Rise of the Unorthodox

Why today’s brands are just getting weirder, and why you should be too

As consumers in today’s ever-changing brand-scape, they like to think they’ve pretty much seen it all. They have  already experienced the thrill of VR from their Amazon-ordered cardboard glasses, already got a month’s worth of Instagrammable shots taken amidst the walls of an immersive pop-up and already been to plenty of ‘retro-inspired’ launch events littered with quirky video games and cassette tape trinkets. Nothing shocks them anymore.

As a result, they’re reasonably unenthused by the majority of new brand offerings and in a permanent state of saturation from the never-ending pop-up shops and experiential exhibitions. To capture their attention now, they need to be challenged, surprised and, frankly, even a little confused at times.

Some brands seem to have caught on to this, and are beginning to demonstrate in three clear ways how they attempt to tackle today’s consumer fatigue:

UNEXPECTED COLLABORATIONS 

Gone are the days of meek partnerships between brands that have similar product offerings, similar target markets and similar amounts of kudos within the lifestyle space. The time has come for the most unsuspecting of brands to join forces and merge our worlds like never before. Think Vetements x DHL but this time, it’s not a joke. Long term merchant of the unexpected, Virgil Abloh paved the way for a new generation of collaborations the day he partnered with Swedish furniture mafias IKEA on a bespoke range of homeware. Following suit, his collaboration with Evian water has resulted in another ripple effect of designer FMCG collaborations.

An example of this comes from adidas and their recent collaboration with Arizona Iced Tea, which, surprisingly was not their first partnership. The second iteration resulted in 4 new silhouettes, each reminiscent of a different Arizona Iced Tea flavour.

The most recent to join these pioneers are Travis Scott, partnering with America’s well-loved Reese’s to create his own Reese’s Puffs cereal, and London-born designer Liam Hodges, who recently announced a collaboration with Dominoes for their ‘FashIn’ clothing collection.

Being inspired by pop culture and the general goings on of the capital is nothing new for today’s designers but cutting out the middleman and partnering directly with the source – whether that’s Dolce & Gabbana or Dominos – is what’s getting all the attention.

VENTURING INTO THE UNKNOWN

To truly surprise and delight, brands need to stop being afraid of territory they’ve not yet explored or understood. To attract attention, real-life experiences need to appeal to the masses, and they do this through focusing on something that unites us all. To mark the 150th anniversary of Heinz, the brand is taking the breakfast staple to a whole new level through the creation of a physical Beanz Museum. Though Heinz have virtually zero experience in the realm of art, immersive experiences or events, they’re not afraid to try and they will be remembered for it.

Another example of this comes from Tinder, the pioneers of new-age dating, who have reportedly created their own multi-episode series, complete with an “apocalyptic” storyline. Set to jump onto the bandwagon is Airbnb – rumoured to soon release their own travel show series.

Though it can be argued that more branded content is the last thing today’s consumers need, there’s something to be said about the brands that are willing to experiment.

UNORTHODOX RELEASES

The experimentation does not stop there however, as the way that brands are launching and releasing product is also changing. Believe it or not, even the prospect of going to a regular dot.com website to purchase a product is getting old and consumers want to know that there’s something bigger and better on the horizon.

Nike’s collaboration with Martine Rose sparked joy amongst Londoners not only due to the undeniable cultural relevance of Rose in general, but also due to its inspired form of release. Utilising Craigslist in the most weird and wonderful way, the collection was sold solely through three London-based creatives on the site. This meant that only those brave enough to venture out of their homes and into god knows where, were able to purchase the limited edition drop through contacting the three gatekeepers.

With so many purchases becoming so readily available it’s almost offensive. Challenging buyers and infiltrating the purchase process with an added level of risk evokes a sense of hunger and excitement that this target market is craving like never before.

In a time of unparalleled political fatigue, uninspiring offerings and uneventful experiences, brands are left with no choice but to truly get weird.

 

 

 

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