How to Pull Off a Celebrity-Brand Collab

The right partnership, at the right time, can be a marketing boon for brands big and small
Jessi Cruickshank and her family for Joe Fresh (Photography: Joe Fresh)

Monica Lewinsky x Reformation. Pamela Anderson x Re/Done. Justin Bieber x Tim Hortons. It can seem like there’s a new celebrity collaboration launching every week, especially in the fashion space. 

These capsule collections, curated by or designed with input from high-profile A-listers and creatives, are an effective form of influencer marketing that’s more collaborative—and typically more effective—than your typical brand ambassadorship or celebrity endorsement.

Cat & Nat wearing This Is J pyjama sets while toasting with champagne glasses of pink liquid
Cat & Nat for This Is J (Photography: This Is J)

Canadian sleepwear and loungewear label This Is J, which has done collaborations with artists and hotels as well as influencers, recently launched a Mother’s Day-themed pyjama collection with content creators Cat & Nat. 

The Toronto-based duo have 890,000 followers on Instagram and, more importantly to This Is J founder, Jaimie Harris, are long-time fans of the brand. “We knew that they could authentically share their love of our pyjamas because they were constantly wearing them,” says Harris. “If you’re trying to put something out there that isn’t authentic, it’s just so much more work and so much harder.”

Alignment is another key consideration for Harris. “We get approached about collaborations all the time,” she says. “We’re always trying to find that synergy because otherwise it really just becomes a content creator pushing your product as opposed to a true collaboration.”

Related: The 5 Canadian Companies Partnering With the New Shake Shack in Toronto

Jessi Cruickshank and her kids wearing matching checkerboard outfits from Joe Fresh
Jessi Cruickshank for Joe Fresh (Photography: Joe Fresh)

Building Relationships

Collaborations can also be a way for companies to expand or build on existing relationships with celebrities and brand partners.

Comedian and television personality Jessi Cruickshank describes her recent fashion collaboration with Joe Fresh as “a very full circle moment.” As a journalist, Cruickshank covered the launch of the Canadian fashion brand back in 2006, and has been a Joe Fresh ambassador for years.

Their latest collaboration is a much more personal project, which took over a year from concept to launch. The JF x Jessi Cruickshank collection, which debuted this spring, features matching pieces in a checkerboard print and is the first Joe Fresh first collab to include styles for the whole family.

“I guard and protect my voice and my brand so carefully, and I didn’t want to be a part of a collaboration that was just about putting my name on something,” says Cruickshank, who was very hands-on with its development. She sent in print ideas, selected colour swatches, made key design decisions and attended model fittings.

“I made a collection that I think is really reflective of me and who I am as a person and my taste and my fashion sense,” says Cruickshank. “It might not be for everybody, but I think the women who it is for will love it.”

Measuring Impact

For many fashion and lifestyle brands, the benefits of a celebrity collaboration go far beyond sales numbers.

“To collaborate with a community like Cat & Nat’s and expose a lot of first-time customers to our product brings so much value because we work so hard to bring our product to new people who wouldn’t discover us otherwise,” says Harris. There has been media coverage of the collaboration, and the week the collection launched, This Is J saw a higher email marketing click-through rate, a faster conversion rate and a spike in the number of new customers making purchases on their website. 

For other brands looking to bring on a collaborator, Harris has this advice: The more that you and your collaborative partner are talking about the product, the more you’ll be able to bring a sense of authenticity to people’s experience with your brand. That authenticity help convert your audience into customers faster.

Truc Nguyen
Truc Nguyen
Truc Nguyen is a communications expert, fashion editor and freelance writer based in Toronto.