Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign


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Defining a good Collaboration

Brands through the years have been jostling for position as the leader in their category. Some have done this through innovation in product design. Some have focussed on providing excellent customer service and others on generating a go to brand.  There are many other ways brands have attempted to be top dog, however a common method is by creating collaborations.

Collaborations can take various forms an can centre on partnerships between brands and individuals, brands and various bodies and of course brands with other brands.  Collaborations are not mere marketing tactics, sponsorship and ads cannot be confused with collaborations. Collaborations, in their truest sense are when two parties work together to create something.  In fact to put it more succinctly below is the definition from Business Dictionary

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Fashion and sports industries have been at the heart of these collaborations for some time. However other brands such as tech companies and car marques have taken great strides in their collaborations.

So, what is the basis of a good collaboration?

  1. Objectives

Now stating objectives might seem obvious. But for me, this is crucial to ensure that everybody involved understands why you are doing the collaboration.  All stakeholders involved need to share the same goals and adhere to the same objectives.

The basis of all collaborations isn’t necessarily always down to a direct ROI and instant revenue from the product you create.

Shot of Charli XCX in her exclusive boohoo range

Charli XCX x boohoo

An example of this that I personally worked on was CharliXCX x boohoo. The basis behind this was to open boohoo up to the slightly edgier girl.  However, the primary objective was to help accelerate our launch in the US by achieving greater levels of press coverage.  The multi-collection collaboration did well in terms of sales, however, as a business this wasn’t our primary objective.  We answered the questions in relation to our investment by achieving press coverage of a much greater value than the monetary investment placed by boohoo.  The coverage we got in fashion and lifestyle publications and websites in the US such as Access Hollywood and Yahoo Celebrity would have been close to impossible with a standard fashion message.

2. Credibility

This is a tricky angle for a brand to tackle.  How can you use a collaboration to make your brand more credible and become accessible to a wider and critical audience?  Well Monster managed to crack this in one of the early celebrity/influencer collaborations when it partnered with “gangsta rapper” Dr Dre to create Monster Beats.  Monster created some good, but lets be honest, not great earwear but with the power of Dre behind it, the brand and hardware became instantly credible and sold in bucket loads.  Obviously we all know that this didn’t end particularly well and Dre and Monster split with Dre creating Beats by Dre which literally earned him a hood full of cash.

Picture of Dr Dre

Dre teamed up with Monster for his first Beats collection

 

3. Expertise

Sometimes there are specialist audiences or areas to target that are just to difficult to do on your own.  Nike are the kings of collaborations and their recent decision to tie-up with Muslin Athletes to create a Nike Hijab is inspired.  Not only does it open the brand up in a new way it also provides quality items with branding that was previously difficult to attain.  Obviously it is too early to decide if this is a commercial success, but the attention the collaboration has received has probably warranted the decision.

Image of woman in nike Hijab

Nike team up with Muslim athletes to create its own Nike Hijab

4. Commercial

When Nike first teamed up with NBA legend Michael Jordan, it was largely to gain a foothold in the streetwear market.  Yes, it was a collaboration that used Jordan‘s athletic prowess to produce footwear that aided athletic performance. However, Jordan was so synonymous with America’s urban black culture at the time, that the main benefit was to create quality AthLeisure.  The solid product placement in Spike Lee‘s film Do The Right Thing really cemented its place in Hip Hop and Urban culture.

Air Jordan logo

Nike Air Jordan one of the finest collaborations of the modern era

5. Creativity

When Land Rover wanted to make its baby Range Rover Evoque stand out they called on the fashion expertise of none other than Victoria Beckham. The Posh brand (Becks that is not Range Rover) is so popular across the globe, but never more so then China, Brazil and the Middle East all breakthrough markets at the time for the vehicle marque. Only a few hundred of Beckham’s Evoque’s went on sell, however the model became quickly known as the car Victoria Beckham designed.  There are many other examples of vehicle manufacturers teaming up with designers to ensure creativity comes to the fore.

Victoria Beckham and Range Rover Evoque

Victoria Beckham and the Range Rover Evoque she designed

6. Stature

When a high street brand wants to attract a more affluent customer or help its core customers buy up by feeling part of something bigger, what do they do?  Well team up with a major designer of course.

