In our connection-craving culture, brand partnerships are one of the greatest marketing opportunities around. Consumers relish them. Brands benefit. Uniting two brands in surprising ways has become the epitome of a win-win.
Co-created campaigns offer distinct advantages:
Elevation by Association: Like a barter, but the trade is brand value. Two brands working together can each fill gaps for one another. Co-developing product bundles and experiences is an instant refresh. Often, this can serve to reposition both brands in the marketplace and create a new chapter.
Brand Buzz: Co-created ecosystems provide natural opportunities for earned media and a refreshing way to cut through the noise. When done right, these campaigns have the power to stop consumers in their tracks and leave a lasting impression. If you're looking for a surefire way to make your mark in the world of marketing, few things are more thumb stopping than two brands coming together to create unexpected offers, bundles and media.
Needs Fulfillment: Co-branded campaigns expand the boundaries of what a company does – and the role that they are known to play in the lives of the consumer. This allows each co-collaborator brand to fill an expanded array of customer needs. The multi-product whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as it were. At least as far as the consumer journey is concerned.
If TikTok, BeReal, Clubhouse and more or any indication, this era is one of content creation over popularity. Fueled by massive connectivity across all demographics, content is currency. Vanity metrics like follower count are totally inconsequential compared to content. And guess what makes great content? Unexpected pairings. To us, the more odd the couple, the better the brand collab.
Some of our favorite cross-pollinations include ...
Martha + Snoop
Balmain + Barbie
Smeg + Dolce & Gabanna
Supreme + [nearly everyone]
McDonald's + Cactus Plant Flea Market
As marketers possess fewer options for targeting and look toward an opt-out heavy future without cookies, instant access to a new audience becomes worth its weight in gold. This is more valuable than a lookalike audience or even an influencer, because a partnership brings the benefits of both, providing instant audience targeting along with credibility. The ecosystem is rounded out by a direct line to conversion, usually accompanied by an exclusive product release of extreme scarcity and commodity.
And the great news is, you don't have to be a household name to engage with a large brand. Big box brands love local activations and targeted collaborations, especially if they can hang their hat on some goodwill shop local love. Think outside the box, and don't limit your business or brand to its endemic audience.
Here are four ways to find brand partnerships or get started:
1. For the low-hanging fruit of co-branded campaigns, simply reach out directly and informally. DM the social media manager. If there's no budget, pursue a brand partnership of a smaller, social-media driven for. Yup, it really can be as easy as that. Brand collaborations are easier than ever. On Instagram, for instance, one brand can easily tag a collaborator and co-brand a post. Social media managers are on the other end of the DM, and by offering them an opportunity for content, you're adding value and making their job easier. Start small with one collaborative post and see what happens. Whether your social media collaboration ends up being a one-off project or something that helps shape a larger collaboration structure, there are very few drawbacks to creating relationships with like-minded firms.
2. If you have a modest budget, spec out a local influencer collaboration with a small-sized business that has overlapping clientele. Co-sponsor an event activation or experience, be sure to create tons of TikTok-able and BeReal and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, and offer high-value influencer kits with goods or services that can be featured in their content.
3. With a five or six figure budget, you may be able to hire a freelance creative director to outline a co-created ecosystem plan. One of the best ways to find an agency level creative director is through a site called WorkingNotWorking. It isn't cheap, but it's not going to cost you what a full-service agency would charge. Hiring a creative director is a great way to ensure you're going in the right creative direction for your brand partnership. The freelancer will likely have agency contacts that can be called upon for a quick gut-check or even introduction to a potential collaborator or their agency of record.
4. For a seven or eight figure budget, a co-branded activation can yield multigenerational benefits brands. A visionary creative opps team will deep-dive into your brand positioning, assess your omni channel opportunities and arrive at the perfect crossover. Augmented reality campaigns, experiential, multi-sensory activations and limited edition products are among some of the possibilities your team may explore.
Two Brand Partnership Case Studies to Learn from
Lego & Stranger Things
When it comes to brand partnerships, few are as well-matched as Lego and Stranger Things. Both are iconic in their own right and have a huge following of dedicated fans. So it's no surprise that their new joint venture, a Lego set inspired by the Netflix show, has been such a hit.
The set includes 2,287 pieces and 8 Minifigures, all lovingly recreated in Lego form. From the characters and locations to the vehicles, everything about the set is true to the source material. It's clear that a lot of thought and attention has gone into making this the ultimate Strangers Things experience for fans.
Whether you're a long-time fan of the show or just getting into it, this set is a must-have. It's a great way to bring the world of Stranger Things to life and add another dimension to your viewing experience. We can't wait to see what other exciting collaborations Lego has in store for us!
e.l.f. & Chipotle
The greatest brand partnership of all time happened when e.l.f.Cosmetics and Chipotle came together to create a limited-edition collection that included an avocado makeup sponge, spicy salsa lip gloss, and a palette inspired by Chipotle's serving trays.
The products sold out in just 44 minutes after launching, thanks to a 360° social media campaign that reached e.l.f., Chipotle, and influencer fans alike. The live shopping event on the NTWRK app was also a huge success, selling out in minutes. Finally, the Clubhouse chat featuring marketing execs from e.l.f. and Chipotle was the cherry on top of this incredible campaign. The agency Movers and Shakers garnered 4 billion press impressions (NY Post, Forbes), unsolicited celebrity endorsements (Stephen Colbert, James Charles, Drew Barrymore), and a tidal wave of fan love.
There's nothing quite like a great brand partnership. It's the perfect way to reach a new audience and expand your customer base. And in this culture of connection, it's more important than ever to have a strong relationship with your customers. That's why brand partnerships are one of the greatest marketing opportunities that exist today. By partnering with another brand, you instantly have access to a whole new group of potential customers. And if the partnership is a good fit, they're likely to be very loyal customers. So if you're looking for a way to take your business to the next level, consider partnering with another brand. It could be the greatest decision you ever make.
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