The diverse world of brand collaborations
Brand collaboration: what is it
Many people will be familiar with the idea in the context of music, where two singers join forces to sing a duet or two DJs create a unique set together. But this type of collaboration, which often produces something new and unique, has long since ceased to be the preserve of the music industry. Brands use collaborations too, to shake up the market together and penetrate new sectors. The two parties may have quite different purposes for collaborating. Some companies might be hoping to expand their reach. The aim could be to increase their visibility to new target groups through clever brand collaborations. Others, meanwhile, are bent on enhancing their own image. For example, a fashion label might join forces with an NGO to position itself in a better light when it comes to environmental issues. In an ideal-case scenario, at the end of the partnership both parties will have achieved increased sales – which means good brand collaborations can be a real win-win situation.
The best ideas often come from collaboration. So what happens when brands bring their creative departments together and pool resources? (Photo: My Life Through A Lens, Unsplash)
The different types of brand collaborations
Brand collaborations can take many forms, and the type of cooperation will vary depending on where the focus lies for the brands involved. Whether it’s a joint product, a product enhancement, joint events or shared advertising, there’s a way of cooperating to suit every conceivable brand collaboration. However, there are three forms of co-branding that are particularly common:
This type of brand collaboration is where the products from each brand merge and become an integral part of each other. Ingredient co-branding is often referred to as “brand in brand”, because at least one element of the product could not exist on its own if there was no collaboration. A good example of successful ingredient co-branding is the partnership between Intel and Dell. The computer manufacturer Dell uses Intel processor technologies in its production processes – as demonstrated by the “intel inside” sticker. Another good example is Gore-Tex. Rather than bringing out their own collections, the developers of this waterproof membrane for textiles make their technology available to consumers in collaboration with other brands. Teflon is another example that works in a similar way.
Composite co-branding functions similarly to ingredient co-branding. But while the latter produces a practical new product, when it comes to composite co-branding the collaboration is somewhat more arbitrary. Here the goal is not to enhance a product, but to create a product in itself. For example, household appliances manufacturer SMEG successfully joined forces with fashion house Dolce & Gabbana to produce an iconic, hand-painted SMEG refrigerator designed by D&G. Other kitchen appliances were then added to the range after the refrigerator had received considerable attention and positive reactions.
Co-events fall more under the category of co-marketing than co-branding. That said, the concept is a popular approach to successful brand collaboration. Co-events don’t involve any creation of, or addition to, new products – each product remains more or less a stand-alone commodity and continues to exist independently alongside the other. In this kind of collaboration, the focus is more on joint events and sponsoring. One example is the partnership between action camera manufacturer GoPro and Red Bull. Together they organise extreme sports events, which are then recorded and streamed using the small GoPro cameras.
One thing all types of brand collaboration or co-branding have in common is that it’s absolutely essential to know your own target group. How do your customers think? What are their values? What motivates them to buy? This is the only basis for a successful collaboration.
Achieve more together: the power that brand collaborations have to influence a market shouldn’t be underestimated. (Photo: Bekky Bekks, Unsplash)
Brand collaborations in the interior design industry
Up to now, almost all the major brand collaborations have come from the fashion industry. And yet the principle of cross-company collaboration is gradually establishing itself in the interior design industry – and across different industries. Whether it’s a designer bringing out unique new pieces in collaboration with a furniture manufacturer or a company creating furniture pieces for game developers or the metaverse , the potential for brand collaborations is practically limitless.
Zara Home, for example, joined forces with Vincent Van Duysen and brought out an entire collection in collaboration with the Belgian designer. Van Duysen, who celebrates his 60th birthday this year, dedicated a very special collection to Zara by reflecting on the designs from his extraordinary 40-year career. The result was remarkable – designer pieces at a price accessible to a large target group. The collaboration has enabled Van Duysen to expand his reach and tap into a previously unaccessed audience, while Zara is benefitting from the designer’s reputation and has once again demonstrated its eye for tasteful design – a win-win situation.
Such collaborations might go down well, but they are also somewhat obvious. Swedish furniture giant IKEA, on the other hand, often comes up with rather more unlikely brand collaborations. In 2018, the company joined forces with the US space authority, NASA, to produce a collection of household appliances and furniture that addresses the problem of urban living in extremely confined spaces. Similarly surprising, perhaps, is this year’s collaboration between the furniture manufacturer and music group Swedish House Mafia. The result of this partnership was a total of 23 entirely black pieces of furniture, which together make up a complete home studio for hobby DJs. By comparison, its collaboration with Sonos in the previous year, which saw the two companies jointly bring out a more cost-effective version of the popular Sonos boxes, seemed almost inevitable.
Shaping the future together
Looking at the successful brand collaboration between Ikea and Sonos, the significance is quite clear. If you type Ikea and Sonos into various search engines, you come up with countless reviews, product tests and evaluations. Whether it’s a news article, a blog post on a technical forum or a YouTube video, such continual brand awareness would be difficult for the two companies to achieve with advertising alone. And the right partnerships can also help to fulfil the high moral expectations placed on brands, particularly by the young Gen Z target group. By pooling resources, brands can even have a significant impact on creating a greener, more open-minded and more modern future. Of course, a brand collaboration can also go wrong, as in the case of Shell and Lego, but if a company chooses a partner cleverly and carefully, the opportunities are virtually unlimited.
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