Why brand partnerships can send out a strong brand message
Earlier this month, DS Automobiles announced a partnership with the young up-and-coming eco fashion brand EGONlab for Paris Fashion Week. There is little novelty in this. After all car companies often sponsor events from outside the auto world and for premium brands, fashion is a popular choice. Mercedes has been partnering with over sixty international fashion platforms as far back as 1995, McLaren Automotive has worked with Belstaff on capsule collections, while Aston Martin has an on-going relationship with British brand Hackett. What sets this latest alignment apart is the strong brand message it conveys. Sitting at the pinnacle of the PSA-Peugeot Citroën group, DS is in a good position to be the vessel to carry the overall brand message of style and sustainability.
The partnership is multi-layered. For the collection, Paris-based EGONlab liaised with Post Carbon Lab, a research group based in London who are treating its fabrics to be climate positive. The technology involves a photosynthetic coating whereby the layers of living algae on the material absorb the carbon dioxide in the surrounding atmosphere, emitting oxygen while turning carbon into glucose. Once the coating is out of the growing bath in which it has developed, the rates of photosynthesis will naturally vary. So far over the course of ten weeks during the dyeing and coating process, the material has absorbed up to 1,452g of CO2. This translates to roughly the amount taken-in by a six-year-old oak tree over six months. The coating can continue to be photosynthetically active, but this depends on the levels of care provided and the environment in which the garments are kept.
The technology is still a pilot project. Nevertheless, the brand association speaks volume for DS while in the fleeting nature of fashion, few are likely to worry too much about the intimate details of the carbon-absorbing material. Instead what they see are a collection featuring big, bold and clear messaging: ‘Green Bomber, ‘Power Sustainable Dreams and ‘Lead the Charge’. The partnership is a win-win scenario for all three brands involved.
In another recent inventive fashion/auto collaboration, two likeminded brands joined forces also as a way of highlighting their progressive brand ethos. In December, and in the height of the pandemic disruptions to live shows, the Paris luxury fashion house Balenciaga asked the young Swedish car brand Polestar to join its first virtual video game fashion show. Titled ‘Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow’ and set in an imaginary 2031, the AR interactive video game saw avatars dressed in Balenciaga’s autumn/winter 2021 collection made with high-tech and upcycled materials while driving Polestar’s futuristic electric conceptual cars.
The project was Balenciaga’s idea. Following a turbulent year, the team began a little soul searching, examining the unsustainable nature of annual shows and the industry’s fast pace. They decided to move the shows to the digital realm, revealing the collection to an exclusive list through virtual runways and via headsets, while animated and interactive video games aim for a wider global audience. This is where the idea of Polestar came in. This tech-driven electric premium car company sits at the pinnacle of the Volvo Group. It is a highly focused brand which makes niche products, while using its Volvo backing to explore novel technology and experiment with sustainable materials.
Both Balenciaga and Polestar are keen to seal their positions as progressive, technological and ecological brands. The teaming re-enforces and strengthens one another’s position, the stylish ‘Afterworld’ project amplifies the message, while the video game introduces the two brands to a younger consumer. It represents a simple yet smart act of partnership.
‘As ever, basic business sense comes into play as to whether brand partnerships are a success,’ says Leigh Banks, brand strategy director for Spinach Branding. ‘It is important to ask questions such as does the partnership speak to both audiences? Are both audiences activated by the proposition? Do the values of the partners align? Such simple qualifications can go a long way in preventing costly experiences in terms of damage to reputation and lost equity, such as that experienced by Kendall Jenner and Pepsi or Shell and Lego in their now fabled attempts of a creative coming together.’
Images: DS and EGONlab collection for Paris Fashion Week © DS Automobiles; and Polestar Precept stars in Balenciaga’s ‘Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow’ © Polestar
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