As advertisers will tell you, it can be notoriously difficult to make something popular. Sometimes even the most creative and best-resourced campaigns will leave consumers cold.
On the flipside, some of the cheapest and most baffling DIY advertising can create global sensations.
While there's no guaranteed way to make something 'cool', however, one tried and true way to influence the perceptions of consumers is to pair the product being advertised with something that's already seen as desirable. Then hope that the desirability rubs off on the new product.
The fashion industry has been creating objects of desire for centuries. Successful labels with credibility and that je ne sais quoi of cool could put out designer "dry-cleaning capes" and their loyal followers would buy them. Google Moschino if you don't believe me.
You simply can't buy that level of devotion, and thus the value of association is immense. Philip Morris, one of the most stubbornly successful companies in the world, knows that, which is presumably what led it to reportedly try form relationships with leading New Zealand fashion labels.
The company apparently offered to pay for the venue costs for a New Zealand Fashion Week show at the Basement Theatre, a financially attractive offer put to designers by NZFW brand manager Myken Stewart – that multiple local brands turned down.
For generations, smoking was depicted as fashionable. Tobacco brand Benson & Hedges actually sponsored the NZ Fashion Awards from the 1960s until tobacco advertising was outlawed.
Advertising for tobacco products typically featured beautiful women and handsome, powerful men taking long, glamorous drags from cigarettes. Tobacco companies sought to push the perception that their products were luxurious and alluring.
They were incredibly successful. During my early 20s, even though I grew up bombarded with images of how deadly and revolting smoking was, I succumbed to the still-lingering perception that smoking was glamorous.
I smoked socially on the odd occasion and revelled in what I perceived to be the dark, dangerous opulence. Not only was I trying excruciatingly hard to be cool, but I also never thought to buy my own packet of cigarettes, preferring instead to rely on my friends to provide me with free cancer sticks. Basically, I was an insufferable little berk.
Thankfully I've learnt some manners since then, and I'm far too old and ugly to buy into such silliness as seeing smoking as stylish now. Had I smoked more frequently, however, I may have been saddled with a lifelong addiction. I'm also grateful that I was in my late twenties before vaping achieved cut-through acceptability. I almost certainly would've tried vaping, had it been common when I was a young adult.
Vapes, with their multiple different flavours and varying strengths, have become increasingly popular – particularly with young people. Existing in something of a regulatory grey area, there is no legislation to prevent young people from buying vaping products unless they contain nicotine or tobacco, and no long term research about the potential risks.
Vaping isn't all bad – far from it. Vaping helps a large number of smokers to give up cigarettes. The Ministry of Health's official line is that vaping isn't for non-smokers, it's to help smokers to quit.
The problem is, with fruity, sweet flavours and slick packaging and advertising, vaping is becoming increasingly popular with younger demographics; a phenomenon tobacco giant Philip Morris is no doubt aware of, and eager to capitalise upon.
Philip Morris is also marketing a vaping product that heats tobacco rather than burning it. It says that this reduces the harm of smoking by up to 90 per cent, though the World Health Organisation has spoken out urging smokers and governments not to trust the claims of tobacco companies about their latest products.
With that cloud of distrust and bad publicity lingering, why would one of New Zealand's most coveted brands – New Zealand Fashion Week – engage with such a risky corporate? Is our flagship fashion outing that desperate for sponsorship money?
Of course, brands have the right to choose who they want to associate with. When it comes to sponsorship dollars, it can be difficult to turn down large sums even when the association is problematic.
On the other hand, consumers have the right to choose not to support brands that associate with companies or activities that they don't agree with.
If companies selling vapes and vaping products were to become associated with fashion brands, there's no telling how popular they could become.
Global tobacco companies are already using Kiwi influencers to advertise vaping on their social media accounts, many of which have teenaged followers.
Do we really want the next generation to become addicted to a new form of chemical inhalation? Surely the last generation's addictions to tobacco and nicotine were harmful enough.
While NZFW's Myken Stewart has been tight-lipped on the subject, Philip Morris has confirmed that it is not a sponsor of NZFW in 2019.
Whether that had something to do with New Zealand labels' reluctance to associate with a global tobacco giant is not clear. Thankfully, someone made the right decision.
The Kiwi fashion labels who turned down vaping sponsorship money should be proud of themselves for honouring their principles when presented with a financially attractive offer.
New Zealand Fashion Week, however, may want to revisit its own principles. And remember that the power of association can go both ways.