Stranger Collaboration Things

Words: Adrian Bianco 

Ok, I get it. A collaboration creates hype, and in the best case, both sides win something. lt can generate sales, reputation, and relevance. A collaboration is the norm nowadays, and everyone wants a piece of the cake. Every brand and the marketing people behind it or the agencies consulting them know about this brilliant way of making a product desirable. I might be old, but I am not old school, I really do respect the market, its needs and how brands react to it. lf they want it, let them get it. But there are moments in the market that signal change, peak points, over-saturation, or even perversion.

A positive highlight, for example, might be how Nike introduced »The Ten« a couple of years ago that changed the collaborative system as we know it from before. Or how adidas collaborated with Kanye West’s Yeezy brand to build up an imperium and continuous and never-ending output of sneakers. Fair play, well done. From a small community around the »ALL GONE« books to Virgil Abloh and Kanye West – I think that’s a beautiful circle.

But when talking about peak points, oversaturation and perversion, I do also believe that things are slowly going into a strange, maybe even the wrong direction. Just look at the product line up for the release for season 3 of »Stranger Things«, the actual reason for me writing this article. Let’s just have a quick look on the collaborations I found so far:

Nike x Stranger Things 3
Levis x Stranger Things 3
H&M x Stranger Things 3
Highsnobiety x Stranger Things 3
Snipes x Stranger Things 3
Coca Cola x Stranger Things 3
Polaroid x Stranger Things 3

I do think there are even some other products out there, cardboards and ice cream and probably a car, I don’t know. And yes, there is a reason I put the »3« behind these collaborations. There were some collaborations for the older seasons already. Topman, Reebok, and so on …

Don’t get me wrong, I do like »Stranger Things«, I also like merchandise and memorabilia. I might be used to having that kind of collaborations a little bit later – once a series or movie became iconic or cult – but times have changed. Everything moves fast: Now in times of hype, we talk about fast trends, fast releases, short lifespans and a lot of products and collaborations. Again, I do respect the market, and that’s just how it goes. lf there is demand, then let it be.

But especially for this season 3 with that many collaborations, I started to wonder if the idea of creating hype, creating sales, and creating relevance did work out for all brands involved, including Netflix and »Stranger Things«. A collaboration is usually meant to be limited, exclusive and hard to get. Something to signalize your culture, subculture, tribe, nerd-ism, fandom, and so on. But with brands and names like Nike, Levis, H&M and Highsnobiety dropping an apparel release at the very same time, about the very same topic, I do believe we have crossed some lines. A fast-fashion company, a sneaker giant, a denim brand, and a magazine all together on the same »Stranger Things«. While every unique collaboration might be beautiful, cool, well-designed, and whatsoever – design is not the reason for this article – they altogether do not help each other so much.

lt seems like someone from Netflix took his very best effort to market the new season on all available channels, and it seems like every brand took that bite. On top of that, he made sure that there wasn’t just a Plan A and a plan B, but a Plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G. So what does that mean for the series, collaborations and the market?

For the series, it definitely puts the sheer thought of it as a lovely and original story in the background. Netflix is a machinery, a money-making giant, and there is not so much romanticism left if a series gets over 10 products only after season 2. Yes, we get it. You do want to make money, but do you really need to market the sh*t out of such a young series? At least I wasn’t so much interested in the story any more after seeing 7 different products I could buy before watching. Do we really want to go to Disneyland, before growing up on its movies? Or buy some Star Wars Lego if Obi-Wan would only be around for 3 seasons? This man had to die for us to spend some money on his merchandise, right? lt took the Alien movies, the Ghostbusters and Michael Myers some time to get their own t-shirts, masks, toys, videos games and so on. An icon needs to be build up, not shot into the shelves. You can’t build an icon from scratch, so please don’t start selling products from scratch. At least not that many … Everything is moving a bit too fast, and in my opinion, Netflix went in a bit too hard. There might be a reason I had enough of season 3 before I even started watching it.

And when it comes to brands and products, I do think this Season 3 shows a problem or let’s call it an evolution we are thrifting into right now: How much will people cherish a collaboration when »the model collaboration« has become the mainstream? We used to buy collaborations and limited products to keep things special and extraordinary. And yes, even though it’s hard for everyone to admit – its nice to have something limited. But if you look at the market right now, collaborations ARE the mainstream – and luckily for the market, people (consumers) still did not realize that.

They still believe they buy a special product, a unique piece of something. But the reality is we are buying something that everyone wants, that everyone knows and in this case that probably everyone gets. There is no individuality left in this model. You simply cannot add that much individually to your outfit by buying another collaboration product. A collaboration is what everyone buys, A collaboration is what everyone wears. A collaboration is the mainstream. Not something extraordinary anymore.

We still let the market decide, and this business model still will go on for a long time, probably for forever. But the latest pinnacle of collaborations just shows how normalized hype and collaborations are at the moment. I do believe that the first consumers will start to ask for less, for maybe more general releases, for maybe the non-collaborative product or sneaker again. And this Stranger Collaboration Thing might be one of the very first signs that the market is oversaturated, a little bit boring, and full of the very same things.

Who is the standout kid in a group of five friends? The four kids with a collaboration on their feet or the one kid that wears the non-collaborative sneaker? I let you decide.

Illustrations: V.Raeter