Strategic brand collaborations: Finding successful partnerships

There isn’t much that gets consumers more excited than seeing a collaboration between their two favorite brands. Marketers are learning more about their target audiences and some of the most valuable information is what other brands they have their eyes on. Brand collaborations, especially co-marketing, are a win-win for your brand reputation.

In this article, we’ll explore how brand collaboration works and strategies to find the best partnership for your business. And we’ll explore some of the best brand collaborations we’ve seen this year to help inspire your next campaign.

What is a brand collaboration?
How do brand collaborations work?
Strategies to find collaboration partners
Benefits of brand collaborations
Best brand collaborations we’ve seen this year
Begin planning your next partnership

What is a brand collaboration?

A brand collaboration is a mutually beneficial partnership between two or more businesses that work together to create an experience, product or service to achieve a common goal. This alliance leverages the strengths and customer segments of each brand to boost sales, increase brand awareness and expand reach to new audiences.

How do brand collaborations work?

Think of a brand collaboration as a group project. Each business works together to combine its resources, audience reach and creativity to co-create products, campaigns or activations. Brand collaborations are facilitated by influencer marketing or working directly with other businesses through co-marketing or co-branding efforts.

How do brands collaborate with influencers?

Influencer marketing campaigns are common brand collaborations. They rely on a creator’s influence and personal brand to sell products or offerings. These influencers resonate with a brand’s target audience or have credibility with a new segment they’re trying to reach.

How do you collaborate with other brands?

You can work with other businesses through product collaboration—also known as co-branding—which involves two brands creating a new product or service. For example, e.l.f. and Dunkin’ dropped a donut-inspired makeup line last year.

Co-marketing is another option for partnership. It’s a strategy that leverages each company’s reputation and customer base to introduce its brand to a new audience, driving additional revenue and awareness. Co-marketing is effective for brands that aren’t direct competitors but have overlap either by audience or industry. For example, GoPro and Red Bull have an ongoing partnership and cross-promote each other’s events. GoPro is adored by athletes, mountain bikers and other adventurers so working with an energy drink brand is the right fit.

Strategies to find collaboration partners

Deciding how to partner with brands can seem tricky. If you’re thinking about creating some collaboration magic, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Here are a few strategies to help you find the right partners for your brand collaborations.

Identify your goals for collaboration

Whether you want to increase sales or reach, you need to start by identifying your goals. From there, your brand can connect with complementary partners within your industry or target audience. If you’re leaning towards an influencer marketing campaign, consider using the Five Ws + H framework to help you measure return on investment and plan effectively across the customer journey.

Search for complementary brands familiar with your audience

Try to focus on what you might have in common with potential partners. Identify what your audiences associate with your brands and don’t be afraid to go bolder than you might on a solo campaign. Maybe your perfect partnership revolves around the types of feelings your product evokes, shared interests your audiences have or the priorities of your target market. For example, Dunkin’ and e.l.f. had common market segments they tackled together. Keeping something in common will keep your brand collaboration on track later on.

Test early

Social is a great barometer for your audience’s interest in potential co-branded activations or products. Through social listening, you can figure out which parts of a collaboration to lean into—and which you should cut. Consider teasing a collaboration with an interested brand and see how your audience responds.

Benefits of brand collaborations

Let’s walk through several benefits of brand collaborations:

1. Reach new audiences

If your business is looking to appeal to a new target demographic, such as younger consumers like Millennials or Gen Z,  partnering with another company that has an established customer base enables your brand to get in front of audiences that you haven’t been able to reach before.

2. Generate buzz and improve revenue

Everyone loves a limited edition product or collection from their favorite brands. Creating a new product/service that’s marketed as an exclusive or limited-time offering can ignite interest across your business, generate demand and increase sales.

3. Marketing resource-sharing

Marketing efforts can be expensive at scale, but brand collaborations are more cost-effective since resources are shared between both partners. Not only can the partnership save costs, but you also have access to more talent across teams.

4. Leverage another brand’s strengths

The beauty of a mutually beneficial partnership is that each brand has something unique to bring to the table. Capitalizing on each other’s strengths helps all parties achieve their goals. For example, one brand might have an excellent product team, but a small creative team, so collaborating with a company that is known for its originality and innovation could be a perfect match.

