Brand collaboration may seem like something exclusively intended for big brands with a lot of money, but with the current possibilities on a digital level, smaller brands now also have the opportunity to couple up with other brands to increase their audience reach. Think about the major trend of influencers cooperating with big brands as marketing campaigns.
Finding the right brand ‘fit’
To make a brand collaboration work for all parties, you’ll need to choose a partner that has an overlap with your target audience. When two brands aim to reach a different audience, the goal of the campaign, to increase customer base, will never be accomplished.
Unfortunately, not all collaborations work out.
An example of a brand collaboration that missed the mark is the campaign Pepsi and Kendall Jenner launched in 2017. The commercial showed shots of protests on the ‘black lives matter movement’ where white model Kendall Jenner handed a can of Pepsi to a policeman, supposedly solving the issues by ‘just’ offering a Pepsi.
This is an example of a campaign that did not take into consideration that people problems could be diminished or people would feel minified.
Another failed partnership that has been criticised by many people was the campaign Apple launched in 2014, where about 500 million Apple users would automatically receive the new album by U2 on their iTunes list without giving permission for it. Apple assumed that if you like music and use iTunes, you will like all free music. As Apple made the decision for their customers, people felt intruded in their privacy and considered it as a rude marketing stunt. They could have given the U2 album to people who have listened to at least 5 hours of U2 in the last year, and they wouldn't have received so much backlash.
Popular types of brand collaborations
1. Affinity marketing
Affinity partnerships are the most obvious collaborations; both brands will have equal input to create a product, discount or service that targets both brands’ audiences. An example of affinity marketing is the display of a brand logo on credit cards.
2. Affiliate marketing
With affiliate marketing, two stakeholders exist; an advertiser and a publisher. The publisher, in this case, serves as a promoter for a product or service created by the advertiser. A very popular example of affiliate marketing nowadays is a brand-influencer partnership.
With sponsorship marketing, one brand “supports” the other brand, for example at an event, or shown on the clothing of athletes. The supporter often pays the other brand to improve its brand awareness or reputation.
4. Distribution marketing
With distribution partnerships, brands ‘cross-market’ to create a new product or service, or create a new product or service that fits into their own distribution channels. An example of distribution marketing is the cooperation between Doritos and Taco Bell (where taco shells, made with the original Doritos flavour, were used for a new taco version for Taco Bell).
What are the benefits for you as a brand?
Co-branding has many advantages to it, both short-term and long-term. You can either choose to collaborate with another company once, or you can start a strategic alliance for a longer period of time. Both options come with their own benefits.
Benefits of a one-time partnership:
- Combined audiences
Possibly the most important benefit of brand collaboration is the fact that you will target a bigger audience than without this collaboration. The increased audience reach can boost brand awareness and profitability. When two brands usually target the same audience, brand collaboration can be of great use too, since it will decrease the competition for a certain customer.
- Sharing of skills and knowledge
Since both brands will bring their own expertise into the marketing campaign, knowledge and skills are shared, resulting in both brands to get the opportunity to grow and innovate.
- Engage more customers
Since both brands will have their own loyal customer base, showing them that another renowned brand believes in you, or supports you, will create trust with both customer bases. The time that you normally need to put in gaining trust from customers outside of your own customer base will be saved, as the other brand has ‘done the work for you’. This also works the other way around.
For example, customer A has never heard of your vegan skincare brand, but they’ve been drinking your partner’s vegan coconut water for years. They assume that your partner has done the research into your vegan skincare brand, so they are more likely to buy your product than when they would just see an advertisement online.
- Cost efficiency
As the brands will most likely reach more customers, the same amount of money needs to be spent on a marketing campaign, with possibly double the result.
Benefits of a long-term partnership:
Besides the benefits mentioned above, long-term partnerships can bring about even more.
When you have a long-term partnership with another brand, trust amongst the companies will grow as you collaborate for a longer period of time. Next to this, you will both know what to expect from each other and in this way productivity and efficiency are increased.
As your brand has made an agreement to work for multiple years with another brand, exclusivity will be enhanced. Besides, there is more room for try-outs. Since the brands know each other well, opportunities to test certain ideas will be more easily executed.
What risks should I be willing to take?
Just like every strategic decision, brand collaboration has advantages and disadvantages to it. The most important (possible) drawbacks of a collaboration between two or more brands are:
- Communication issues
Since there are more stakeholders involved with brand collaboration, good communication is essential to end up with a result that fits both brands. When this is not done properly, chances are that one or even both companies end up without benefitting from the collaboration.
Something that could help here is to plan meetings where both companies come together in real life to discuss their ideas, or even to involve a third party that is independent to make sure good communication is maintained.
- Little room for creative space
Even though it might be really exciting to cooperate with another brand for a new product or service, this is something you need to take into consideration (at least most of the time). Because both brands will probably have their own view on the creative process, fewer opportunities will exist for both creative departments. A solution to this problem can be to find a brand that matches your brand’s point of view on creativity well.
