Five examples of brilliant brand collaborations

When they’re well thought-out, brand collaborations can rise to the level of partnership heaven but, when ill-conceived, they can quickly descend to the depths of partnership hell.

A great brand collaboration will boost audience, reach and, ultimately, revenue. By contrast, a poor one will likely be perceived by the public as nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy concocted by partner brands solely to get their cash registers ringing.

But what makes great brand collaboration? Simply put, a brand partnership where there’s an authentic “meeting of the minds” relating to price, value perception, target market, promotional channels and such like. Here are five brand collaborations that fit the bill and represent a win-win for brands and consumers alike.

1. Aston Martin and 007: Licensed to thrill (and a licence to kill)

To date, an Aston Martin luxury sports car has been 007’s vehicle of choice in 12 of the 24 James Bond films – from the Aston Martin DB5 in the 1964 film, Goldfinger, to the Aston Martin DB10 in Spectre (2015). 

Why it works: Aston Martin and the 007 film franchise are a natural fit. The collaboration between the luxury sports car manufacturer and Ian Fleming’s fictitious British Secret Service agent spans more than 50 years and combines two iconic British brands – both of which have a timeless sense of style and sophistication that just oozes “cool.”

According to Simon Sproule, vice president and chief marketing officer at Aston Martin, “What makes the relationship so magical is that the creators of the James Bond films are permanently evolving the character and so, as a brand, when we’re involved, there’s always a new twist on that association.” 

2. Levi’s and Google: A high-tech commute in comfort, safety and style

Earlier this year, Levi’s teamed up with Google to enter the wearable technology market. Codenamed Project Jacquard, the Levi’s Commuter-Jacquard by Google partnership manufactured a touch-and-gesture interactive denim jacket designed to prevent cyclists having to reach for their phones while riding. By lightly tapping or swiping a sleeve on their jacket, cyclists can access a map or change a song on Spotify, for example, without compromising their safety on the road.

Why it works: Who can argue with a brand partnership that produces high-tech road travel in comfort, safety and style? The innovative Levi’s-Google collaboration ticks all the boxes.

James Curleigh, president of global brands at Levi’s, captured the essence of the Levi’s-Google collaboration: “Just think of the original 501 jean as our ‘icon proof’ and our partnership with Google (Project Jacquard) as our ‘innovation proof.’”  

3. Ford and Tinder: “Swipe right if you fancy a blind date in a Ford Mustang!”

Back in January, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Ford announced its partnership with mobile dating app, Tinder.

The car manufacturer, which has been around since 1903, collaborated with what Forbes has dubbed the “world’s hottest app” to create a promotional campaign where five couples were selected (from 1.5 million Tinder users) to go on a Carpool Karaoke-style blind date in a Ford Mustang. 

Why it works: Ford’s unlikely partnership with Tinder works because each brand needs something only the other can provide. The 114-year old Ford benefits from Tinder’s “hot” new status (the app was released to a rapturous reception in 2012) while Tinder piggybacks off Ford’s trusted reputation, heritage and brand equity.

Andy Barratt, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain, had this to say about the Ford-Tinder collaboration: “Lately, the Ford brand has become more playful and enjoyed interesting partnerships – Tinder included!”

4. Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa Technik: The ultimate VIP flying experience

In 2015, Mercedes-Benz – best known for designing sleek luxury cars – joined forces with Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa Technik, to venture into the luxury private and executive jet market.

Why it works: Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa Technik are both in the business of travel – the former on land and the latter in the air. They’re also world leaders in luxury automobiles and private aircrafts, reputed for their traditional craftsmanship and modern luxury. These shared values make the Mercedes-Benz-Lufthansa Technik collaboration a hand-in-glove fit.

5. KFC and NASA: “Space sandwich” – a literal product launch

On 21 June 2017, KFC gave a whole new meaning to the term “product launch,” when it promoted its new spicy Zinger chicken sandwich by claiming to have launched it – literally – into space.

With the help of NASA-affiliated scientists, KFC attached one of its chicken sandwiches to a high-altitude balloon and launched it from Tucson, Arizona, to a height of 15 miles above the ground. Although sceptics argue that KFC laying claim to a “space sandwich” was misleading (apparently, the edge of space is approximately 62 miles above ground level), the publicity stunt still had the desired effect – everyone was talking about KFC. 

Why it works: On the face of it, the KFC-NASA collaboration was purely a marketing gimmick. But looking a little deeper, the KFC chicken sandwich space exploit also held enormous potential for NASA to collect valuable information to advance space technology – claiming a victory for both brands.

Five collaborations, 10 brands and one test – of authenticity.

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