T.Tom Van den Bergh

Brands should, may and can experiment. They should always aim to surprise, albeit in line with their identity. And maybe break a rule now and then.

Even big brands are taking little risks, inspired by the many start-ups that are popping up around us: innovations and surprises that quickly prove to be a hit or miss. The short throughput time in development and production, accelerated distribution in markets and instant adoption by customers create the margin for this. And who says these have to be long-lasting partnerships? Just think of the success of pop-ups and capsule collections. A limited time frame (and thus limited availability) increases value and enhances the experience. The old marketing principle that scarcity makes things more valuable has effortlessly survived any hype or buzzword.

A good example is the annual collaboration between H&M and a series of leading designers, with the late Karl Lagerfeld as the first in a long line back in 2004. The retail chain treats its customer base to affordable luxury, while the designers get to tap into a new audience. It’s a triple win, actually, because the impact of the collaboration is also felt at the till. The Balmain edition in 2015 was the most successful to date, increasing sales figures by 19%. I wonder how profitable the 2018 edition with the Italian designer brand Moschino was…

That first designer collaboration, 15 years ago, caused a revolution in the fashion world. Nowadays we’ve gotten used to it. After retail, high fashion set its sights on streetwear. And even Vans, the sneaker brand, managed to get Karl Lagerfeld to team up with them. But the most intriguing partnership has to be Supreme x Louis Vuitton. The stylish, iconic French logo blends so well with the in-your-face, red and white logo of the American brand Supreme. The fashion world went crazy – and so did the entire social media stratosphere. The discrepancy between supply and demand was huge. The one-off collection sold out in an instant. If you’re lucky you might still be able to score one of the much-coveted hoodies on eBay. For a cool $22K. Gulp. And don’t get us started on that custom Ferrari. Triple branding?!

There are plenty of variations on that same theme: Heidi Klum launched a fashion collection with budget supermarket chain Lidl. Super-basic budget retailer Zeeman surprised everyone with their stunt during Amsterdam International Fashion Week… The fashion world has become something of a brand canary, you might say.

‘Big little risks’ like these make good brands even better. We fall for people because of the crazy mix of clichés and contradictions that make them so unique. So why should brands be any different? A little creative tension keeps any relationship fresh.

Tom Van den Bergh

Partner / Strategic director

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