Kiehl’s has been teaming up with artists for a number of years to release these charitable collections and as a result it really feels like it’s part of the brand now.
Fellow personal care brand SK-II also has a strong track record of teaming up with artists, to produce limited edition products. The latest collaboration, with Australian artist and illustrator Karan Singh, extends beyond the packaging to integrate with SK-II’s website and even a new ad, to illustrate the power of their trademark ingredient PITERA.
So what inspiration can cosmetics brands take from this and how can they work with artists successfully?
1. Find the right partner
When looking at the history of brand and artist collaborations, it can be a difficult partnership to get right. Are art and brands divided by different values, with one from Mars and the other from Venus? Or do they make the perfect couple capable of enriching one another’s lives?
One of the earliest examples of artists and brands working together is Pears soap when it used the Millais Bubbles painting in the 19th Century. The partnerships continue today with campaigns such as Pepsi’s ‘LOVE IT. LIVE IT. FOOTBALL.’
These brands might make getting this marriage right look effortless – but it isn’t. Artistic credibility is hard-won, so it’s rigorously defended, and the faintest whiff of inauthenticity from a brand or artist could inflict lasting damage. Therefore, getting the right partner is crucial.
2. Beauty isn’t just skin deep
We’re all familiar with artists who become brand ambassadors, as Sean Combs did when he teamed up with Cîroc vodka to achieve impressive commercial results. And in the early days it worked for brands to buy or commission work, just as Pears did with Millais. There is a place for these approaches, but in an age when consumers are suspicious of marketing, the most successful collaborations are those involving a more meaningful partnership between artist and brand – working together from conception to execution and finding solutions that can fundamentally shape a brand.
Look at the deeper collaboration between artists and Baileys (see images above in slider). The brand has released new product lines and limited editions in recent years including iced coffee cans, Strawberries & Cream and the dairy-free Almande with beautiful design that repositions it as an ‘adult treat’ to enjoy the festive season. The design embraces a playful spirit of indulgence, allowing Baileys to become a co-conspirator with its audience and saying ‘to hell with guilt’.
It shows what’s possible when, rather than simply using artists as promotional tools, brands seed artists in their workflow, threading them directly through the innovation and discovery process, where they help to innovate, stress-test concepts, and inject fresh thinking into its process.
3. Try the Warhol way
These deeper collaborations are rich in opportunity for brand and artist alike – but they’re not without risk. It can be tough for artists to know which brand is right to partner with. And it can be just as tough for brand managers to accept the uncertainty that comes with artistic collaboration. How do they find the artist that best represents their brand? And how can one brand create an environment in which art can thrive?
One answer is to tap into an established creative community, where artists from different backgrounds and disciplines are already working together – and working with brands, just like the Factory created by Pop Art founder Andy Warhol.
The Factory was a community of artists and muses, but it was also a creative network which linked commerce and art. By working with a collective of artists, designers and makers, brands can draw from a well of skills and artistic specialisms, which produce truly original ideas.
This hub of artistic expression can take commercial collaboration to a new level, as the right artist can be paired with each creative challenge.
Even with this kind of help, forging a successful brand and artist partnership is hard, but if you get it right these deeper, braver collaborations can result in great art and powerful commercial opportunities.
Jonathan Kenyon is co-founder and executive creative director of Vault49