Welcome to Wednesday, futurists.
If you’ve paid attention to Future Commerce, you know the power of myth-busting. There’s no better way to bust myths with your 3rd party providers than to subject them to a holdout test… and that’s exactly what our partner Haus helps you to do.
We live in the weirdest timeline.
Artist and sculptor Daniel Arsham’s Future Relic series (2013-2018) is almost certainly responsible for making Pokémon cool again. Long before we called the return of the pocket monsters to cultural relevance, he was cementing the legacy of Pikachu and Co. for the nouveau riche millennial generation who grew up playing the games and collecting the cards.
This week, he continued his legendary Pokemon series with a new, and richer, collaborator. Longtime brand co-conspirator, Tiffany & Co., announced a collection of limited-edition jewelry that would celebrate the history of the artist’s series while tapping the very same consumer Arsham sold sculpture to a decade ago.
In 2021, at the ripe old age of 187 years old, Tiffany & Co. announced that they were being acquired by LVMH. The Arnault family are no strangers to hi/lo brand partnerships. Who can forget last year's Mario x TAG Heuer Formula 1 collab? Barf.
What makes this particularly palatable is the nature of the relationship of the cultural icon (Pokémon) to the works by the artist (Arsham). In this way, Tiffany & Co. is just the distributor giving a new channel to the artist and streetfighting animals.
This partnership hits because of this one key difference, calling attention to the determinant between a generational brand and a cultural brand: artists provide a construct for cultural adaptation.
Some considerations for the cultural brand toying with collabs:
- Pop culture is now the culture. So much so, in fact, you never have to outgrow the things you loved in your childhood. Similar luxury art x commerce crossover engagements have happened recently with Kith x Marvel; ultimately a miss because it alluded to an artist’s work, rather than pairing with the artist themselves.
- Brand collaborations provide adequate cover. Thanks to creators like Daniel Arsham, luxury brands can now lean into new audiences through artist collaborations. The ability to recontextualize Tiffany & Co. comes through the artist’s history, not merely ‘selling out’ with a brand-to-brand (1-1) team up.
- Collabs are a hook for storytelling. A three-way collab (Tiffany & Co. x Arsham Studios x Pokémon) gives ample room for a customer to tell many stories — but none the least of which is being a patron of the art “I’ve followed Daniel on IG for so long!” becomes the rationale for commerce engagement.
Rationalization through storytelling is key to human relationships and behaviors around commerce, after all, and giving more stories to tell helps the brand and the artist connect with new audiences. Even if the purchase is irrational or ironic.
This isn’t two brands “doing a hi/lo,” no no no. It’s ironic, the pairing — almost dadaist — which is what makes it so special. The futureproofing capabilities of luxury collabs, and the brand-stretching capability that artists have with their audiences, make this a desirable model, and a very palatable collab.
I wish I could afford to catch ‘em all.
P.S. Check out our newly-launched After Dark series, an exclusive for subscribers of Future Commerce+! The first episode covers LinkedIn Genealogies, “Toilet Bibles,” and more. Listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
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