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Why Are Brands Crazy for Collabs?

Lorenzo Quinn, Venice, Italy

More and more brand collaborations have been popping up than ever before, with companies launching partnerships across a wide range of industries with a variety of price points and, in some cases, even with their competitors. But there’s a good reason for why so many companies are teaming up right now: brand collaborations have become a powerful tool that not only give companies the opportunity to grow their audiences but also, have the potential to help all brands involved to expand into markets that might’ve otherwise been off limits to them. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top motivators behind the decision to collaborate with another brand.

Building a Buzz

Sometimes, brand collaborations are more about generating buzz than anything else. Take a look at eyewear brand Warby Parker’s 2018 collaboration with fast food chain Arby’s. Together, these two brands created WArby’s, an April Fool’s Day gag that generated a ton of media coverage and a major buzz on social media.

The glasses powerhouse sold “raw meat” patterned eyeglass frames and lettuce, tomato, and cheese patterned lens wipes, while Arby’s added onion ring “monocles” and several other menu items that were sold in packaging featuring Warby Parker’s signature brand colors. Additionally, a retail line of “WArby’s” branded products was created, including hats and t-shirts, which were sold with a slightly deeper objective in mind: giving back. Warby Parker donated their portion of the proceeds from the “WArby’s” wearable branded products to VisionSpring, an organization bringing affordable eyewear to the masses, while Arby’s chose to give their part to No Kid Hungry.

Reaching New Customers

For consumers, the appeal of brand collaborations is pretty clear: they provide an opportunity to purchase unique, limited edition products from brands they already know and love. That said, the real winners here are the companies that decide to team up, as they’re the ones who acquire new fans simply by being exposed to the other brands’ respective audiences. Consider H&M’s 2004 collaboration with fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, which lead to nearly two decades of successful partnerships between H&M and other high-end fashion houses. By offering a capsule collection designed by Lagerfeld at significantly lower prices than consumers would normally pay for clothing made by the legendary fashion designer, H&M solidified their brand image as trendy, fashionable and innovative. In exchange, Lagerfeld was able to expose his brand name to a new generation of consumers would now increasingly aspire to owning the designer’s high-end couture.

Generating New Content

Joining forces with another brand also provides a great opportunity to create unique new content. While the collaboration between Taco Bell and snack brand Doritos certainly generated profits and created a major buzz, it also accomplished something arguably more valuable for both companies: the creation of a new menu item called “Doritos Locos Tacos". While the Doritos-chip taco shell was originally meant to be a limited edition offering, it became so incredibly popular when it first appeared on Taco Bell’s menu in the early 2010s that both companies decided to keep the item as a permanent fixture on Taco Bell’s standard menu, where it has remained for the last 10 years.

Boost Sales

Generating a profit is always a smart goal for any company to maintain; but sometimes, it’s also the most important one. Back in 2017, New Zealand’s tourism industry was in serious need of a re-boot. Enter: National Geographic, who teamed up with Tourism New Zealand to create a six-part series promoting the country's tourism called “The Ultimate New Zealand Experience.” While Nat Geo generated incredible new content for its own audience, New Zealand was greeted with an additional 1.5 million travelers from the U.S. in that year alone, and saw an 11% increase in the amount of money spent by those travelers during their time in NZ.

Brand collaborations have a long list of potential benefits for all parties involved, but it takes a thoughtful strategy and a lot of planning for both companies to reap those benefits. With the right blend of creativity, storytelling, and pooled resources, two brands can come together to do great things that generate growth, thrill audiences, boost relevance, and last but not least, allow both companies to tap into the others respective fanbase.


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