Best brand collaborations we’ve seen this year

It might sound cliche, but teamwork really does make the dream work! Here’s a brief overview of some of our favorite brand collaborations over the past year.

Google Pixel x Druski

Google Pixel, the official fan phone of the NBA and WNBA, launched a season-long campaign during the NBA opening games. The mutli-channel campaign titled “Built Different” features content creator and comedian Druski. The campaign features Druski in a series of vignettes with cameos from athletes and sportscasters like Jimmy Butler, Flau’jae Johnson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ernie Johnson Jr. and Taylor Rooks.

Druski is known for his social media skits, Instagram Live sessions and parody music label, Coulda Been Records. Like the campaign, his content is often star-studded with some of the biggest names in the entertainment and sports industry. His relatable content touches on everything from music to college sports—and you’ll probably see Drake or Jack Harlow if you ever tune into one of his livestreams. He also recently launched his sports agency, 4Lifers.

Why the partnership works: Druski’s audience and his connection to the sports and entertainment industry make the partnership with the NBA feel authentic and fresh, making for laughs between professional athletes and fans alike.

Liquid Death and MeUndies

Liquid Death and MeUndies are on a mission to brainwash doctors. The brands collaborated to create an underwear collection with Liquid Death imagery. Both brands are known for their humorous brand voice and whimsical social media posts so it’s a match made in marketing heaven.

Both brands co-marketed the underwear collection on their social channels. Although customers can’t purchase from the Liquid Death site, they can purchase on MeUndies, as you can see in the image below that shows a redirection message:

Why the partnership works: Refreshing beverages and underwear may seem like an unlikely duo, but Liquid Death and MeUndies’ partnership illustrates the power of seamless co-branding and co-marketing. The collection evokes MeUndies’s mission to inspire authentic self-expression through comfortable, creative designs through Liquid Death’s punk rock imagery.

Telfar and UGG

Telfar and UGG started their partnership in 2021. The collection combined each brand’s most iconic designs: Telfar’s Shopping Bag and UGGs sheepskin-lined boots. Two years later, the collaboration is still running strong and remains one of Telfar’s most highly anticipated drops. In 2023, they expanded the collection to include several new materials. In September, they launched Telfar x UGGs denim collection, later dropping crinkle patent leather as the next material addition to the collection.

The fashion brands didn’t stop there either. Their campaign features several celebrities and social media figures including Lil Kim, Morris Chestnut, Rolling Ray, Tezzo Touchdown, and Yung Miami.

Why the partnership works: Designer Telfar Clemens won the Best Fashion Campaign of the Year at Essence’s 2023 Best in Black Fashion Awards. Telfar’s slogan is “Not for you, for everyone,” a testament to the brand’s value of championing inclusivity, affordable luxury and revolutionary pricing models. Like Telfar, UGG is known for its cult fashion following and revered as a must-have fashion staples for everyone’s wardrobe. Merging some of the most sought-after pieces in the fashion space with influencers and stand-out photography shapes an experience that resonates with audiences.

Jeni’s and Lonely Ghost

On Jeni’s landing page for the collaboration, the ice cream brand expresses how adults forget the magic of ice cream and how it’s always better with friends. They explain they partnered with Lonely Ghost because they are like-minded brands centered on community and positivity.

The brands worked together to create Jeni’s first cookie dough flavor and a limited edition merch line featuring T-shirts, a sweatshirt and hat with positive affirmations to highlight the collaboration’s tagline, “Melt in the Moment.” Lonely Ghost held a pop-up at a local scoop shop in Chicago to sell the new merch and ice cream.

Each brand promoted the collection on social media as well:

Why the partnership works: Jeni’s and Lonely Ghost are both anchored by community and living a positive, experiential lifestyle. Through creating a limited-edition flavor and apparel collection, they successfully created anticipation for a customer-centric experience. After all, what’s better than snuggling up in a sweatshirt while devouring a pint of ice cream?

Begin planning your next partnership

As you can see, collaborations are a testament of the magic that can happen when two or more brands join together to shape something special for their customers. Use our product launch checklist to jump start your next brand collaboration.

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