This goes on in fashion on a pretty frequent basis and one of the best examples is Balmain x H&M.  The collaboration saw prestige designer Balmain create a capsule range for the global high street fashion retailer.  Obviously, H&M isn’t budget anyway, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, but the difference between brands was still marked.  The success of the collaboration was unprecedented with the whole collection selling out, queues around the block in major cities across the globe including fashion capitals New York and London and items selling on eBay for pretty much close to the price tag of core Balmain items.

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign

Balmain x H&M was a successful collaboration

 

 


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Celebrity Endorsements

With high-profile celebrity status, endorsements, sponsorship and advertising deals generally follow.  However sometimes the celebrity face becomes stronger than the brand itself.  If a brand is to select a celebrity to front their brand then they need to be 100% certain it they will resonate with the target audience and act as a suitable ambassador.

Sadly with some celebrities comes a fair share of controversy.  The likes of Tiger Woods and John Terry have brought shame upon themselves recently and haven’t reflected well on their brands.  The likes of Kerry Katona and David Beckham have also caused their brand associations to become strained over the years.  Some of these celebrities have done minor things which in the grand scheme of things aren’t huge, some of created furore bordering on national disgraces.

So why do brands continue to use celebrities? What are the risks? What are the benefits? And are there alternatives?

Why use celebrities?

Brands that produce or sell luxury goods often use celebrities.  They choose celebrities that they perceive share the same values as their products. Celebrities that offer the glamour, to portray their products as aspirational to the general public.  The perfume and cosmetic industries generally use glamorous or beautiful people to show how effective their products are.  These celebrities have generally been huge celebs from supermodels to hollywood stars.

Another key trick is to pick up on somebody that’s popular or hot at the moment.  Whilst I mentioned in the above post of perfume and cosmetics companies picking über glamour, brands like L’Oreal are experts at hand-picking people “of the moment”, classic examples include Cheryl Cole and at one point footballer David Ginola.  Garnier also pulled off the coup of grabbing a popular celebrity by enrolling Davina McCall.  There are other cases when companies get it wrong, remember Jason McAteer advertising shampoo? More bad decisions later in this post.

The potential

Get the celebrity right and your brand could be off to a flyer.  The endorsement is believable and customers want to be associated with the brand as much as the celebrity.  Get it wrong and the endorsement looks at best paid for and at worse ridiculous.  Of course it isn’t always down to the celebrity, sometimes it is as much the cheesy production of an ad that breaks down the credibility – Jamie Redknapp and Louise Redknapp holiday commercial anybody?  It can also be the innocent and bizzarrely naive actions that undermine the endorsement (David Beckham shaven his head whilst advertising Brylcreem).  Whatever the case brands need to have a plan in place to mitigate poor choices by either their agency or celebrity figurehead.

The potential is also great.  If you can get an up and coming act at the start of their rise you could benefit in two ways.  Ride the crest of their rise to fame and receive some quedos in terms of helping them achieve their goals.  If the tie-up works as it should in your strategy meetings then there is no reason why you can’t succeed.  Nike seem great at this. They consistently select sports stars that embody sporting excellence and in the main shy away from bad news stories.  They also execute their merchandising, promotion and Marketing strategies with clinical expertise.  Michael Jordan was perhaps the best example of this.  Jordan was an NBA superstar, Nike created an image for Jordan and in terms helped him reach World status, perhaps unrivalled by any NBA star either then or now.  They have also successfully used the Brazilian national football team to great effect.  Their ads show the squad performing awe-inspiring tricks whilst maintaining a genuine feel to what is being played out on TV.  However this particular tie has also caused controversy, with concerns over the depth of influence Nike has on the Brazilian national association.

Good tie-ins

So as mentioned previously good tie-ins are ones that match celebrities with the brand.  Maybe they share similar values or appeal to the same audience.  They match has to be believable and resonate with the audience.  Below are my suggestions of good tie-ins.

Nike and Micheal Jordan

For all the reasons highighted previousy, Jordan became bigger than an NBA star, bigger than the man himself.  Jordan became a ridiculously huge commercial engine.  The relationship was part of Nike’s desire to corner sporting excellence with their brand.  Jordan also gave Nike the urban edge, with Nike Air Jordan shoes the choice footwear for Hip Hop stars and fans.

