketing fucks dont recognise the artists creativity just their fanbase. thats why most collabs are bullshit and why im all for the artists taking the brand bastards to the fucking cleaners.

Comment by andy@cynic

Did that tell you Pete?

Comment by DH

The collab that will bring the collab house down is rob x birks.

Comment by Billy Whizz

That would make people question a lot of things.

Comment by Pete

For once I agree with you.

Comment by Bazza

Even I would hate that. What would it look like … a sandal in bad t-shirts?

Comment by Rob

But it would be authentic, albeit in a way that the company is desparate to hide.

Comment by John

It’s good to see artists start to have the power. There’s some great collabs, where something is born from both parties involvement, but a lot are very questionable. You can normally tell which ones as they have Will.I.Am involved in some way.

Comment by Bazza

Or maybe forcing a U2 album on everyone’s new phone?

And I know it wasn’t a collab, I just couldn’t resist.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Bazz

youre so much more manageable when youre being a prick campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Why has no one talked about Steve Balmer in that video? I know it’s old but……

Comment by DH

I see dead posts.

Comment by Haley Joel

I see dead acting careers.

Comment by Billy Whizz

If you carry on like that Billy, Haley Joel Osment may make you the next dead person he is able to see.

Comment by George

Leave a Reply