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Brand Collaborations Will Be Bigger Than Ever in 2022

Image courtesy of Disney


Traditional in-your-face advertising and self-promotional messages are less effective than they once were as consumers expect more from the brands they use and support. Many of us are tired of the advertising most popular among mediums like cable TV, billboards, and door-to-door sales, but that’s opened the door to new opportunities. Content-based marketing that increases brand awareness is on-the-rise and achievable using strategic brand collaborations.

Brand collaborations are an incredibly effective way to grow a brand, but they’re also ubiquitous in the modern business environment. Internal partnerships with coworkers and colleagues have long been created to save time, reduce costs, and extend reach, but who’s to say these benefits aren’t attainable for those who collaborate with unknown brands, like-minded companies, and competitors?


Collaboration means economic stability

Today’s consumers expect personalized shopping experiences that are fast, simple, and flexible. The pandemic has only reinforced these needs while prompting retailers to expand online shopping, pickup, real-time inventory, and fulfillment and delivery capabilities.

These shifts in consumer demands have forced brands to reflect and improve on their online and in-store shopping experiences. Building strategic collaborations are certainly part of this equation and can have a real effect on a retailer’s key analytics.

In fact, data from Accenture indicates that successful collaborations can cut a brand’s logistics costs by 3-4% and manufacturing costs by 5-15%. Further, collaborations can raise a store’s shelf-stock by 5-8% while optimizing inventory management for brick-and-mortars.

Out-of-stock online goods are said to cost brands up to $17 billion per year and supply chain delays in the latter half of 2021 have only contributed to this net loss. But successful brand collaborations can bring this number down while boasting a broad scope of marketplace opportunities.


Successful brand collaboration requires shared goals and agendas

Like any successful collaboration between two parties, the best brand collaborations center around shared goals and agendas. To benefit both retailers, target audiences should be brought together through product offerings that complement each other instead of competing against one another.

Furthermore, both parties need to establish an honest and true partnership. This means working together to align creative and strategic thinking. With compatibility in mind, successful collaborations breed audience expansion, retention, and added value to both brands.

One of the most obvious examples of two competing brands aligning their goals and agendas was the ‘Day Without Whopper’ campaign in 2019. For an entire day, Burger King stopped selling The Whopper, its top-selling product, to redirect sales towards a McDonald’s’ fundraiser.

Traditionally, neither of these brands would want or encourage marketing towards the other’s audience, but competitive collaborations like the ‘Day Without Whopper’ campaign show us how potential threats turn into tremendous benefits.


Collaboration breeds success for both parties

Fast food industry giants like McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t the only ones taking advantage of brand collaborations. For retailers, there are several ways collaboration breeds success for both parties.


Form new markets

Two sets of customers are better than one, and that’s what collaboration has the potential to create. We often find ourselves shopping and seeking out brands that take up only a fraction of the market, but cross-brand collaboration encourages us to look deeper into the industry for brands we didn’t know existed.

New markets are opened up all the time in the fashion industry. Think Fenty X Puma, Junya Watanabe X The North Face, or Moschino X H&M. All of these retailers have benefitted from increased audience awareness of unique product collections and alternative brand offerings.


Raise awareness

The consumer marketplace is more crowded than it’s ever been and cross collaborations create an opportunity for brands to raise awareness. Whether it’s two well-known brands, one small and one large brand, or two small brands, collaboration is one of the best ways to get noticed.

And it doesn’t matter how large a brand’s audience is, to begin with. Palace Skateboards, a relatively small skateboard company, partnered with Adidas in 2018 and accessed a much larger audience than they were used to seeing. In Adidas’ case, they were positioned as an innovator and supporter of small businesses.


Encourage customer retention

Brand collaborations also encourage existing customers to stick sound for new products and stay up-to-date with the newest drops. For brands that have a significant overlap in customer bases, collaboration increases the value of both brands while strengthening fan dedication.

Adidas X Pharrell Williams, Nike X Cristiano Ronaldo, and Puma X Rihanna are all examples of brands whose audiences are already joined at the hip and will become even more so when collaborations are in place.

There is also potential for two companies that aren’t known to have overwhelming audience overlaps. LEGO was particularly effective at this when they partnered with Batman, Star Wars, and Harry Potter to create entire franchises—even when their respective fanbases didn’t share the same demographic.


Promote a cause

We’ve also seen a rise in charities teaming up with brands to promote a common cause. The WWF X Whiskas, GLAAD X Asos, CALM X F&F, and #MarkYourMan campaign shine a light on collaborations that promote suicide prevention, wildlife protection, and LGBTQ rights.

Of course, many of these campaigns still contained a sales message or commercial purpose, but their success led to donations and proceeds to charity partners. Even if brands have a bottom line to protect, they can feel good knowing they collaborated with a charity while demonstrating their commitment to a cause.


Reinvigorate a brand

Retailers who are worried they’ve lost their spark or audience retention over periods can reinvigorate themselves with a brand collaboration. Furthermore, they’re a great way to show consumers that one brand or another is still relevant and worth supporting.

Mickey Mouse and friends recently collaborated with Vans and the “couture athleisure” brand, Opening Ceremony to reinvent their character designs and improve the brand’s street-cred. “Both Vans and Disney are dedicated to those who are young at heart and never stop following their dreams,” said Vans after the launch.

For many adults, this kind of collaboration pulls at the heartstrings of nostalgia to drive audiences towards both brands.


Tap into the latest trends

Collaborations can certainly influence a brand’s reputation over extended periods, but some are most successful when they align with pop culture flavors-of-the-week, month, or year.

Topshop’s collaboration with Stranger Things and Covergirl’s collaboration with Star Wars may not share the same goals or agendas as the partnerships mentioned earlier, but they’re hugely successful when it comes to promoting buzz around a new release—even if the hype doesn’t last.


Setting expectations for the future

Brand collaborations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and retailers have ample opportunity to use them to their advantage. There are, however, expectations that must be set and relationships that must be formed before the collaborative process can start.

Collaborations will fail if there’s not equal value for both partners and the sum of its parts isn’t carefully considered. When brands trust each other and set expectations early on, collaborations can positively surprise audiences, boost engagement, tap into the latest trends, promote a cause, and even reinvigorate a brand’s image.

Retailers across the spectrum have struggled during the pandemic, but opportunities in the form of collaboration encourage growth going into 2022 and beyond.