How even the most uncool brands swag with swagger

Brands are adopted shortcuts to an expression of our personal selves. We might not like to admit it, but they are.

A beer brand might provide a clue to my identity for the duration of a drink or two. My choice of hand soap might tell a story if you happen to visit my bathroom. My preferred extra virgin olive oil, my favourite go-to-restaurant, my car, my suitcase, my watch – they all paint a picture of who I am – my class, my education, my politics, my pretensions. But nothing is quite so enduring and evident for everyone to see as what I wear – because it’s difficult to disentangle how I present who I am from … well, who I am.

Is that why so many mainstream brands, from search engines to ketchup, and from beer to fried chicken, are jumping into bed with the fashion fraternity? In the last few months, we’ve seen Coca Cola’s collab with Hype, NYC ice cream brand Mikey Likes It Ice Cream’s collab with streetwear brand Ewing athletics, and the never-ending popularity of the hipster pin. Even emerging brands like Ugly Drinks are thinking like the big dogs to make merch for their brand loyalists right from the very get-go.

For food and drink brands, tapping into the cred of a streetwear brand is an instant formula for renewed brand relevance. And the novelty of an unexpected collaboration responds to a thirst for experience that one-dimensional brands can no longer satisfy. Is a fashion-fluent partner a prerequisite? Not at all. McDonalds created their own range of merch (Big Mac Onesie, anyone?) to drop their recent collaboration with UberEats.

So how do you know if your brand needs a co-pilot with cred, or has enough kudos to fly solo? What’s the formula? Who knows. The fact is, all of this stuff takes a supernatural understanding of the nuances and shifting sands of what is ‘cool’ and what is not. Just to prove my point, it may surprise those of you older than 25 to learn that people younger than you think this is a cool t-shirt:

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