Brand collaboration is a wildly successful marketing strategy for large and small businesses alike. You see it everywhere: Doritos and Taco Bell, Target and Lilly Pulitzer, Balmain and Barbie, Skims and Fendi. The trend has especially taken off in recent years, but why?
What exactly is so alluring about brand partnerships, and why do they work?
A successful brand collaboration relies on several factors. For instance, both collaborators should feel a sense of ownership over the final product. Both should be aligned in their values and share mutual goals, ultimately benefiting one another.
Whether the partnership seems natural or shocking, delightful or confusing, inspired or unexpected…. When done right, they leave their audiences wanting more.
Could co-branding be the right move for your business? Here are six examples of brand collaborations strategies to consider.
Unexpected collaborations can generate curiosity. Sometimes, brands seem to come from two totally different planets. A team-up between them is an instant conversation, based on the shock factor and curiosity alone. Take the partnership between Taco Bell and CALPAK, for example. On the surface, a fast food chain and a contemporary luggage brand do not make sense together… at all. However, there is attraction in the unexpected, and CALPAK garnered plenty of attention from its connection to a major household name like Taco Bell. Likewise, Taco Bell enjoyed the elevated status of partnering with an innovative brand like CALPAK. Weird? Definitely. Genius? Absolutely.
Brands with similar target audiences can benefit from one another. Plenty of partnerships only seem random until you examine their consumer demographics. To be fair, the collaboration between Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics could easily be filed under the “unexpected” category. A closer look, though, reveals that both brands strongly appeal to a Gen Z audience. Chipotle’s down-to-earth approachability as a Mexican fast food chain pairs seamlessly with e.l.f.’s affordability. (It also doesn’t hurt that both brands have an awesome social media presence to cross-leverage!)
Collaborations that bring two loyal fan bases together can elevate the connection and experience for everyone. While it’s true that a smaller brand can gain visibility from working with a “big name,” this works even when both partners are already highly recognizable and profitable. When Marvel and Pandora joined forces, the jewelry brand attracted plenty of new customers from the superhero franchise. Both brands are backed by “loyalists”-- Pandora for its collectable charms, and Marvel for its ever-growing cinematic universe. A collection based on beloved characters was a recipe for instant success.
A nonprofit collaboration allows both organizations to benefit from one another’s knowledge and/or resources to create an exclusive offer- that means something. Exclusivity increases desirability, and business-savvy brands keep this in mind when choosing collaborative partners. Add a charitable cause that speaks to the brands’ values, and the offer becomes irresistible. Several nonprofits have teamed up with Vans for International Women’s Day over the years, allowing these charities to distribute special-edition products that they did not have the resources to produce independently. Meanwhile, Vans had the opportunity to stand out as a socially conscious collaborator, attracting consumers to the brand and the cause alike.
Both brands can reach new but relevant audiences, creating credibility by association. Some of the most iconic partnerships between brands are created by recognizing adjacent, but not quite overlapping, audiences. The co-branding process merges them together, and one perfect example of this is Louis Vuitton and Supreme. The 2017 collaboration rocked the fashion world, marrying Louis Vuitton’s established luxury image with Supreme’s hold on high-end streetwear. Wealthy and fashionable consumers of both brands created high demand for the limited collection, with some items selling out within minutes of release.
Co-branding reinforces brand loyalty in highly competitive spaces. There are certain industries in which it’s extremely easy for consumers to drop a brand in favor of a competitor-- like ride-sharing or music-streaming, for example. In 2014, the partnership between Uber and Spotify allowed Spotify Premium subscribers to sync their playlist to their Uber ride. This unique experience reinforced Spotify as a choice streaming service for frequent Uber riders, and Uber as the ride-sharing app of choice for Spotify listeners.
So, is a brand collaboration right for your business? Consider a partnership based on shared values, goals, and target audiences. If your business has something to offer and something to gain, co-branding could be your next big move in 2023. Possibilities are only limited by the imagination.