The Counterintuitive Collaborators

I ate dinner on Saturday night at the Lazy Ox Canteen, a celebrated gastropub in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood. The small plates were tasty and inventive, but what really caught my attention was a small promo card that came with our check. It touted a special event on Wednesday, Dec. 5, when guests are invited “to get behind the wheel and be one of the first to experience the all-new 2013 Lincoln MKZ.”

That’s not all. Those who managed to snag a reservation before yesterday’s registration deadline will also be treated to “a complimentary dinner from a special menu prepared by Chef Travis Chase, courtesy of Lincoln.

If I wasn’t headed to New York City this week, I’d have done my darnedest to score a seat. Lincoln and the Lazy Ox aren’t exactly peas in a pod—the former is an old-school car brand trying to turn its “sleepy” image around with an intriguing comeback strategy, according to a New York Times article that went up yesterday, while the latter is a hipster pioneer of the gourmet small plates movement—but maybe that’s the point.

Lazy Ox Canteen’s homepage touts the Lincoln “experience.”

Collaboration is the buzzword of the season (if not the year and the decade), but it seems to work best when the pairings are unexpected.

Consider the October 2012 issue of Afar, a stylish travel magazine, which includes a Q&A with rising mixology star Ryan Chetiyawardana. When the London bar impresario is asked whether he thinks we’ll continue to see more “Wow” cocktails, he yields this fascinating tidbit: “I do, especially because the cocktail world seems to be embracing the idea of collaboration. I think this will help evolve the bar experience. I’m trying to recruit a microbiologist to help me with what I call biological aging. I want to see if microbes can create specific flavor profiles and affect how things taste. It’s a nugget of an idea.”

As I scroll to the top of the page, I am not entirely surprised to discover Afar’s tagline: “The collaborative travel guide.”

Note the tagline on Afar’s website: “The collaborative travel guide”

We covered the crosspromotional possibilities of collaboration in our July–August 2012 issue, but they bear repeating. From partnering with the rising stars of your local fine dining scene to striking an alliance with your nearest luxury car dealership, the opportunities for jewelers are tantalizing.

The New York Times piece on Lincoln’s revival effort includes a mention of one explicit jewelry connection: “A newly formed team of 200 people is intent on establishing the Lincoln Motor Company as a boutique luxury line known for personalized service. Every customer who reserves an MKZ, for example, will be presented with an elegant gift upon receiving the car. Choices include a selection of wines and Champagne, custom-made jewelry or sunglasses, or a one-night stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.”

The universe might as well be screaming, so clear is the message about the power of collaboration, but just in case the point isn’t yet clear, it sends me one last clue. As I’m writing this post, the Sunday night news is about to cut away for a commercial break, and I look up just in time to see a holiday shopping scene from Target, and hear a snippet of the newscaster’s teaser: “Target is teaming up with a glitzy retailer this holiday…”

Over the summer, we covered the news of Target’s groundbreaking holiday collection with Neiman Marcus from multiple angles. And this past weekend, it came to fruition in an epic shopping frenzy that, according to early reports, appears to have lived up to the hype.

“Our intention was to create a collaboration and truly do something unique to create new relationships and do something that hasn’t been done before,” Neiman Marcus General Manager Leyla Vokhshoori told The Orange County Register. “Frankly, it’s a legendary partnership. We’ve never seen anything like this in the retail world.”

At least not yet. By 2013, however, such partnerships may be de rigueur. Our upcoming December-January issue, which ships at the end of the month (where did 2012 go?!), includes our annual predictions for the issues, ideas, and innovations that will rule the year ahead for jewelry retailers. Don’t be surprised to find the “c” word among our top 10 forecasts.