Think it’s time for a reinvention? Brand collaborations is the way to goLaura Leiva
Listen to this episode:
Here’s a quick question for you: how many brand collaborations have caught your eye over the last few years (whether good or bad)?
Chances are you can name a few. Some of them because it meant a partnership between favorite brands or it’s because the collaboration left you scratching your head and wondering what in the world put these two brands together.
Whatever the reason, here’s the takeaway: collaborations bring attention to your brand. But it needs to be the right attention.
Some of the most popular brand collaborations, according to Quality Logo Products have been:
- Doritos and Taco Bell
- Supreme and Louis Vuitton
- Forever 21 and Cheetos
- Spotify and Uber
What did these particular brand collaborations do so well? The partnership made sense to the target demographic because both brands attracted and offered something the audience wanted.
Doritos and Taco Bell, for example, attract a younger demographic who likely purchase both brands on a regular basis. Why not combine the two and create something fun and delicious for the customer?
The result? The Doritos Loco Taco is one of the top-selling items on the menu, years after it first launched.
Finding common ground
Sometimes, a brand collaboration doesn’t make sense at first but when done, has the potential to build momentum and popularity.
Look, for example, at the partnership between skateboarding and clothing brand Supreme and fashion brand Louis Vuitton.
What does a streetwear brand and luxury fashion house have in common?
With Supreme’s massive following and Louis Vuitton’s long-standing reputation as a luxury brand, the brand collaboration benefited both thanks to the high demand and expectation that anything Supreme-related would sell out in minutes, no matter the price point.
In some ways, this collaboration was beneficial to Louis Vuitton. It was able to reach a different, younger demographic (millennials and Gen Z): a market that so many brands want to attract.
For Supreme, partnering with Louis Vuitton gave the skatewear brand a nice paycheck and some luxury fashion credibility.
While the partnership is no longer, check out the secondary clothing market today and you’ll still see these items fetching an impressive price tag.
Food collaborations are HOT
Look at the beauty or fashion industry and you’ll find no shortage of brand collaborations – especially with food brands.
Why food? It’s a common interest that connects both mainstream and niche consumers together.
KFC x Crocs
There’s been the KFC and Croc collaboration, with the classic Bucket (complete with scented Jibbitz fried chicken charms!) clogs selling out soon after launching. In launches like this, wacky or off-the-wall collaborations are so wrong, they’re right.
Not every brand could get away with this, though. Crocs have the reputation of being...not too attractive...but anyone who wears them swears by the comfort and versatility. When a brand already has a quirky and cult following, why not take it a step further?
E.l.f x Chipotle
Another collaboration is beauty brand E.l.f. and Chipotle, complete with limited edition eyeshadow palette in shimmer and matte hues reminiscent of a burrito bowl and wrapped in foil, sold out within four minutes of launching.
Why does this collaboration make sense? No one is really sure. But that avocado blender sponge has everyone talking.
Hipdot x Tapatio
Tapatio and Hipdot (also a beauty brand) collaborated by creating pepper-infused lip gloss and eyeshadow palettes inspired by the iconic hot sauce. Through 27 social media posts and the use of 16 influencers, the Hipdot and Tapatio collaboration generated $193,000 earned media value (EMV) in a single month.
It wasn’t a random assortment of brands that opted to get together and try something new.
They had these characteristics in common:
- Alignment of goals values between brands involved
- Cultural following that both brands bring to the table
- Brands ready and willing to disrupt the digital space
Think it’s time for a collaboration for your brand? With the right partnerships and intentional messaging, they have the potential to bring more exposure and sales to your brand in a short amount of time.
Okay, so how do brand collaborations work?
Ask anyone what a collaboration is and they’ll likely have a response about connecting an influencer with a brand. While that’s still a great way to generate attention and sales for your business, there’s another option, too.
