Not surprisingly, an art fusion collaboration can be an intimidating process for brand managers. Every step requires uncompromising attention to detail, making it potentially easy to lose sight of the big picture. But by simply asking yourself a few questions before moving forward, it will be much easier to manage this extremely rewarding process.
Question no.1: Should your collaboration lean more towards being ‘art’ or ‘fusion’? In other words, is it more important for your brand to turn heads, be considered ground-breaking and be elevated by the leadership that signals, or will your brand benefit more from a collaboration that produces a desirable, saleable product? Or both?
At Arts & Labour, we frame this choice as ‘art fusion by deconstruction’ and ‘art fusion by integration’. In art fusion by deconstruction, a brand works with an artist, essentially to create branded art – a sculpture, a video, a mural, an event, a display – to make a strategic statement and to create talk value. Art fusion by integration leans towards the ‘fusion’ side, with the artist using elements of your brand to create a product or group of products. Determining which art fusion method best fits a brand’s objectives is a critical part of the process and will help determine its success. In some cases, a head-turning campaign that combines both methods – deconstruction elevating the brand with its artful integrity and integration creating immediate sales with its desirability – is the most advantageous for the long and short term.
Question no.2: Would I prefer the impact we create to be instant or built reliably and safely over time? Deciding whether a brand would benefit more from developing an art fusion collaboration as ‘a collection’ or as ‘a single piece’ is equally important. If a brand has no time to spare in creating as big a splash as possible, then developing art fusion as a collection is a good way of achieving that. Think about the inspiring art fusion collaboration between the renowned furniture company Herman Miller and the prolific type foundry House Industries. By combining the classic Eames wire-base tables with timeless typographic forms, House Industries created a collection where each and every table was simply impossible to resist. Or consider Lacoste’s collaboration with the Chinese artist Li Xiaofeng, who used both methods of art fusion, first creating ceramic sculptures that he then used to design a limited edition collection of Lacoste polos.
However, if the preference is to have the brand-enhancing benefits of art fusion safely grow over time, then developing it gradually piece-by-piece works. Again, think about Evian, a brand that’s been building their art fusion status continuously over the last eight years. It may be helpful to keep in mind the saying ‘getting further by going slower.’
Question no.3: Should your brand engage with one or a group of artists? Selecting one or a group of artists to collaborate with depends mostly on budget. If what you have available to invest does not allow your brand to collaborate with a well-known artist, then starting the process with a few emerging artists and potentially short-listing them to one or two finalists could be the way.
Established brands, whether high or low-end, tend to collaborate with one artist at a time. For example, Lacoste with Zaha Hadid, the avant-garde Iraqi-British architect; or Crate & Barrel with Paola Navone, the Italian, nomadic, multi-faceted artist and designer; or Target with Phillip Lim, the American fashion designer so loved by US First Lady, Michelle Obama. On the other hand, smaller brands and some not-for-profit organizations have had success working with a few artists at a time, each artist developing a smaller fragment of the whole. For example, the leading UK charity Save the Children created an art fusion collaboration with 14 British designers who designed traditional Christmas sweaters to help raise holiday funds for the organization.
The objective of art fusion is to capture the hearts and minds of consumers, and to stimulate social media into a frenzy of chatter, anticipation and desire. As with all worthwhile marketing pursuits, the amount of strategic thought that’s applied beforehand will only ensure the creative might you wield goes to good use.
Stand by for the next post that looks into art fusion collaborations where the outcome is an installation.