L’Oreal and Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole has had her issues in her past, including allegations of racial assault.  However the Girls Aloud star has turned things around since becoming one of the key faces in the band and a judge on X-Factor.  Her showbiz marriage to controversial footballer Ashley Cole also made her a media darling.  With Ashleys alleged extra-marital activities she came from being and aggressor to a strong independent woman.  This mix of defined character and huge success was an instant pull for L’Oreal and despite Cole’s strong North East accent, she fitted the role perfectly.

Sainsburys and Jamie Oliver

Sainsburys have long battled the likes of Tesco to become a force in the highly competitive supermarket sector.  This has been helped in no small means by TV chef Jamie Oliver.  Jamie was always well liked as a TV personality, however he took a few risks that could have back fired.  Taking on the government and schools to improve school dinners propelled Jamie into the big time.  This good feeling towards Jamie has rubbed off on to Sainsburys.  The tie-in also works due to Jamie being famous for food, which is the staple component of Sainsburys.

Walkers and Gary Lineker

Walkers crisps have gone from another snack food company to the dominant player in UK crisps and snacks.  This incredible journey has gone almost hand-in-hand with taking local star and national hero Gary Lineker.  The ads and concepts have adapted over the years, but Lineker is a constant.  Even off the back of the ex-England stars marriage breakdown, Lineker has remained a popular figure.

Bad tie-ins

The tie-ins here are about as popular as a fart in a lift.  Some due to poor judgement in terms of celebrity, others due to actions after becoming associated to the brand.  Either way, just take a look and squirm or tell me how wrong I am.

Iceland and Kerry Katona

So when Iceland first pulled off the coup of landing Jungle queen Kerry their ad execs must have been rubbing their hands together.  They had one of the nations favourite and a normal down to earth girl made good.  Unfortunately, the public very quickly saw Kerry as a figure to loathe rather than love, not helped by her own misdemeanours.  Since then Katona has come out as having problems with various addictions, debt and failed relationships.  Iceland have since dropped Katona

Accenture and Tiger Woods

Accenture one of the world’s premier consulting firms paid a massive sum to use the image of undoubtedly the world’s best golfer, the Jordan of PGA and all round admired sports star, Tiger Woods.  Tiger has since been found to have a number of extra-marital affairs and has been treated for alleged sex addiction.  Tiger was all over the front pages for all the wrong reasons.  Tiger was promptly dropped by Accenture.

What is the alternative?

So as discussed the potential for a star to gain bad press through either misguided naivity or more worryingly through poor actions that damage their public equity as well as a brands.  So despite all the benefits should you do something else?

Well brands such as Halifax and B&Q have used their own staff to varying degrees of success.  This isnt always the best route as you aren’t guaranteed to find a personality big enough to make an impact or if you do, they could become primadonnas.  This provides equal issue of reliance on a face to lead your brand.

So how about using a character?  Advertising seems to go through cyclical phases where characters become the force and celebrities go into the background.  At the moment some of the most successful ad campaigns feature characters.  Immediate campaigns that spring to mind include Meerkat, Compare the Market, Opera singer, Go Compare and Churchill the nodding dog, Churchill Insurance.  Bizarrely, all of these are finance related.  These factors can be as problematic as celebrities.  With characters you are generally expected to tell a story and improve on one campaign to another.  The non-finance ad that springs to mind is Cillit Bang.  The ad campaign also pushed Barry Scott in to becoming a cult figure, especially within student communities.  However an outburst by the character on social media and the uncovering that Barry was indeed made up has meant to concept has backfired.

Another alternative, which may sound groundbreaking is concentrate on your company, your business and promote what is good or different about it.  Or pick a theme that can create a platform as opposed to a one-off.

Potential future tie-ins

So to sign off, I thought I would suggest a few light hearted tie-ins.

Dolmio and Joe Calzaghe – Dolmio’s animated Italians would be no match for World Champion boxer Calzaghe.  Would his Welsh accent generate credibility issues?

Red Bull and Robbie Williams – Robbie made a particularly highly charged performance on X Factor.  This could easily be the result of a Red Bull marathon.

Specsavers and Arsene Wenger – The Arsenal manager is well known for saying, “I didn’t see anything” – maybe Specsavers could set the Frenchman’s sight back to 20:20.

Kalms and Naomi Campbell – World renowned laid back super model Campbell would be the perfect ambassador for Kalms.  She could even undertake roadshows highlighting to the public how to avoid conflict.

Disney Channel and Amy Winehouse – A match made in heaven.  The world’s cleanest and happiest TV channel with, um, err, Amy Winehouse.