In-Scope: Brand Partnerships: Hit or Miss(fits)

Charlotte Fetherston-Godley is an Account Manager for OMD Create Melbourne, helping clients deliver on their business challenges with content led decisions.

A brand partnership should be a ‘marriage’ between organisations, a collaboration that is mutually beneficial to both parties and allows them to leverage each others audience. When brands join forces and there is a true synergy, the value associated with each brand will be transferred to the other, building brand image and awareness for both.

An example of a great brand partnership is Qantas and Airbnb. The two brands partnered in 2016, giving Qantas’ 11.4 million Frequent Flyer members the opportunity to earn one point for every dollar they spend when booking accommodation with Airbnb. It’s a perfect alignment – both are within the travel industry and if people are flying, it’s likely they will be looking for somewhere to stay as well. Both are globally renowned, premium brands, and creating a partnership only further enhances each other’s credentials.

Uber and Spotify is another clever alignment. The car is one of the main places people listen to music and by allowing people to play their own playlists, their Uber journey becomes more personal. In turn, this acts as an incentive for people to sign up to Spotify Premium.

A more recent collaboration is Remedy Kombucha & Mecca Cosmetica, who joined forces to create a bespoke Kombucha flavour that was given away in all Mecca stores for one weekend only. Both the brands messaging at the time was around health and wellbeing, so the timings aligned for both. This allowed Remedy to leverage Mecca’s brand awareness in the Australian market, whilst driving in-store foot traffic for Mecca.

A final example is BMW and Louis Vuitton, who successfully partnered to launch the BMWi8. Both are aspirational brands associated with extreme luxury, so they complement each other’s image. Patrick-Louis Vuitton said “this collaboration with BMW epitomizes our shared values of creativity, technological innovation and style”. Not only that, but the five-piece luggage set created by Louis Vuitton was inspired by the car’s design and made entirely from carbon fibre, demonstrating innovative technology as well as quality.

Conversely, if a partnership does not align or appears controversial, it can have a negative impact on both brands. Consumers can question the relevance, which can lead to confusion, distrust or mockery and result in unfavourable thoughts towards a brand.

Lego and Shell were partners for fifty years, but people started questioning whether their values aligned, eventually causing their relationship to cease in 2014. The partnership certainly delivered results for both brands, selling sixteen million Shell-branded Lego toys and giving Shell a 7.5% worldwide sales uplift, however it started to receive heavy criticism as people became more environmentally savvy. Environmental activists argued the children’s toy brand should not associate itself with the oil giant. After a three-month campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace and supported by a million people worldwide, Lego announced it would not renew its contract with Shell. For Shell, the nature of their product has always made them susceptible to criticism, but it was a good move from Lego to discontinue the partnership, as they came out looking more favourable.

The other extreme, however, is when two brands appear to be so unrelated that it results in higher recall and brand awareness due to the extreme inconsistency. It was a questionable combination when Cadbury and Vegemite joined forces to create Vegemite flavoured chocolate, but that was the whole point. Cadbury wanted to create a conversation about flavours, so came up with a disruptive combination that would get people talking. The Mondelez International ANZ Director of Marketing said “Everybody assumed it would be a failure but actually nobody understood the purpose of it” , with the campaign achieving widespread PR as well as selling out of 1.2 million blocks of the limited-edition flavour in just three weeks.

More recently, Donut King and V Energy collaborated to make the ‘V Donut’. In a similar vein to Cadbury and Vegemite, a donut filled with energy drink is an unexpected combination, but the objectives are the same as the novel product aims to disrupt the market and attract new customers. The limited-edition donuts have been around less than a month, so time will tell what impact they make.

In summary, successful brand partnerships help increase brand awareness, reach new audiences and attract attention. The two brands don’t have to be an obvious fit, but it is important their values and marketing strategy complement each other. If not, consumers will question the authenticity of the relationship which can be detrimental to both brands.

At OMD Create, everything we do is data and insight led. Therefore, we thoroughly evaluate all partnerships to identify if they will reach the desired audience, deliver value and help achieve the intended objectives. This allows us to truly understand whether a partnership is a good fit, with clear KPI’s drawn up to ensure both partners are aligned and setting out to achieve the desired results.

Brand partnerships will only become more prevalent in the future due to the changing media landscape, with brands having to constantly look for different ways to reach new audiences. Therefore, it is important we continue to apply the appropriate rigor and analysis required to identify hits or miss(fits).

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