Stop, collaborate and listen, by Katch’s Georgie Woollams

Katch’s Georgie Woollams explains how even unlikely brand partnerships can provide big benefits for all involved

By Georgie Woollams, managing director, Katch International

When you put two things together, great things can happen – that is what happens when two great brands strategically partner. When two brands come together, extraordinary partnerships can be birthed, and you can catch both brands’ audiences. It also creates a yin-yang effect, where the best elements of each brand merge to create something new and exciting.

Let’s be honest, when we see two brands collaborate, we get excited, but what we also know from a communications perspective is that this is a great tactic to create a larger campaign to tap into a new segment and explore the brands’ expansion plans. Moreover, some of these large commercial campaigns can be so successful that these partnerships can be an ongoing effort to generate retained enthusiasm around the collaborations.

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In the past year, we have seen some great examples of this – from Kenzo and H&M, Lego and Adidas, Uber and Spotify, Dior and Air Jordan, and Travis Scott and McDonald’s. These collaborations showcase both brands’ attention to consumer trends and being able to formulate partnerships that will tell a story and have significance, which is of the utmost importance to consumers in a world struck by Covid-19.

The most important thing about a brand collaboration is that the brand you are partnering with already has its own fan base and loyal customers, therefore they bring trust and impact within their current community. The partnership also must make sense – especially now, when Generation Z wants to see genuine marketing and real passion for what the brand does. While some pairings may seem unusual at first, the alliance should be underpinned by authenticity and an idea that’s captive and immersive to drive participation.

For example, Spotify has paired Kuwaiti-Saudi artist Bader AlShuaibi and Korean-US artist AleXa for a K-Pop track called ‘Is It On’, which is coming out as part of Spotify’s emerging artists ‘Radar’ initiative. Partnerships like this allow younger generations to see their favourite industry giants extend a hand to niche, emerging artists or brands, to create an exciting and somewhat humbling change of pace for companies like Spotify.

If you’ve ever felt excitement over the announcement of a partnership between two brands you love, then you know just how powerful brand collaborations can be. The sky is the limit when it comes to what companies from different industries can come together to create. Some of the most iconic brand collaborations have come from the most seemingly unlikely partnerships.

For instance, the Katch team oversaw the unlikely yet innovative, thrilling, and mutually beneficial collaboration between ethical burger brand Neat Burger (led by Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton) and its partnership with electric offroad race series Extreme E. The stimulating campaign revolved around fast-track racing while boldly highlighting the sustainability agenda to do our bit in curbing global warming.

Another great example of collaboration is of the Rove Hotels and Nikon. This partnership brought together two iconic brands, enabling customers to experience and interact with the Nikon cameras to explore a new vision of Dubai’s cultural hotspots. The partnership saw a huge uplift in sales and social media engagement. For example, there were more than 1000 registrations to take part in the campaign within just 24 hours of launching the partnership.

When brands successfully execute partnerships, a company can also formulate a trend where it decides to take on a partnership every year, so consumers and followers of the brand are often anticipating the next powerful collaboration. One company that continually achieves this is Levi’s Jeans. Levi’s has a massive, dedicated following across all ages, but in recent years its collabs have particularly resonated with younger generations, and Gen Z specifically. Some of its most unique and successful partnerships have included Off White, popular streetwear brand Aries Arise, Super Mario Bros, Mui Mui and more. These collaborations combine the classicism of Levi’s jeans with vibrant, playful brands to generate successful partnerships from both sides.

Great brand partnerships aren’t created through luck. They come about after deliberate foresight and strategic action and – perhaps most importantly of all – being realistic about the execution. The most successful partnerships forecast trends and foresee what each brand can bring to the table to make a harmonious alliance. Unique and mutually beneficial partnerships will not need to invest huge amounts in paid social campaigns or expensive advertising, as the perfect collaborations will naturally attract huge social followings through genuine organic interest in the products.

Revenue is of course one of the core benefits of embarking on a brand collaboration. The ongoing partnership between Adidas and Kanye West saw Adidas’ net annual earnings rise by 19.5 per cent to $1.9bn in 2019. Such a huge collaboration has a direct impact on brand trust and support. If the consumer trusts the brand you partner with, they gain trust in you as an entity and the brand itself. People might have bought a pair of Yeezy’s because they have faith in Adidas as a trainer brand and understand how reliable they are, as well as being attracted to West’s sense of style.

Even smaller collaborations can prove to fans of a brand that it is continually innovating and looking to seek meaningful partnerships. Everyone loves the underdog story, and the media will too. So, it’s time to think big, get out there and capitalise on all of the partnership opportunities for your brand just waiting to happen.

Our experience at Katch suggests three tips: Firstly, always select a trustworthy brand. The most important element of any partnership is to enhance consumer trust in both your brand and your partner. Secondly, be original. An amazing partnership will maximise creativity for both brands involved and offer something unlikely and unique to existing customers. And third, make sure it makes sense. Although you should always aim to be unique, a random collaboration will never resonate with the public. Make sure it’s special and well thought out.