I remember waaaay back in the day when Michael Graves' campaign for Target first launched, and my friend — a museum curator — said, "Ouch, that's going to make my real Michael Graves teapot totally worthless." Around that time, Fast Company described the Graves/Target collaboration as a "bumpy ride" that would eventually lead to "a game-changing partnership." Fast-forward a decade, and Target's on the brink of debuting their collaboration with ultra-luxury brand Missoni to cheers and thrilled tweets from the design community. What happened and how did the game change? While ten years ago, a mass-market partnership could seriously tarnish a designer's shiny patina, today big box collaborations hold the promise of transformation from high-end luxury brand available to the few to household name available to all. (Or, more accurately, available to anyone who can fight the crowds and snag an affordably priced designer product within a limited time period — in the case of Missoni, the collection will be available at Target.com and in stores for one month from September 13 to October 22.)
Last week, I met Missoni family member Wanda Jelmini at the opening of their high-end showroom in Manhattan's DDC, and she and everyone around her seemed to be buzzing about what an amazing marketing opportunity the Target collection represented. So, how did Target maneuver this hyped-up, relatively designer-friendly campaign? From the perspective of someone working in the design/blogging world, very well — here's the formula.
Start a Whispering Campaign
Remember in the Muppets Take Manhattan when Kermit poses as a producer, goes to Sardi's, secretly replaces Liza Minelli's charicature with his own, and tries to start a whispering campaign to hype his Broadway show? That's exactly what Target's been doing. Anyone I know who's remotely associated with the brand — from PR people to IT people — has been telling me for months, "Target's about to release a really big designer collaboration. We can't tell you who it is, but it's REALLY big."
Set Up a Social Media Explosion
When I finally did learn what the big deal was, it wasn't via a press release to my inbox but through Twitter. Target placed a blurb with Vogue, then publicly announced the collaboration on May 4th via Twitter, with a link to Vogue.com:
It was the perfect pairing of credible, high-end, old-school publication (Vogue) and social media hype juggernauts (Twitter/Facebook).
Hold Back the Photos Until It's Time
This Wednesday, I previewed the collection in an office building in Manhattan BUT before I could even enter the space, I had to sign a release promising not to take photos or publish any images online... until Target says it's OK. All the other editors — everyone from Conde Nast employees to bloggers like me — did the same.
Of course, this caused us to all tweet the preview like crazy and maniacally check our inboxes to see when photos will be available. And when they are, I'll probably post them like everyone else in a heartbeat. (And yes, I did think the collection was pretty cool — there are chevron ottomans, towels, bedding, vases, rugs, shower curtains...there's even a chevron bike!)
In short, the landscape has changed a lot since the days of Michael Graves' mass-market teapots and toasters. Via networks like Facebook and Twittter, the connection between brand, publication, and consumer feels closer than ever, and — when it's handled capably — the hype seems to effortlessly spin itself.
What do you think? Have you been psyched about the Missoni collaboration, or has the hype turned you off?