HOW TO SECURE A CONNECTION WITH AN INGREDIENT BRAND
From YKK zippers to Gore-Tex technology, ingredient brands have impacted the fashion industry for decades. Now, at a time when more and more fashion brands are looking to make their marks in the industry, many are turning to ingredient brands to strengthen their products or add innovation to their existing merchandise. In fact, ingredient co-branding has arisen as one of the most widespread apparel industry trends in recent years.
Ingredient co-branding has added a wealth of value to the fashion market because it provides advantages for both parties. For the ingredient brand company, it’s a way for an otherwise “invisible” innovation to become a known—and desired—commodity. By partnering, the ingredient brand gets a chance to reach a wider audience.
From the host brand’s point of view, ingredient branding offers differentiation, which can be challenging to obtain in the textile industry. When co-branding with an ingredient company, host companies get access to a number of distinctive ingredients that add purpose and benefits to their unique textile capabilities. For example, using an eco-friendly apparel ingredient can showcase the host brand’s commitment to sustainability. Plus, the host brand may be able to tap into new audiences who are interested in the features and benefits of the ingredient.
Consider the story of Lycra. At more than 60 years old, Lycra has become such a popular ingredient that it’s frequently swapped with the broader category term “spandex.” According to Persistence Market Research, the desire for spandex items is predicted to increase at an 8% compound annual growth rate until at least 2031. Clearly, this shows how a desired type of apparel ingredient can push sales and fashion branding innovation.
Ultimately, ingredient brands can increase the value attributed to a host brand. The ingredient brand acts as a sort of “trust anchor” by establishing a promise to the consumer: Buy this item and get X, Y, and Z. Over time, customers who have great experiences with both the host and ingredient brand begin to associate both with reliability. Accordingly, they turn into long-term fans and advocates, willing to pay more to get a product they trust and enjoy.
How to Partner With a Brand
Many startups and existing brands are beginning to develop an ingredient brand relationship to set their products apart in a crowded fashion market. However, succeeding with an ingredient branding strategy requires commitment and planning. Below are some considerations host brands can take when embarking on an ingredient branding B2B venture.
1. Collaborate with brands that share similar values
Ingredient brands bring tons of innovation and creativity to the co-branding partnership. After all, the ingredient brand has already done the research to develop, test, and substantiate its brand claims. While this can be an attractive benefit of partnership, host brands still need to seek out and partner with ingredient brands that align with their missions and predefined values.
For example, fashion brands that cater to athletes and actively partner with companies specializing in activewear would want to establish a working relationship with ingredient brands that share similar interests. If health and wellness are priorities, the ingredient branding partner should echo that mission statement and present it clearly. When an ingredient brand knows how to communicate its benefits and value, it makes it easier for the host brand to then communicate that to their customers who are ultimately buying the product.
2. Conduct research on competitors before co-branding
Host brands can set themselves apart with ingredient co-branding. However, joining forces with the wrong ingredient brand can be costly and ultimately harmful to the host brand’s reputation. It’s important for host brands to conduct prior research before settling on their preferred ingredient brands. That way, partnerships have better chances of producing win-win outcomes for both entities.
A good place to begin is identifying gaps in competitors’ products. These gaps could be related to performance, value, sustainability, or any other factors that would motivate a buyer to pick one item over another. Once gaps are noted, the host brand can begin to research forward-thinking ingredient brands that can serve as bridges over those gaps.
It is also important to research the ingredient brand for any exclusivity agreements that may prevent you from working together, such as a preexisting contract with competing brands. While partnering with an ingredient brand used by a rival company could surely level the playing field, it may not be possible in all cases.
3. Set up guidelines for clear communication and collaboration
Any business relationship can fail without exceptional communication. The host brand and ingredient brand need to have open lines for feedback before anything else, further allowing them to operate with fairness and transparency from the start.
Communication is especially important in the marketing creation processes once the ingredient brand is involved. The ingredient brand needs to have a say in how its ingredient is included to avoid misstatements and erroneous guarantees. At the same time, the host brand will want to maintain consistency across its marketing assets. Remember that the ingredient brand has expertise in applying its flagship product. Therefore, the host brand may need to change verbiage for accuracy or even legal purposes.
The bottom line is that brand alliances should reverberate with a sense of intentionality and authenticity. A haphazard approach to marketing and advertising won’t work. It’s worth the resources to invest more time in laying out an airtight promotional strategy than to speed up the process.
Working with an ingredient brand continues to be one of the most prevalent fashion industry market trends for good reason. Host brands that want to successfully navigate the process of choosing the right ingredient co-branding partners must simply take the time to ensure synergistic relationships to reap the rewards of their new ingredient branding partnerships.
Lucas Tyson is the Senior Business Developer of Hologenix, a materials science company dedicated to developing products that amplify human potential and improve health and wellness. CELLIANT®, its flagship technology, is an infrared ingredient brand that enhances textile-based products with health and wellness benefits across performance, recovery and sleep. CELLIANT’s natural blend of IR-generating minerals is embedded into fibers, yarns and fabrics, powering bio-responsive textiles utilized by world–class brands in products spanning apparel, sleepwear, bedding, upholstery, uniforms and medical supplies. Lucas has over 15 years’ experience in the apparel, footwear, and fiber advocacy spaces.