Borrow My Brand

01 February 2016.

Businesses, do you want to boost your brand? The answer is simple - borrow someone else's. Perhaps most prominent in the fashion world, 'brand borrowing' is the concept of one brand procuring the use of another brand’s name or logo for their products.

Arguably the UK’s biggest exponent of this trend is British fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch who has made a career out of using high street logos on her luxury pieces. Her latest Spring/Summer 2016 collection gave us some classic examples of the trend.  Closing London Fashion Week, her pieces took us on a nostalgic walk down the British high street circa 1985, plastering some of the nation's favourite brands across her bags and shoes. Patterns included the cubed letters of the WH Smith logo, John Lewis’ diagonal stripes, the rounded cobalt 'M' of Mothercare and even a pair of knee-high boots emblazoned with, you've guessed it, Boots.  Brand borrowers like Hindmarch cleverly harness the power and emotion of a juxtaposing brand to create something unexpected, eye-catching and, most importantly, desirable. 

With designers like Hindmarch, quirky collaborations work because of the very fact that they are a combination of two things you wouldn't normally associate with each other – a high-end designer piece and a high street logo more easily identifiable with a trip to the supermarket than a 4-figure price tag. It is this juxtaposition between the everyday and the designer's luxury craftsmanship which makes for novelty, sought-after pieces.  The question is, could we one day see ‘brand borrowing’ translate into professional services?

On a very small scale we see a form of brand borrowing at professional services firms already; how many of these firms choose to say something about their brand through pieces of art, quotations and other such work in their office or online presence.  But could we see professional services firms forming more deliberate or unusual brand borrowing collaborations? A firm which has taken years to refine a more serious brand image may be less receptive to unexpected brand mixing than the ever-changing fashion world. Another obvious limitation is that the firms’ end product - say, a piece of legal advice or industry update - isn’t conducive to branding in the same way that a fashion item is. And so it is not as easy to imagine potential tie-ups; legal update on the back of your cereal box, anyone?

One conceivable option, a subtle form of brand borrowing being deployed already in some sectors, would be for professional services firms to borrow brands in the way they market or present their services, such as advertising. Recent high profile campaigns by Santander, Virgin and Lloyds have featured adverts which capture the brand power of a famous personality or music artist. Like Hindmarsh & Co’s brand borrowing, the key is doing this in an unexpected way (think Usain Bolt sporting a Bransen-esque goatee) - which is where some firms may be nervous.     

However, as professional services firms constantly seek to differentiate themselves and to evolve with their clients and the rest of the business world, it may be that they need to look at more playful and inventive ways of marketing their brand. Borrowing someone else's could just be the answer. 

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