Brand x brand collaborations take the idea of partnerships to a new level – this type creating an exclusive or unique offering that attracts the target demographic for both (think fried chicken slip-ons)
Aside from the exclusivity and hype factor that builds through a brand collaboration, there’s the added benefit of getting more attention on your brand from a market you might not have tapped into but who fit your target demographic (or one you’ve been eyeing).
Collaboration is a good use of marketing money
Brands that partner and exchange value find that collaborations are some of the least expensive ways to do advertising. In fact, according to Later, brand partnerships are often 25 times less expensive in contrast to digital advertising.
If you’ve got a smaller brand or a limited advertising budget, this option for generating increased traffic and sales is worth its weight in gold. Brand collaborations also encourage ecomm businesses to use a range of marketing tactics.
By aligning with like-minded businesses and tapping into the target demographic across various channels and networks, a collaboration can end up being one of the best ways to market yourself.
Join together with the competition
Another reason to partner with brands? Consumers shop around and aren’t usually loyal to one single brand. Open up a drawer or cabinet in your target customer’s home and you’ll have a wide range of brands and labels to choose from.
Instead of thinking of your competition as just that, consider different ways to join forces and enjoy a partnership.
For example, Herbivore Botanicals launched a unique and eye-catching campaign called #WeAreAllies, partnering with other beauty and skincare brands considered to be the competition. Though they do come out and say that telling customers to shop for other brands isn’t always the best business practice, joining forces for a common good (protecting the environment) is more important.
By appealing to customers and connecting with other brands who exhibit similar messaging, all the beauty brands in the campaign aim to enjoy increased exposure and positive messaging.
Overall, there’s usually good reception when brands put aside the tired marketing tactics and stand up for something that benefits and improves the rest of us. It’s refreshing to see and works well at creating a conversation, both online and off.
Benefits of a brand collaboration
So, what’s in it for your brand and does it make that much of a difference in your traffic or sales? Let’s take a look at some of the most common benefits of a brand collaboration (when it makes sense to partner):
Shared creativity and knowledge. There’s something to be said for working as a team on a common goal. Between brands, you’ve got a lot of untapped potential to create something unique, innovative, or super interesting that attracts the attention of your target demographic.
Market share expansion. When there’s a brand x brand collaboration, whatever product or service you create is going to be unique and creates a competitive edge over other brands in the market (read: higher ROI and sales).
There’s an increase in sales and profits. One of the biggest benefits of partnering with the right brand is the potential for increased sales and profits, without spending more for advertising and marketing. Stretch your marketing budget by using influencers or brand collaborators -- ideal when money is limited!
Customer reach expands. Tapping into the audience for both brands doubles the exposure, and increases awareness to customers who might not be familiar or aware of your brand.
Amplify your brand’s voice with this
As the term collaboration becomes an even bigger buzzword in the business world, what does it mean for your brand? Aside from working alongside influencers to help you expand awareness, partnering with the competition has the potential to be a very powerful addition to the marketing toolbox.
- Want to enter into a new market?
- Looking for a way to build community with other brands in the industry?
- Interested in expanding your market in an efficient manner?
- Launching a new product?
- Getting ready to reveal new brand imaging?
A brand collaboration can help.
We’ve all seen various collaborations over the years between brands, some doing an exceptional job at generating buzz and some leaving us scratching our collective heads trying to understand the point.
Key takeaway: when done with purpose, the right brand collaboration adds even more value to your business. Think about things like:
- Expanded reach across various channels
- Reduced spending compared with traditional advertising costs
- Rapid growth (ideal if you’re a small business wanting to kickstart
Aside from the value you get as a brand, you’re also providing that value and experience to the customer.
But, to reap these strategic benefits, it needs to make sense who you collaborate with and make sure they line up with your brand messaging and values.
Collaborations aren't limited to your competition, either. You’ll find enormous benefit in working with other brands in non-competitive industries as long as there’s a common thread between you.
In fact, when partnering with brands outside the competition, the room for growth and expansion is even greater as the exposure to new customers is more likely.
When partnering with the competition, there is the chance that customers who follow them are also following you.
