Brand partnerships, or co-branding, happens when two brands or companies work together in a mutually beneficial relationship. Oftentimes, these companies are complementary and not direct competitors. However, there are some instances where competitors call a truce and double in to monopolize the market and everyone else trying to get into the game. When done well, brand partnerships can offer domination and seriously high profits.
However, just like any relationship, some are better than others. It takes a lot of small working parts aligning perfectly for a brand partnership to really take off. Over the years, there have been winners and losers. Here's a look at some of the best brand partnerships to date, and what they did right:
Apple and IBM
This is an example of when two competitors actually worked well together. According to IBM, this marriage "brings together the analytics and enterprise-scale computing of IBM with the elegant user experience of iPhone and iPad to deliver a new level of value for businesses."
Obviously, Apple has the background in giving customers what they want and they could seriously improve the IBM image. However, it's IBM's incredible big data and software that will give Apple a boost. Who says two giants can't play nicely?
Alexander Wang and H&M
A high end designer partnering up with a budget retail outlet is nothing new, and H&M is known for snagging some seriously hot designers (as is Target). However, the Alexander Wang partnership is especially worth noting. Just like every other H&M designer, the Wang marriage is planned to be short-lived, but offers Wang a chance to make a connection with a brand new generation. Obviously, the benefits are H&M scores yet another killer designer while Wang will likely develop a few customers willing to pay couture prices in a few months or years.
The Art of Shaving and Gillette
Well, this is an obvious hookup everyone saw coming! The Art of Shaving is a luxury chain known for offering the best accoutrements for shaving around, including gold plated razors. Of course, Gillette is known for offering close shaves on a budget, and is arguably the best-known shaving brand in the US. However, when these two sidled up to one another, the result was the Fusion Chrome Collection: An Art of Shaving razor that only worked with Gillette blades. It costs $150 and gave both brands a corner on the market.
Benjamin Moore and Pottery Barn
What does one of the world's premium paint brands and one of the globe's most renowned home goods store have in common? A gorgeous interior, of course! While Pottery Barn was doing everything possible to provide furnishing and bedding to make interior décor dreams come true, customers kept asking about paint colors -- especially the ones in the Pottery Barn catalogue. The obvious answer was to work with Benjamin Moore to design a unique palette for every season.
Betty Crocker and Hershey
Talk about a sweet coupling! Everyone knows both Betty Crocker and Hershey, and both are connected with comfort foods, desserts, baking, and goodies. Betty Crocker has been the go-to brand for baking since 1921, and teaming up with Hershey to create easy to make treats was a no-brainer. After all, if you're going to call for chocolate chips in your recipe, you may as well specify America's most beloved brand.
One Direction and Nabisco
Yes, really! A "brand" doesn't necessarily have to be a company providing goods or services -- it can be a band, too. Nabisco has a penchant for partnering up with the most popular bands and musicians in the world, so it only makes sense to "brand band" with this boy band. Nabisco is sponsoring the group's tour including brand mentions in 20,000 retail locations via store displays and on 8,000 end-caps around the country. A bit of a brand hopper, One Direction has also worked with Nokia, Pepsi, and Target to name just a few.
Lexus and Coach
Remember when Lexus was the ultimate luxury car, especially in the hip hop sector of the 1990s? You may also recall that this is when Coach joined forces with the car giant to offer one of a kind luxury leather interior seating. It was a perfect pairing, especially in a time when Coach was also one of the most in-demand brands and the logo craze was just taking off. Nowadays, Coach is looking to expand but will always be linked to those bags.
New York's Ace Hotel and Stumptown Coffee
Ace Hotel is one of the most well-known hotels in all of Manhattan, and it has a knack for choosing fantastic partnerships including Stumptown Coffee. Arguably the most popular brewer in New York, any traveler (and locals, too) demand the best café in the mornings, and Ace is happy to help serve that up. Forget that mediocre, free coffee in the lobby and enjoy the real New York experience. Coffee and hotels go together like jam and peanut butter, so it was a natural fit.
MAC and Everybody
Celebrity-endorsed MAC products include special lines each year or season that are an homage to the celeb flavor of the day. Some of the most well-known celebrity "designers" include RuPaul, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj. Obviously, MAC likes celebrities with an edge, which goes in line with its industry-approved makeup, bright colors, and sleek designs. The most recent MAC designer: Miley Cyrus, of course.
Coca-Cola and Jack Spade
What could America's most popular beverage possibly have in common with a designer? Don't underestimate the power of Americana, because Jack Spade has launched a series of clothes, bags, and accessories that feature the icon everyone knows and loves. For the designers, connecting with classic beverage brands tap into the nostalgia and classic adoration that many fashionistas adore. For the beverage brands, they can tap into a different market and up their class/ desirability factor at the same time.
McDonald's and LEGO
McDonald's is another company known for jumping in bed with quite a few brand partners. One of the most successful was LEGO, and together the companies produced a mini restaurant (built with LEGOs of course) as well as Happy Meal Toys. There's nothing kids love more than LEGO, except maybe McDonald's, which is why this partnership was easy to come by and benefited all (except maybe the parents who ended up stepping on those restaurant building pieces).
KFC and Susan G. Komen
Remember the 2010 "Buckets for the Cure" campaign that was touted by KFC in collaboration with the Susan G. Komen Foundation? Of course, chicken can't cure cancer -- or can it? With 50 cents of every purchase being donated to the Foundation, $2 million was raised in week one alone. While some critics mocked the idea of fast food trying to help cure cancer ("eat a breast to save a breast," anyone?), it was ultimately a goodwill effort that did what it was designed to do: Sell more chicken and raise some funds.
Co-branding can range from the strange to the obvious, but usually falls somewhere in between. Where will brand partnerships take us in 2015? Only time will tell.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer.
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"partnership concept with gear and businessman" image via Shutterstock.