Aligning like-minded brands and celebrities is nothing new. From Michael Jordan’s historic Nike deal in the 1980s to the modern era of influencer marketing, brand collaborations have become the new norm as we absorb day-to-day advertising.
However, as we enter a new era where companies are relying on each other to remain relevant, the effectiveness of this new cobranding is yet to be seen. Will it remain a strong marketing strategy? Or an obvious ploy for attention? One thing for sure is consumers are resonating with well-executed brand mashups. And, for the most part, it seems like they’re not going anywhere. Here’s why.
It’s no secret the traditional brick-and-mortar retail store is on the decline. In the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the signs of the retail apocalypse are palpable, with over 12,000 stores on track to close in 2020 alone.
In 2019, we saw prominent brands — Payless, Barneys New York, Forever 21, Z Gallerie — file for bankruptcy just to remain afloat. Because of this, brands need to find new ways to garner attention in an increasingly competitive online marketplace. There are a limited number of ways to get exposure as a brand, and it’s a matter of cultivating the right amount of press, social media, content and advertising to stand out.
By mashing up two bona fide brands, especially in diverse industries, the impact can be exponential. A good example of this is Starbucks and Spotify, two seemingly disconnected brands with a common foundation of mobile loyalty. On one end, Starbucks was able to provide premiere coffee-shop music and incentivize Spotify users to join its loyalty program. In return, Spotify was able to grow its subscriber base with Starbucks’ incentive to give out free points (a.k.a., free coffee).
Together, they created fresh content for their audiences, cross-promoted to their social media followings, and grew their customer bases.
Emerging And Heritage Brand Cross-Pollination
For a lesser-known brand to partner with a more established, well-known brand, brand equity is clear. The lesser-known entity tends to take on alignment with the more established brand’s credible attributes, and the larger brand attains access to a niche audience that might not be a part of its current demographic.
A prominent example is in the beauty industry, where massive global brands and hot up-and-comers are relying on each other to stay relevant in the marketplace. Household names like Esteé Lauder, Unilever and Coty are latching onto emerging brands like Drunk Elephant and True Botanicals to home in on younger demographics and quickly moving trends.
Creating A Timeless Factor
What better way to create a call to purchase than a limited-time collaboration? Like all good things, the timeliness factor is an important ingredient. Whether it’s with the Vans and David Bowie collection creating a limited-time quantity of memorializing sneakers, or Chanel and Standard High Line creating a limited-time pop-up at the hotel, the attribute of short-term availability is key to driving timely engagement and hype. People want what they can’t have, so “limited time” encourages them to buy — and quickly.
Global Market Uncertainty
While situations like Brexit, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the U.S.-China trade war may lead to questions on how easily companies can continue to have global relevance, partnerships are a way to create it.
Look at the collaboration between global fashion powerhouse Burberry and Line, a Japanese messenger app with over 180 million users. As part of Burberry’s attempt to enter the Japanese market in 2015, the company offered exclusive content to the app’s users and a livestream of its autumn/winter show in real time. Not only did this open the brand up to a whole new set of consumers, but it also exposed Line to a global userbase that allowed it to expand globally.
So, since this is heating up, what should companies do to ensure a spot in the 2020 Brand Mashup Race?
In the wake of inflated influencer marketing, the trust between consumers and brands has dwindled in the past decade, with studies showing an “atmosphere of disbelief” penetrating the advertisement industry.
Today, brands need to ensure their collaborations don’t appear too gimmicky, as authenticity is top of mind. Consider Kendall Jenner and Pepsi — arguably one of the biggest backfires within the past decade with a message that was practically nonexistent. While celebrity endorsements can be successful, it’s important there’s a clear, authentic reason behind the collaboration. Consumers are smart and should not be underestimated.
In an era where sustainability, corporate responsibility and consciousness have become topics of conversation, some of the best brand mashups are simply ones that share a common cause.
After the TOMS shoe initiative, companies — specifically in fashion — have found ways to incorporate giving into their marketing. It’s here that we’ve seen successful partnerships like Madewell and Surfrider Foundation, FabFitFun and UNICEF, S’well and Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and many more.
It’s these types of partnerships that resonate with consumers because it’s clear to see what the brand stands for and how they can lend support through purchase. Cool and consciousness can coexist, and this type of strong, sticky branding often leads to true customer loyalty.
When deciding what company or brand would make for a successful partnership, it’s important to eliminate any limitations to your team’s creativity. Think outside your industry, country and demographics, and home in on what is going to resonate with your future audience. Some of the most iconic and successful collaborations of the past decade have been across industries, mashing up food and technology, fashion and nonprofits, music and hospitality, and so much more. Just remember: In order to be truly groundbreaking and relevant, be original.