Partner in crime....or just a crime?
People love a brand collaboration. Even the weirdest, wackiest, and quite frankly terrible collaborations can generate huge buzz and excitement – especially when exclusives and limited editions are involved.
It might seem tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But when the dust has settled and the hype has died down – what’s the lasting impact on your brand? How can you ensure you maximise the effectiveness of partnering with another brand?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Think about what you want to get out of your partnership
Brand collaboration isn’t just about attracting new customers. It’s about appealing to those brands that have already worked hard to gain loyalty. Does your brand want to reach new audiences? Or stretch into new markets? Or even change perceptions amongst existing audiences? Figuring this out is an important first step in identifying the right brand to partner with.
H&M’s history of designer collaborations with the likes of Versace, and most recently Mugler, are revolutionising the fashion industry. Identifying the behaviours and desires of their current customer base has helped them to expand into new markets. Through these partnerships they’ve democratised high-fashion and made it more accessible to global audiences.
H&M X Mugler (hm.com)
2. Make sure your brands are aligned
Many brand collaborations might see short-term success, but the ones that really reap the rewards are aligned with their businesses’ long-term brand values and strategy. Partnerships that feel forced or have conflicting values tend to fall by the wayside.
Ben and Jerry’s and Tony’s Chocolonely entered a brand partnership after aligning with their brand mission of making chocolate completely slave-free. It almost seemed silly not to come together to shine a light on the cocoa supply chain issues. Two great brands with a connected strategy can lead to a powerful brand partnership that lasts longer than just a one-off craze.
Ben & Jerry’s X Tony’s Chocolony (thinkhousehq.com)
When brands have differing values or fall out of line with each other’s long-term goals, it can have catastrophic effects. The most significant being the breakdown of the Adidas x Yeezy collaboration. After Kanye West’s repeated antisocial behaviour and antisemitic comments, Adidas felt their brand values and messaging were no longer aligned, and they couldn’t endorse his actions. This ended the brand partnership for good.
3. Both brands should bring something to the party
The most successful collaborations are well-balanced. Think of it like a recipe – if you have too much or too little of one ingredient, the result can be disappointing. Both brands must bring their unique strengths and personality in equal parts to create something that is genuinely co-created and leverages both their appeal.
After supermodel Gigi Hadid’s viral vodka pasta recipe, it was only natural that Heinz should partner with Absolut Vodka and create their own take – available soon in a Waitrose near you.
Heinz claims that “the vodka is the magic that unlocks the flavours and intensifies the aroma of this rich and creamy tomato, basil and cheese sauce”. A collaboration that relies on both brands’ unique qualities to create a mouth-watering result.
Heinz X Absolut Vodka (absolut.com)
However, the latest collaboration between Nike x Tiffany has been deemed as less of a friendship of trust and more a friendship of convenience. Many are questioning the use of Tiffany’s brand identity, unashamedly colour-slapping Nike products with the Tiffany teal to introduce the heritage brand to a younger audience. But is this to the detriment of its existing brand and customers? In this case, the lack of purpose and meaning to collaborate on a level playing field has limited its success.
Nike X Tiffany (nike.com)
4. Create something distinctive
Collaborations have a significant impact on both brands involved – good and bad. It’s the opportunity to push the creative boundaries into a space they’ve never been to before. A successful partnership will strengthen both brands’ image and value, creating something truly unique, distinctive, and desirable – to create the highest return on investment and equity.
For example, two titans of the UK high street Greggs x Primark, brought together food and fashion in an unexpected mash-up. Times have never been tougher for the UK’s high street, but these brands have found success and sales climb as a result of this bold, disruptive collaboration that was seen by millions. So, brands should seek a relevant partner that pushes them into a space they’ve never been before. Primark x Gail’s wouldn’t hit quite the same, would it?
Greggs X Primark (primark.com)
The future of brand collaborations
With the rapidly evolving world of AI and the introduction of powerful art generating tools like Midjourney or Dall-E mini, we can now create high-quality images within seconds. The possibilities for future brand collaborations can now be seen rather than imagined – giving a realistic insight into whether two brands could work together. Fanta x easyJet? Rapha x Huel? McDonalds X Omega? The possibilities are endless.
McDonalds X Omega (notional via Midjourney)
Our advice to brands considering a collaboration in 2023 is to make sure you are fully aligned – from values to brand strategy, visual identity to messaging. Be bold in execution and considered in your mission. That’s the secret to propelling your brand and partner brand forwards, together.
Written by Martin Willitts X Daisy Noble