I’ve never been much of a team player and always dreaded the group assignments at College. But to be honest, my best work comes from collaborating with others, having multiple minds working together, and bringing different views, beliefs, and talents to the table, making the end result much richer and more meaningful. Brand collaboration, especially between two unrelated brands, is a powerful tool for the following reasons:
- Collaboration brings together different industries to create unique and innovative products
- Collaboration attracts and appeals to a wide range of consumers
- Brands can tap into new markets
- Brands can build more brand awareness
- and ultimately, brands can drive sales
Collaboration has become more and more popular in recent years, and we’ve seen the wackiest, most unlike pairings. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most notable brand collaborations:
Heinz and Absolut
Absolut, known for their Vodka and ketchup-king Heinz, teamed for a brand collaboration to create a limited edition tomato vodka pasta sauce made with Absolut vodka, cream, basil, and gran padano cheese. About time and such a no-brainer! Pasta Sauce + Vodka, something we are already familiar with, brought to you by two trusted and iconic brands that share a love for food and drink. And how beautiful are the ads, all in the well-known Absolut ad format. A creative play on the iconic bottle shape always front and center. Unfortunately, the pasta sauce is only available in the UK 🙁
Nike and Tiffany
Earlier this year, Nike and Tiffany announced their odd pairing. The Tiffany take on the iconic Air Force 1 sneaker is a black suede shoe with the signature Nike ‘swoosh’ in Tiffany blue. A tiny sterling silver plate on the heel, laces matching the Swoosh and ‘Tiffany’ is written on the tongue in an elegant cursive font. The launch also includes limited-edition sterling silver shoe accessories, including a shoe horn, shoe brush, whistle, and ornamental lace tags (called Deubré).
Was it a “Just Do It” or “Don’t”? The joined design has been met with mixed responses from Nike fans; however, it was plenty popular and instantly sold out on Nike’s SNKRS site despite its $400 price tag. And the resale value is already spiking. The partnership was a bold move but it paid off. It allowed Nike to extend its reach beyond the athletic market and die-hard Air sneaker fans into the luxury fashion market. At the same time, Tiffanys gained access to Nike’s loyal following of sneaker enthusiasts and a younger audience in general.
Hidden Valley and Van Leeuwen
Hidden Valley and Van Leeuwen came together to create a new flavor of ice cream, released on March 10th, National Ranch Day! Yes, Ranch ice cream! It is described as having the buttermilk and herb flavors of ranch dressing with a touch of sweetness. This unusual combination was met with mixed reactions, as you can imagine. I mean, Ranch ice cream? No one screams for more ice cream! But nonetheless, the partnership succeeded in creating buzz and media attention, got people trying and talking, and highlighted the two brand’s shared passion for experimentation and pushing boundaries. Anyway, I will never say again that Ranch dressing goes with everything!
Balenciaga and Crocs
Crocs are back. Or let’s say they never went away. My teenage boy just got a pair! Love them or hate them, Crocs know quality, comfort, and collaboration! Some of the many Crocs’ collabs include Justin Bieber, KFC, BEAMS, Salehe Bembury, and Bad Bunny. But the partnership with Balenciaga is a special kind of unexpected. High-Heeled Crocs! You can’t deny the appall and delight it elicits at the same time. Awful, cool… a kind of “ugly chic.” And at last, comfortable heels? Crocs and Balenciaga first joined forces in 2018, recognizing the massive marketing value of their creative partnership, and this is only one of their brand babies.
Dolce & Gabbana and Smeg
When a luxury fashion house teams up with a high-end home appliance manufacturer, you’ll get Sicilian decorative art on toasters, kettles, and blenders. Inspired by the produce, history, and tradition of Southern Italy, Dolce & Gabbana designed a series of colorful and loud patterns on a collection of Smeg appliances. Both Italian design powerhouses with very different aesthetics successfully married art and functionality, inviting more beauty into your everyday life. While they come from different markets and offer different products, both brands share common values: quality, beauty, and a love for their Italian roots. And that’s why it works.
Initially, brand collaborations were rarer and more noteworthy, but brands have cranked them out over time with increasing velocity. Creative partnerships have become more common because, well, they work! Many brands drop collaborations every few weeks, making them part of their core product strategy.
While these are all well-known brands using each other’s reach and audience to gain even more exposure, you, as a small business, can easily replicate this strategy on a smaller and more local scale. Consider partnering with other companies in your area by leveraging each other’s strengths and accessing each other’s markets. Here are some ideas for brand collaboration:
- Host a joint event: this could be a pop-up shop, charity fundraiser, workshop, or class. By pooling resources, you can create a bigger event that attracts more people.
- Offer a joint package deal: Team up to offer a discount or package deal that encourages customers to try both businesses. For example, a coffee shop could partner with a bakery, or a makeup artist with a photographer for professional headshots
- Cross-promote on social media: share each other’s posts and stories, tag each other, and use relevant hashtags to increase visibility.
- Collaborate on content: for example, a clothing boutique could collaborate with a jewelry brand to create a style guide or lookbook featuring both businesses’ products.
- Identify a complementary product: for example, a local artist and a local print shop could collaborate to create a limited-edition series of art prints.
- Create collaborative packages (that are not an entirely new product): think gourmet gift baskets, wellness kits, local foodie boxes, pet care packages…
- Also, think about pairing complementary services: A gym and a nutritionist could collaborate to create a health and wellness program, or a business coach and a marketing agency could collaborate to create a package that includes business strategy, marketing, and branding advice, or a pet store and a dog trainer could collaborate to offer pet care services such as dog walking, training sessions, and pet grooming.
These are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless, so get creative and think outside the box!
Remember, the key to a successful brand collaboration is to find trustworthy partners and create a mutually beneficial union that helps both businesses grow. Here are some criteria for a good collaboration:
- Shared values
- Shared goals
- Shared audience
- Complementary skills and expertise
- Open communication and transparency
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Mutually beneficial outcomes such as increased revenue, expanded reach, or new customers
- Trust and respect
Collaborative partnerships should generate hype, attract new audiences, and boost rapport among existing customers. They should be attention-grabbing, often unexpected, sometimes ugly, and sometimes magical. They are a fun way to inject new life and creativity into your brand without fully committing. Kind of trying something on and see if it fits.
In our Clearly Branded workflow we think about brand collaborations very early on during our brand strategy phase, where we outline brand initiatives that will move the needle. Sometimes, it does not make sense to collaborate right away and rather focus on build the brand and brand rapport. However, sometimes brand collaboration is a great idea right at the launch.