The Art of Impactful Brand Collaborations

Without a doubt will you have witnessed the positive impact that well executed collaborations can have for the brands involved. Over the course of the last decade, one that we have dubbed ‘the decade of brand collabs’, the amount of collaborations was staggering. As we saw luxury brands such as Louis Vitton embrace the brand strategy through their collaboration with streetwear brand Supreme, and Moncler even incorporated it as part of their core business model, it was clear that collaborations have the power to not only create novelty and exclusivity, but actually drive sales at scale. It is safe to say that collaborations have graduated from being ‘fun creative projects’  to a legitimized brand building strategy.

Before we go any further though, it is important to clearly define what a brand collaboration actually is. When we advise our clients on their brand collaboration strategy, we usually break it down into three types of collaborations, and provide them with the following examples which have been, in our opinion, well executed: 

Brand x Creator

We categorise this type of brand collaboration as being between a brand and an artist, or creator, whose work is a tangible product in itself. Naturally, the result of a collaboration between a brand and a creator is some sort of product, whether it’s a commissioned art piece which is sold, used as a brand communications piece, or incorporated into the brand’s collection in some way.

While this type of collaboration generally used to be regarded as ‘commissioned work’, the power of social media and personal branding of successful creators has evolved it into a full fledged collaboration which not only yields a tangible product, but also has significant impact when it comes to creating media exposure to a new audience. The benefit of this is that both brands and creators get the opportunity to document the creative process of the commissioned art piece, which is often equally or sometimes even more impactful for creating brand awareness than the tangible product itself. That being said, having a tangible, exclusive and hopefully desirable product as a result of the collaboration also offers brands the chance to sell it, which will recoup their cash investments into the collaboration, or ideally help them turn a profit. Either way, they will get the added brand awareness that was the result of any collaboration content, for FREE.

Patta x Yung Nnelg

Brand x Brand

As you have probably already guessed, this type of collaboration is between two companies. These companies can be, but do not necessarily have to be, in the same industry, meaning that a company who makes shoes can collaborate with a company who makes water bottles. That being said, the most important thing we advise our clients on when they look for a company to collaborate with, is that both are able to contribute value the lifestyle of their respective target customer groups. When two companies share the same or similar type of target customer group, then there is a significantly bigger chance that their collaboration will have a positive impact for both brands.

Unlike the brand x creator collaboration, personal branding won’t play a big part in this type of collaboration. While that might be the case, the opportunity for documenting the creative process of the collaboration, and using this content to amplify the impact it has for both brands involved, also applies to the brand x brand collaborations. The production aspect of this type of collaboration often differs, but a pretty common way to execute it is to split the production costs, revenues, and/or profits equally. This way both brands have ‘skin in the game’, and there is equal amounts of incentive for both brands to see the collaboration succeed. Where or what you produce depends on the collaboration of course, but it’s logical to presume that if a shoe and a water bottle company do a collab, and the product is a water bottle, then the water bottle brand uses its factories and resources for production. They are the experts, after all.

Carhartt x POP TRADING COMPANY

Brand x ‘Influencer’

When it comes to collaborating with ‘influencers’, most people will immediately think about paying someone with a lot of followers some money, send them product, and hope that the way they promote it to their followers will result in a sales increase for their brand. While this approach to collaborating with ‘influencers’ certainly works for some brands, it is not one we like to encourage our customers to use. The reason for this is that this approach is solely focused on driving sales, rather than aligning yourself with the vision, values, and lifestyle of an influential person and creating something together which will add value to the audiences of both the brand and the influencer. People follow influencers because of the content which they produce, and for the most part, not because of the products that they get paid to push.

So with this in mind, the pathway to creating an authentic and impactful Brand x ‘Influencer’ collaboration is to use the brand’s resources to create something which adds value to both parties’ followers. Much like with the Brand x Brand Collab, the tangible product of the collaboration can go both ways; an influencer can collaborate with a fashion brand to create a capsule collection, or they can create a video series (or both). If it’s the capsule collection, then the fashion brand will take care of the production. If they decide to produce a video series then it is up to the ‘influencer’ to sort out the production of the content. Both are powerful collaboration products; A capsule collection can integrate your brand into the lives of a new target customer group via a physical product, while a video series can reach a large audience quickly. Whichever option you think aligns with your business objectives most, both offer a great opportunity to create something that will help you add depth to your brand’s story, culture, and ultimately contribute to building a brand universe around your product.

KidSuper x PAQ

Now you know how we define brand collaborations. But how can you build your own?

No matter which type of collaboration you choose to go for, we always advise you to take advantage of the fact that there is an opportunity to document a creative process. This is because coming up & creating a concept that feels as natural and authentic as a brand collaboration is quite difficult, and pretty expensive. People want transparency these days, and documenting the creative process of your collaboration will give them the chance to see behind the scenes, the people involved, and the hard work that went into the project from the idea to finished product. Once you have documented these moments you can get creative with how you format the footage, where and how you post it, and what brand message you want to support with it.

Now that you have some idea of what constitutes the different types of brand collaborations out there, and seen a few of our favourite examples, let’s get to the practical part of this article; how to build an impactful brand collaboration in 2020.

1. Determine which type of brand collaboration aligns with your business goals

Doing this should provide you with an answer when someone asks why you have chosen to set up this brand collaboration. Did you choose to collaborate with an artist because that’s part of your product signature? Did you choose to collaborate with an ‘influencer’ because your marketing strategy is heavily focused on content creation that is relevant to your audience? If you want to create a brand collaboration that is most impactful for your business, then asking yourself ‘why’ is a crucial first step.

2. Find out which type of collaboration would add most value to your target customer.

The main reason that should fuel your brand building efforts is to appeal to your target customers so that it generates loyalty, word of mouth, and engagement. Combined, these will grant your company a longer and more sustainable lifespan. So ask yourself: which collaboration would add the most value to my target customer?

3. Make sure your collaboration partner has a strong link to your brand’s vision, mission, and values

Our rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t be willing to post about a collaboration via your own brand channels, then there is no point in collaborating in the first place. Why? Because first and foremost, these collaborations should benefit your brand image, not sacrificing it for a short term sales boost.

4. Define the goal, terms, and logistics of the brand collaboration

If you have done any project management before, you will know how important it is to have everyone involved on the same page. Make sure that you note down a specific goal, how you will measure the success of the collaboration, the obligations of everyone involved – such as pushing it via their professional/personal network to generate social proof and exposure -, and how the collaboration is going to be executed (timelines, milestones, financials, project roles etc.).

5. No matter what type of collab you choose, make sure to document the process.

Like we mentioned previously; this is the golden opportunity to capture a truly authentic creative process within your brand. It will give you the building blocks for any brand communication pieces you could ever need, whether it’s a press release, content for your youtube channel, a mini documentary, or footage for your brand video.

As you might have noticed, we did a little deep-dive into the KidSuper instagram in order to visualise this blog post for you. It’s been a brand we have been following for a while, and their approach to collaborations is quite a meaningful one since it’s mainly driven out of sheer nostalgia and realising childhood dreams. Check them out and show some love.

For more information about brand building, check out our other blog posts:

Branding: What is it & why is it important?

A practical guide to defining your brand purpose

‘Authentic’ brand building 101