Here, it is essential that you know your own brand very well, know what your values are and what your strategy aims for. This will help you to find other companies to collaborate with. Look at their websites and social media, a lot of their culture can be found on social media platforms.
- It will cost you time and effort
Collaborating with another brand is a time-consuming and therefore costly process which can cost you quite some effort. This disadvantage directly flows from the above-mentioned reasons.
Brand collaborations that show the power of co-branding
You probably have heard of most of these collaborations already, since they are great examples of brands joining forces to increase sales, brand awareness and customer loyalty.
BMW & Louis Vuitton - 2014
In 2014, BMW and Louis Vuitton coupled up to create a new travel bag line for the fashion brand, inspired by the new BMW i8 model, together with the possibility of fitting all bags into the car’s trunk.
The set of bags has the same carbon black leather look and electric blue linings on the inside as BMW’s well-known trademark. With a little imagination, the design of the bags are in line with the shape of the car, creating the ultimate combination of sleek and traditional.
BMW and Louis Vuitton, two brands that have more in common than it would seem at a glance. Both companies design products that are used for travelling and value luxury. According to the head of special orders at Louis Vuitton, Patrick Louis-Vuitton: “The collaboration with BMW-i epitomises their shared values of creativity, technological innovation and style,".
The collaboration between the two luxury brands has gained a lot of attention and promotion on media channels, successfully promoting both the new BMW-i model and the Louis Vuitton travel set.
Starbucks & Spotify - 2015
When Starbucks and Spotify collaborated, it changed the face of Starbucks music forever. Remember how you used to go in to grab a coffee, and inevitably end up buying a bunch of CDs? (You will if you’re over a certain age.) Well, this was the next logical and technological step.
Back in 2015, Spotify came up with the idea of integrating its streaming service with Starbucks’ loyalty app: My Starbucks Rewards.
From the Starbucks app, coffee addicts could curate their own Starbucks playlists, which they could listen to even when they left the store, either within the My Starbucks Rewards app or from the Spotify app. They’d earn Starbucks loyalty points (which can be exchanged for free drinks) by purchasing Spotify Premium.
Starbucks employees were then given free Premium Spotify accounts, which they could use to curate the songs chosen by their customers.
Starbucks needed to update to meet the expectations of it’s smartphone-owning, music-streaming audience. They’re also big fans of personalised experiences, with each branch having its own “local” playlist, and baristas scribbling names on cups. This was the next step in ‘personalised customer experiences’. Plus, the partnership gave them access to Spotify’s 60 million-strong user base.
And for Spotify? Simple. 10 million potential new subscribers to target, lured in by the promise of free coffee and the chance to hear their own music picks in their favourite Starbucks branch.
GoPro & Red Bull - 2016
Lifestyle brands with the focus on adventure, extreme sports and action.
This partnership is very strategic for GoPro," said Nicholas Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro. "We share the same vision…to inspire the world to live a bigger life.
The brands decided to exclusively work together as partners during Red Bull’s media productions and events (more than 1800 across over 100 countries). The two brands stated to have the same vision: “to inspire the world to live a bigger life”, forming the perfect opportunity for a collaboration this big. The collaboration between GoPro and Red Bull is a long term partnership, which makes sense given the ideas that keep on coming for both brands.
The collaboration between tech/lifestyle-brand GoPro and the energy drink brand Red Bull seems to make a lot of sense. According to the CEO of GoPro, it was something that almost accidentally happened, because of the visions the brands share.
The collaboration also brought the way both brands made use of storytelling to another level. Everything Red Bull created could be filmed by GoPro, creating a special type of content for both audiences.
MADE.com & Schiphol - 2016
For the Dutchies reading this article, you might recognise the picture below. It is a shot from a gate at the Dutch Schiphol Airport where furniture from MADE.com is displayed and serves as a waiting space for passengers at Schiphol.
At the H and M gates at Schiphol Airport, waiting areas were furnished with products from MADE.com, a British furniture company with several showrooms across Europe. The company benefited from this cooperation as customers normally don’t have the opportunity to try out the furniture.
For Schiphol, the designed waiting areas can be considered as a win-win situation. Their waiting areas were pimped (and paid for) by another company. People would walk past it when waiting for their plane to head off, and that was where MADE.com gained its profit.
As the furniture brand exclusively operates online, this was the perfect opportunity for them to give customers the chance to try their products. The campaign has been proven a success, as Schiphol has confirmed: “around 1000 new leads per month” are generated from the initiative.
Nike & Apple - 2016
In 2016, two of the most iconic brands have continued their partnership by launching the Apple Watch Nike+, a watch that is designed especially for runners, giving them the opportunity to focus completely on their work-out due to the simple and useful design of the Apple watch.
Both brands are proven to be great in their marketing, targeting the same audience. The collaboration between Nike and Apple has been proven a success, as they are currently working together for 13 years already. They created a joined platform last year; the Apple Watch NikeLab. The brands also produced a new type of shoe, the Nike+ footwear, that includes a small microchip to monitor exercise performance. The results from this chip can be viewed in an app that is supported by Apple.
