Branding, Marketing

How smart brands are approaching collaboration

Celia Murray /

Collaboration is an essential activity for ambitious brands.

Partnering with another brand to leverage their followers and customers can create unique sales and marketing opportunities. When two brands that have something in common pair up to create a new offer, it can result in increased publicity, heightened consumer engagement and an income boost.

Sounds perfect, right?

But what happens when the spotlight fades? What if one brand receives far less benefit than the other? What if there is a winner and a loser?

Collaboration is nothing new. However, the way brands are currently going about collaborating is old school, and bound to cause problems.

Imagine that you get in touch with a brand that shares your values, and over a series of phone calls and emails you create a new product or service idea. The process involves combining elements of one brand with elements from the other. You write up a plan and agree on the approach and execution. You both contribute financially, market the product or service, and seek out engagement to boost sales or participation.

Is this how you collaborate?

As the collaboration continues, one brand (maybe yours) might want to make changes. The benefit they are deriving might be less than the other brand, their company dynamics may have changed (relating to costs, marketing message or cash flow), or the collaboration might have created a backlash with their consumers. The other brand likely won’t accept any suggested changes, because the collaboration is working perfectly on their side.

The plan both brands agreed on initially was pretty loose and didn’t really consider future scenarios.

The collaboration sours. Here lies the issue with old school collaborations.

So, what could they have done better?

Licensing your brand

The new approach to collaboration for trending brands is licensinga strategic mix of marketing, sales and law.

Your biggest asset is your brand, so carefully protecting it in any situation is paramount.

Licensing is a formal agreement between parties as to how your brand is allowed to be used. The process of licensing involves a brand ‘leasing’ their branding to another entity which creates value for them. Licensing allows each brand to communicate the terms in which their branding can be used and the outcomes they expect to receive.

To avoid the scenario I described above, all smart brands license.

Emerging Australian brands are just starting to embrace licensing and its benefits. Examples of global licensing successes (just drop the old school collaboration) include Star Wars Lego, Nike Air Jordan, FIFA EA Sports and Chupa Chups Coty.

Brand owners are constantly faced with resource issues. Often a brand’s general manager or managing director will be juggling so many hats that fast and easy collaborations can be an effective method for marketing to new consumers. In addition to this, innovation is often hard to achieve due to small internal innovation budgets or a lack of skills or experience within tight teams.

Partnering with other market-leading brands makes perfect sense as a growth strategy. It can allow the attributes of your brand – these can be rational or emotional – to increase in credibility and value. Another benefit is it can make your brand appear much larger than it actually is. Perception is everything.

So next time you are strategically planning a collaboration, rephrase your terminology when speaking with your potential partner. Let them know you want to collaborate through the licensing of your greatest assets: your brands.

NOW READ: “It’s amazing we survived”: Collabosaurus founder Jessica Ruhfus on bootstrapping, scaling and sleeping on the floor

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Celia Murray

Celia Murray is an intellectual property (IP) licensing commercialisation specialist with more than 20 years’ experience in marketing, IP and brand licensing, brand management and strategic consulting. She is the founder and director of licensing commercialisation at Untapped Agency.

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