For best results, manage your expectations
You might be resistant to the idea of collaborating with a competitor – and that’s okay. Even with the potential benefits, there are still some downsides to consider.
The biggest one to think about is expectations. Sure, there have been a lot of mega popular brand collaborations out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee it will work for your brand or market.
Sometimes the word ‘collaboration’ makes us cringe and think back to school projects where one person or team does all the work while others stand by and take all the credit.
That could happen with a brand partnership, too, which is why it’s all the more important to make sure you’re aligning with a brand that follows your values and that everyone gets a fair share of the benefits.
Here’s how to make sure you set clear expectations from the start:
Figure out who brings what to the table. Does one brand have expertise in a certain area that the other doesn’t? It’s essential that everyone respects the value each person brings to the table, whether it’s marketing, design, or any other vital role – this ensures that all the best work is generated for the campaign.
Communicate often. When merging two brands together for a campaign, communication is key and helps team members stay on track. Look for ways to connect with key members and set aside meeting opportunities to keep everyone on the same page.
While all businesses want more leads and increased sales, you’ll want to do a deep dive into your strategy to make sure you can handle the attention. You’ll want to make sure:
- Your website is ready to see an increase in traffic and has all the necessary updates to accommodate customers
- Customer service representatives are available to answer questions or concerns on time
- There’s a process in place to turn prospecting customers into paying ones
- Inventory and supply chain is ready to go
Disappointment in brand collaborations result when any one of these issues aren’t considered before a launch.
First impressions are super important for new customers and if there’s a ball dropped on any aspect of a launch, you’ll hear about it.
Go onto social media after a popular collaboration to see upset fans unable to navigate broken websites, no responses to emails, or even items selling out in seconds because of limited inventory.
While major brand names can usually weather the storm, it’s even more critical for small brands to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Reputation protection is very important, too. One major risk when collaborating with brands is if they have any issues or faux paus, you might end up getting the brunt of it as well.
Least successful collabs (and mistakes to avoid)
For every great brand collaboration, there are the ones who missed the mark.
Pepsi and Kendall Jenner
Take for example the infamous Kendall Jenner and Pepsi collaboration a few years back during heightened civil rights issues and social unrest.
So what went wrong? Even if Pepsi had good intentions, customers watched the advertisement and didn’t take it seriously at all. To most viewers the messaging missed the mark and even went so far as to minimize the important social conversation taking place at the time.
Key takeaway: Make sure your collaboration isn’t tone deaf. If you think there’s room for misinterpretation of your brand messaging (and always listen to those who offer valuable insight) then go back to the drawing board and try something different.
Forever 21 and Atkins
What does a trendy clothing brand and a diet company have in common?
That was the question on everyone’s mind when they received a package from F21 only to find weight loss bars from Atkins included in the delivery.
Without sharing information about the collaboration, customers felt confused and some interpreted it as the mega fashion brand body shaming them – especially as some of those Atkin bars got sent to plus-size customers.
Key takeaway: Never leave your customer in the dark about a potential brand collaboration. Aside from that, make sure that a partnership makes sense and that messaging is in alignment with both brands – otherwise confusion causes customers to create their own reasoning, which may or may not be ideal for your brand.
In a nutshell, here are the top five reasons why brand collaborations fail (and how you can avoid them):
- Poor communication stands in your way from having a successful launch
- Botched execution is a mistake you can often avoid with careful planning. Brainstorm the campaign thoroughly
- Brands and messaging don’t align, creating confusion across your target market
- It’s not all about YOU! Want a successful brand collaboration? Look for ways to make your partnership about your customers and look for ways to create unique, innovative benefits for them
- Determine how the partnership will work. How will profit sharing work? What does the fine print look like? This is a crucial step in protecting your brand.
Bottom line: Brand collaboration has the potential to do good things for your brand.
Make sure you take the time needed to consider who and why you’re partnering with another brand – and that it makes sense to your audience.