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Blending brands: the rise of collaboration

It’s commonly accepted that, if nurtured correctly, there can be significant value built into a company’s brand – that collection of intangibles created by the sum of all experiences a customer has with a company and its people, services, products and communications.

Big names like Coca Cola and apple are continually quoted as examples of how brands should be created and maintained. Commentators point to the balance sheet of these businesses and the colossal value of the goodwill attached to their brand. There’s no denying, individual brands have been – and continue to be – a powerful differentiator when it comes to a commoditised industry.

Where the products are often fairly generic and similar (impossible for the customer to distinguish), a brand serves as the way for a company to associate specific values with their offering, which particular kinds of customers will then decide to attach themselves to.

Examples are cars, beer, computers, fashion, chocolate you name it. Would you drive a Ford or a Holden? Drink a Tui or a Hallertau? Use a PC or a Mac? Wear Zara or Ingrid Starnes? Eat Lindt or Whittakers?

Them’s the rules

So the brand is precious. Not to be messed with. Kept sacrosanct.

Branding agencies have sprung up and grown to become global behemoths, creating guidelines, rationales and rules. And charging a pretty penny for it too. This growth has been mirrored inside client businesses, too, with the term ‘brand police’ becoming common slang for the way rules and regulations are adhered to and enforced, in a never-ending drive to retain the purity of the brand. This has become a norm of brand management.

A new way

As with all norms, however, some businesses see an opportunity to gain an unfair advantage by turning this on its head. They have looked to take advantage of their competitors’ rigidity by adopting a more fluid approach to what their brand can represent and combining that with other brands to create brand new, unique propositions. Which of course has, in turn, created new revenue opportunities.

What typically characterises successful brand collaborations are individually powerful brands with well understood identities who have partnered with other organisations with complementary values and customer groups.

Sometimes this has been done as a publicity stunt to revive interest in the brand and their products, and in other cases brand collaborations have become a major pillar of an organisation’s commercial strategy.

Here are some great examples:

Moa beer x Vogels bread

Nike x so, so many brands

Whittaker’s x you name it, they’ve done it

Karen Walker x Mickey Mouse

What does this mean for marketers?

Don’t feel constrained by your brand guidelines. Brand is in the eye of the beholder – how consumers feel about you is what defines your brand, rather than what a thousand page document says. So work to understand what your brand really stands for and means to your customers. Then identify brands that may fit with that. Talk to them. Explore opportunities.

Be open to collaboration. Amazing things could happen…

Ben Rose is CEO/Founder of revenue growth consultancy The Growery

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