Collaborative marketing represents the concept of working together with other similar companies or associations to accomplish more than any of you could do alone. The original definitions talk about working with competitors, but some of the best collaborations have brought together very different markets to mutual benefit. Here’s our take on what you need to know about collaborative marketing.

Collaborative marketing requires wise partner selection

Collaborative marketing is a form of partnering: strategic co-working to draw on the skills of others. Pick your marketing partners wisely, and you can mask your weaknesses, and play to your strengths. However, the most important aspect of choosing marketing partners is probably that your values are aligned and consistent, and you are aiming at similar markets and customers. It is going to be very hard to create together if you are driven by fundamentally different things.

Collaborative marketing requires careful planning and ongoing management

Collaborative marketing is not an ‘easy’ option, or a way to get other people to do the work. It needs careful planning from first selection of partners, right through the process of preparing campaigns, to delivery and review. All partners need to be clear about their goals and objectives, and about how they will work together. There must also be a joint review process to ensure that the work is delivering for everyone.

Collaborative marketing extends your reach, and can open new markets

The point of collaborative marketing is to ‘grow the pie’: to expand your potential market and give everyone a share of a ‘bigger pie’. This is often by raising awareness among your target market. For example, one very well-known partnership between Uber and Spotify allowed Uber users to connect their Spotify to the car radio. This introduced thousands of Uber users to Spotify, and also made the Uber experience more personalised. This works particularly well for brands with a very similar target audience, but quite different products.

Successful collaborative marketing can break down industry silos

One way to extend the market is to change the price point: bring luxury to the mainstream, for example. Retailer H&M collaborated with several luxury brands including Versace to create shared collections. This gave the brands an opportunity to sell to a new market at a cheaper price point. H&M got a huge amount of publicity out of the collaboration, as well as sales. The collections sold out rapidly, but generated conversations on social media for much longer. 

Some collaborations emerge from customer ideas

Brands are not confined to co-creation with each other. Sometimes customers can provide the spark needed to trigger a successful collaboration. Casual comments on social media like ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if x… and y…?’ can open up potential markets. The kind of crowdsourcing of ideas has been used extensively by Black Milk Clothing, notably with a collaboration with Jeffrey Campbell on platform shoes. Other collaborations, such as Keith Haring and Uniqlo, have simply tapped into the current zeitgeist and worked out what customers want.

Some of the strongest collaborations draw on the power of celebrity appeal

The obvious example of an extremely successful collaboration involving celebrity appeal was Nike working with Kanye West on Yeezys. These shoes sold out rapidly in every edition—and other brands have also tapped into West’s appeal. Similarly, Taylor Swift has produced videos featuring her friends from different industries, including film. These have been viewed by a much wider audience even than her usual reach. This is a logical extension of ‘influencer marketing’, recognising that many celebrities are, in effect, a brand. 

Collaborative marketing is based on mutual benefit, not payment

We are used to thinking in terms of ‘pay to play’ with social media, and sponsored deals with bloggers and influencers. However, the best collaborative marketing is truly collaborative, and about building relationships with partners. The payment is in mutual benefit, not necessarily pounds or dollars. It is often hard to quantify the effect of influencer or collaborative marketing, because it may be a matter of raising awareness now, with the hope of financial benefits later.

Collaborative content marketing is particularly effective

Research shows that some of the most effective blog posts are collaborative. Simple examples of collaborative content include guest posts—which can bring new audiences to blogs or websites—and case studies. Case studies tap into our preference for peer recommendations, rather than ‘marketing text’. Another good option is curating content from others.

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