Nike and Apple form the perfect combination of music and sports with their collaboration. As they have been working together for a long period of time, they now seem inseparable. Even though not all launched products are equally popular, the collaboration can be seen as a great success.
Ford and Tinder - 2017
Ford and Tinder: a car company and a dating app. Seems like an unusual combination right? Ford has found an opportunity in the huge user count that Tinder had in 2017 (about 50 million users). Users of the dating app came across a photo of the car in their list of matches. When the profile was opened, the text "It’s the date you’ve been waiting for – Ford Mustang wants to take you on a blind date like no other" appeared.
The two brands share the same vision, resulting in this great collaboration. According to Derek Callow, Vice President of Tinder: “The Mustang forever changed the way that people think about American sports cars. Tinder has changed the way that people meet. It made sense for us to work together and spark some new connections."
This action resulted in more than 1.5 million interactions, from which 10 people got selected to go on a blind date in the new Ford Mustang. These 5 blind dates were filmed and made into a promo video. The video currently has 29,797 views on Youtube.
Levi's & Pinterest - 2018
Pinterest, one of the most popular social media platforms, and Levi’s, a worldwide clothing brand, well known for its denim jeans, have teamed up with their “Find your Levi's style” campaigns which allows Pinterest users to create a board which matches their personal style.
Styled by Levi’s is an online shopping platform where users can gain inspiration and combine trends with their personal style. The boards can redirect them to the Levi's shopping platform, to increase sales of the fashion brand.
Levi’s loves to partner up with other brands, they have also partnered up with Justin Timberlake and Star Wars as marketing strategies. Pinterest is growing its possibilities to make direct purchases, in this way users can be redirected to websites where purchases can be completed. This perfectly fits the increased demand for personalised service that customers need nowadays. The platform serves as a personal stylist while allowing users to add their own input.
Hilton & Bompas and Parr - 2019
The Hilton Bankside in London has opened the first-ever hotel suite entirely made out of vegan materials. All in-room food and beverage menu items are vegan as well, as are the minibar amenities. The room is designed and equipped by Bompas & Parr, an ‘experience design’ agency, as they call it themselves.
The room doesn’t make use of leather, feathers or any other products that are animal-based. They use ‘pineapple leather’(vegan-friendly fruit leather made from the cellulose fibres of the pineapple) instead of normal leather and a floor made from bamboo.
Hilton perfectly responds to the vegan trend with this new suite, as they are the first to create a hotel room that is completely vegan and animal-friendly. The initiative is quite new, and now other companies are also considering to incorporate vegan-friendly offers.
IKEA & Virgil Abloh - 2019
Take a quick look at the picture above, do you see anything irregular? You are not the only one, a few days ago, pictures like this were shared in England, as people were wondering why the IKEA logo was suddenly in quotation marks. The changed logo, that only hung in Wembley, London, was a marketing stunt to reveal the launch of the new “Markerad” collection with fashion brand OFF WHITE (who uses the quotation marks as a signature in its brand).
This year, IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant has collaborated with the fashion brand OFF WHITE to create a 15-piece collection ranging from green rugs with the text “wet grass” on it to a white clock that says “temporary”.
The idea behind the collection is both to provide the customer that is just moving into a new house or the ones that want to give their interior a boost with furniture that is just a bit more fun than the ones you normally buy at IKEA.
The brand collaboration aims to combine “artful quality to anonymous objects” according to Virgil Abloh, CEO of OFF WHITE. After a few days, almost all products from the collection were sold-out, proving that the marketing campaign was just as much a success as many people expected.
Apple & MasterCard - 2019
Last but not least, two of the most wealthy brands at this moment in time; Apple and Mastercard, the first one being mentioned earlier in this list. In 2014, Apple launched its service ‘Apple Pay’ which is becoming more popular as people are increasingly trusting the service.
This year, a new feature has been created by Apple and Mastercard, allowing the user to have a no-number credit card on their phone, increasing the security of credit cards. This campaign is in line with the increased need for safety and security customers are demanding.
According to Craig Vosburg from Mastercard, “Not having a card number on the physical card, if the consumer chooses to get that, helps (with security) certainly because somebody can’t just write that down and take it”. Only two people will have access to your personal number when deciding to get the number-less credit card, which would also increase security.
For Apple, there are different incentives that play a role in this partnership. With the release of this new product, Apple makes sure to keep its customer base right where they want them; within the loyal customer base. The 1.4 billion users Apple currently has in its ecosystem could be decreasing as more and more people are choosing to switch to android. With the new Apple card, this risk is reduced.
Are you convinced yet?
Although the collaboration between multiple brands can be time-consuming, and bring about other challenges, the benefits of collaborating with another brand are weighing up against it.
By collaborating, brands are able to engage more customers, share their knowledge and skills and combine their audiences when putting together a marketing campaign that is beneficial for both brands.
So, take an example to the brands that went before you and start collaborating as soon as possible to maximise your brand power and awareness. The only thing you need to do now is to figure out who is your match made in heaven.