Co-Branding: Are Two Labels Better Than One?

From Heineken and Krups to Pierre Hardy and Peugeot, more and more companies are joining forces – and labels – in an effort to give their respective brands an added buzz.

Vespa has lent its brand name to a line of Adidas sneakers
Vespa has lent its brand name to a line of Adidas sneakers
Valérie Leboucq

PARIS -- What could be more French than Petit Bateau and an LBD (Little Black Dress)? How about a combination of the two. Petit Bateau, the famous French clothing brand, has decided to do just that by drawing on the talents of a fashion guest star: Didier Ludot, famous for his vintage LBD collection.

This is not the first time Petit Bateau has worked side-by-side with outside designers and fashion celebrities to launch small collections that have ended up having a major impact on sales. Past collaborations involved Tsumori Chisato, a Japanese fashion creator, and Kitsuné, a French fashion and electronic music label.

In the marketing world, such collaborations are known as "co-branding." The phenomenon isn't exactly new. There are examples from the 1960s of cleaning product manufacturers allying with clothing companies to increase the prestige of both brands. What had been a case of isolated examples, however, now appears to be a full fledged trend.

Examples of contemporary co-branding abound: between carmakers and watchmakers (Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, Bentley and Breitling), and more commonly – as in the case with Petit Bateau and Didier Ludot – between clothing brands and designers. Uniqlo has collaborated with Jil Sander. H&M has co-branded with Karl Lagerfeld.

Several factors have helped the phenomenon develop. First is the disappearance of boundaries between luxury, high-standard and mass market products. The new head of Louis Vuitton personifies the trend. Before being hired as CEO of the high-end fashion firm, he worked for Danone, best known for producing yoghurt.

But as market lines blur, competitors risk resembling each other too much. Many mid-level brands, for example, have taken their cues from luxury brands in an effort to create an "affordable" luxury market. The experiment has proven successful in some cases. But from the customer's perspective, it's more difficult to know where one mid-market brand begins and a more high-level one ends. Hence the need for brands to reinvent themselves – to surprise their customers. Co-branding can be one way of accomplishing that.

Social networks add even more pressure, compelling brands to constantly come up with something new. Raphaël de Andreis, president of a communications agency called BETC Euro RSCG, says brands feel the need to update their Facebook pages at least once or twice a week. Launching a guest-designer collection can be just the kind of event a brand needs to keep the social network buzzing. "It can become a talking point, which is a social network's fuel," he says.

The best of both worlds

The co-branding strategy can also be about companies launching products that combine their various areas of expertise. LU, famous for its classic plain tea biscuit, and Côte d'Or, a chocolate brand, partnered on a chocolate cookie project. Beer giant Heineken and Krups, known for its coffee machines, joined forces to make the "BeerTender," a product that customers can use to serve up draft beer at home.

Another even more imaginative example of co-branding was the collaboration between designer Pierre Hardy and Peugeot, which asked the former to come up with a product to help women drive – in high heels! Pierre Hardy created two-in-one high-heeled sandals that can "transform" into ultra-flat driving shoes. The co-branding effort gave Pierre Hardy access to a technology he would never have dreamt of: carbon fibre. For Peugeot, the collaboration helped the company involve more women in its testing teams.

Like Pierre Hardy and Peugeot, Mini Austin and Russel Hobbs also joined forces with very different goals in mind. Last November, Russel Hobbs, a household appliance manufacturer, launched its exclusive Mini Classic Collection in France. The collection involved black and white checked kettles, toasters and coffee machines in the style of the iconic British car.

Mini, already popular with male executive types, hopes the collaboration will help attract more middle-class women. Russell Hobbs, for its part, is hoping Mini's cross-channel popularity will help it increase sales in France, where the brand doesn't enjoy as much name recognition as it does in the UK.

Read the original story in French

Photo - adifansnet

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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