Brand collaborations are a powerful tool to grow your audience, enhance your brand voice, and take your business to new heights. It’s a powerful tool that enhances the overall value of your industry. Brand collaboration works especially well for small businesses that are looking for new ways to open up to new markets, engender a loyal client base, and gain an advantage over competitors.
What are the benefits of brand collaborations, and how can you use them to boost your business?
What is a brand collaboration?
The most successful brands collaborate, not compete. A “collaboration” is simply when two or more organizations come together through shared objectives and goals.
Typically, these brands are tangential and complementary—meaning they function in similar industries but don’t have the exact same market or product. Think about McDonald's Toys, they would never promote Burger King, but Mario Kart is a seamless collaboration due to their overlapping demographics and kid-friendly branding.
For example, a strong brand collaboration would be between a swimsuit company and a sunglasses company. They could both collaborate on the “summertime” lifestyle to sell to similar audiences.
A less successful brand collaboration might be between two swimsuit companies who are competing for the same products and customers. Another unsuccessful brand collaboration might be between a swimsuit company and a car company—since they might not have an overlap in market.
What are the benefits of brand collaborations?
Brand collaborations open up a wealth of opportunities for your business. A collaborative strategy can expose your business to new markets, stronger customer relationships, more traffic, new ideas, reduced costs, and more.
1. Enhanced exposure
When you collaborate, you’re gaining instant access to your partner’s market. In most cases, this is an overlap market, although it’s not exactly the same.
For example, you own a brewery and you collaborate with a local gym. Even though your audience is beer-drinkers and their audience is gym-goers, you likely have an overlap in target audiences (those who go to the gym because they drink beer).
When you both collaborate, you’re bringing together your separate audiences. Your beer drinkers might be interested in the gym and their athletes might be looking for a healthy drinking option.
Plus, you have double the marketing opportunities. You can promote their business through your marketing channels, and they can promote yours in return. For example, your partner might have a strong Instagram following. When they tag you in photos, you start to gain followers on your business’s Instagram. In return, you have a strong email list, and you can promote their lead generation landing page through your email marketing campaigns. You both grow your exposure while improving your social avenues.
Both businesses are gaining access to a new market while in turn growing their own brand voice. This not only improves business awareness, but it also grows your branding—you’re able to show your business in a particular light by showing the kinds of organizations with which you partner.
2. Greater inspiration
Collaboration gives you a new perspective on your business and industry. You’re able to communicate, share, and discuss ideas. You learn about your industry from a new perspective while gaining access to new tools and techniques. This helps boost your creative thinking while offering time- and money-saving solutions.
Collaboration helps you get to new places you wouldn’t be able to on your own. Two minds are better than one!
3. Larger network
There is power in numbers. Imagine how quickly your business would die if you sold to the same customers every day. You also can’t have the same partners all the time, or you’d never be able to grow.
Collaborations help you grow your network, which is the only way that businesses can develop further in today’s saturated market.
4. Saves money
Because you have a larger network, greater visibility to new customers, and new opportunities for tools, you actually end up saving money. You can reduce costs by learning new ways of doing business and optimizing on the other business’s success. You can even share marketing expenses that help you grow in tandem for half the cost.
You share the risk and the reward, which can help small businesses grow at a faster pace.
5. Lifestyle advertising
Marketing has always been highly aggressive; it was all about why you need us and why you shouldn’t use our competitors. Today, consumers don’t want this kind of in-your-face advertising. They want to see “lifestyle marketing.” They want their promotional messages to add something to their day.
Collaborations are a strong way to use lifestyle marketing. Your business shows that it’s relevant to a larger conversation, which appeals to a brand-driven audience.
6. Adds value
Ultimately, collaborations are meant to add value. They bring organizations together for a shared purpose, which is usually greater than one brand could do alone. This not only provides value to the brands, but it also contributes something unique to the consumer and industry.
This value is what will set you apart from your competitors moving forward.
How do you collaborate?
1. Know your goals.
Before you partner with anyone, you need to understand what your brand is about and what your brand is looking for. You don’t need to specifically say, “I am looking to partner with a company to grow my exposure,” because you never know the benefits a collaboration could have on your business.
Still, you want to know what your business needs in order to grow. Maybe you have enough awareness but you’re looking for repeat business. Maybe you want to better position yourself in the industry conversation. Maybe you’re looking to expand into a new target audience.
Consider your marketing objectives. Then, consider how your marketing objectives would impact a collaborative strategy.
What do you need? How can you get this with collaboration?
2. Find a non-competitive partner.
In some cases, you can go out and pursue a specific partner. You could do some digging and find applicable contacts if you know you want to collaborate with a specific brand.
But more often than not, your partnerships will come about organically. People you meet out in the real world can become your biggest professional advantage.
So go out and network. You need to meet people in personal interactions if you want to create a strong brand collaboration. You never know where a relationship can take you until you pursue it.
3. Discuss shared objectives.
Like dating, you want to make sure you and the potential partner are compatible before getting married. You want to ensure that your strategies are aligned and that you will provide equal value to the partnership moving forward.
For example, you and one partner might agree that you want to host a marketing campaign together. You could show a united front in a lifestyle package, like how Apple paired with Nike+.
Or you and the partner might want instead to have a partnership where you focus on sharing ideas and technologies. They might lend you their creative marketing team and you give them access to your accounting tech, for example.
Make sure that you have aligned goals and action steps to reach those goals.
4. Create a plan.
Collaborations need a plan. You could have a short-term partnership that meets one objective or a long-term partnership with a number of goals, but in both times you need to make sure you’re headed on the right path. Work together to create a series of steps that will ensure you reach your objectives.
If you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail. Collaborations are only as strong as the collaborators’ ability to work together towards mutual benefit.