In 2023, breaking convention with meaningful collabs has become the new mantra for concept and product prototyping - because there is one thing worse than being talked about…
In ‘Post Corona’, New Yorker columnist Scott Galloway observes that ‘many companies sell essentially the same mass-produced and mediocre product but register a premium due to multigenerational investment in brand building.’ Scott warns that this cannot continue in an age where media is highly fractured. It’s not understatement to say that brand saliency is under severe threat.
The digital age and its overwhelming access to information have produced what’s become known as the low attention economy. At the turn of the year, the World Advertising Research Council (WARC) reported that 81% of global marketing professionals think that cut through is now a major issue.
As consumers attention becomes liquid gold, brand teams and product developers have been raising the volume on prototyping to offset losses in campaign effectiveness. According to consumer forecasting agency WGSN, post corona consumers want awe and wonder and sensory experiences that expand their worlds. In response, household names are stepping up in surprising ways. After all, not being talked about is a brand manager’s worst nightmare.
Heinz x Absolut Vodka Pasta Sauce
Inspired by TikTok content, this collaboration brought much needed theatre to an everyday household staple. Heinz described the partnership with Absolut Vodka as ‘a match made in pasta heaven, the vodka is the magic that unlocks the flavors and intensifies the aroma of this rich and creamy tomato, basil and cheese sauce.’
As a measure of success, retailers have rolled out generous secondary siting, recognizing the potential for spontaneous purchases. At a time when many people are tightening their belts, helping retailers shift a little more product will be met with open arms.
Curiously, this launch has prompted age verification to get onto certain pages of the Heinz website. Whatever next?
Fenty Beauty x MSCHF Lip Gloss
Keeping it saucy, Fenty Beauty, founded by Rihanna has got it on with MSCHF who make a living out of turning the world upside down. This effort is a box of six identical sachets styled like individual sauce packages. And here’s the thing – some actually contain ketchup, whilst others are filled with Fenty beauty’s bestselling Gloss Bomb lip gloss in a cherry hue.
It seems that life is now like a box of ketchup sachets. You never know what you’re gonna get.
And whilst the internet was divided on this collab, it is clear that this far-out product launch cut through with beauty aficionados in ways that a glossy ad doesn’t.
Liquid Death x Travis Barker
Back in 2009, Creative Director Mike Cessario decided that bottled water was boring. He thought it lacked the street cred of energy drinks, citing teenage boys stomping the streets with Monster cans filled with tap water.
Fresh from smashing up grandma’s bone china to politely introduce three new iced tea contenders, Liquid Death has gone where no other food or beverage brand dare ever go. Pairing with Travis Barker, who played the drums on the hit album Enema of the State, the brand has produced a ‘collectible enema kit’ containing an enema bulb and a large can of Liquid Death Mountain Water. You read that right.
Last time we looked, this $182.00 attention grabbing ‘innovation’ had completely sold out, no doubt helping the bottom line. With apologies.
Lay’s Potato Vodka
When your brand is omnipresent, how can you jolt audiences back into active engagement? In 2021 Lay’s raised eyebrows with a potato vodka made in partnership with Oregon’s Eastside Distilling –using Frito-Lay’s proprietary potatoes.
Resisting temptation to make Cheese & Onion flavor, this liquid was a straight 40% ABV vodka with a ‘crisp, clean finish.’ And at $40 it cost $10 more than a bottle of Grey Goose.
Mashed website gave this initiative the thumbs up: ‘it's a bit different than expected as Lay's is known for perfecting savory flavors, but it's not an unwelcome surprise at all. For a vodka martini or even a basic vodka soda, this is a solid option.’
Framed as ‘unashamedly experimental’ by The Coca-Cola Company, the Creations franchise has been a lead contributor to the company’s recent 21% increase in income. At a time when consumers are scrambling for cheap thrills, Coca-Cola has captured the moment by offering limited-time flavors that keep audiences – particularly Gen Z – engaged. Not least for fear of missing out.
This leftfield platform has activated ways for consumers to use AI to generate original creative assets based upon the brand’s visual archives – some of which have even appeared on the Times Square billboard.
Creations (and its latest iteration called ‘Move’, below) represents a vibe shift in mainstream innovation thinking, demonstrating how big brands can engage audiences in new and interesting ways. It’s also evidence that multinationals are finding new ways to protect saliency.
Old Spice x Arby's Meat Sweats Deo
Old Spice is in the business of long-lasting sweat and odor protection. It promises to help men ‘smell confident.’ Meanwhile, Arby's practices the art of Meatcraft® with a variety of high-quality proteins and sides, such as Curly Fries and shakes. For some completely unfathomable reason, someone decided that it would be a good idea to link arms and tackle the dreaded ‘meat sweats’ once and for all.
The limited-edition Meat Sweat Defense kit combined Old Spice know-how and featured a limited-edition roast beef-print sweatshirt and sweatpants, a moisture-wicking towel, headband, and a $15 USD Arby’s gift card. The kits apparently sold out in three hours.
For routine categories on the edges of commoditization, this winning partnership highlights opportunities for incumbent brands to prompt consumer reassessment, and generate incremental purchases.
Cif x Scrub Daddy co-brand
Announced in March, Unilever’s cleaning hero CIF launched a line of co-branded products with Scrub Daddy, the maker of fun and innovative cleaning tools including sponges and scouring pads. The move has brought fresh energy to an established household brand.
Going beyond the realms of concept norms, this move has given CIF ‘fast-track entry’ into the cleaning tools segment and builds CIF’s brand recognition by association.
The example is a truly inspiring addition to this review – a superb example of out-of-the-box thinking. Scrub Daddy sales are rapidly approaching $700m across 20 markets. It’s hugely popular on social media, pushing out over-the-top videos to over 3 million fans. CIF is acquiring a huge amount of street cred with this deal. The first wave of cleaning products (shown below) has brought much needed joy to an otherwise sanitized aisle.
Accessing new worlds
Our tour of attention-seeking collabs could go on and on, but the benefits should already be clear:
1. Offset decline in brand campaigns
2. Create incremental purchases
3. Boost key brand equities
4. Bridge to new categories
5. Respond to consumers increased expectation of an experience
At Huxly, we’ve applied a huge whack of leftfield thinking to ensure that your next concept, collab and product experience is talked about by overloaded consumers, supporting your mental availability.
Will Leigh, Director, says that ‘recent work with big multinationals has seen us taking consumers into new physical and mental spaces to force fresh thinking. We firmly believe that it’s only when you take people out of the everyday that you’ll hit upon something genuinely extraordinary. People generally have the best ideas when they’re having fun!’
If you’re open-minded about how you achieve the next big idea that gets you well and truly noticed, we probably should chat. Perhaps over some Dunkin Donut Coffee and lip scrub?