5 types of brand collaborations and why they’re crucial for effective marketing

By Mariia Lozhko, Commercial writer



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September 27, 2022 | 9 min read

In 2022, collaborations are no longer just a hyped trend; they’re an inevitable part of a marketer's toolbox, similar to paid ads, SMM, and seasonal sales

If you don’t have a lot of experience in joining creative forces with other brands, artists, or non-profits, don’t hesitate to take your first steps after learning about real brand cases. In this article, the Depositphotos team shares their collaboration experience and helps you figure out what type of creative alliance will work best for you.

What is a brand collaboration and why is it important?

Collaboration means creating something together and getting equal benefits for everyone. Brands can join forces with other brands to reach new audiences, hire an artist to add artistic value to a new product, or work creatively with a charitable organization to support a socially valuable initiative.

If you look at the collaboration from the brand’s perspective, the following marketing opportunities are undeniable:

  • Audience extension (due to cross-communication and better subculture reach).
  • Products and services are more exclusive, and makes the demand for them higher.
  • Strengthens a brand's reputation by supporting artists, charitable organizations, or innovations.
  • More likely to generate hype and get into media.
  • Revives sales by partnering with the ideal "couple" for your product.
  • Makes your product more memorable by creating unusual visual, audio, or taste associations.
  • Same-level positioning with other brands collaborating with your current partner.

The list above is not exhaustive. There are no clear rules for collaboration between brands and other partners, so their benefits depend on the creativity of the joint project. Here are the five basic types of brand collaborations.

1) Brand + brand (from another sphere)

Collaborations between brands are the most common phenomenon. Such activity may involve working with a partner brand on a joint product line, collaborating to provide a service package, or creating products that perfectly match each other.

Collaboration at the brand level often means reaching a wider audience. As a rule, the audience of such campaigns can exceed the audience of both brands together and bring unique value to clients.

When choosing a partner for collaboration among brands, it is important to consider your audience. Whether your partner's audience will be interested in your product is the main question that needs to be answered.

Examples include:

Panasonic and Tesla: building a battery plant

Balmain and Barbie: a thematic 70-piece collection

Apple and Nike, the Nike+iPod in-shoe sensor that manages music an athlete listens while moving

2) Brand + artist

Сollaboration between commercial companies and artists is the oldest option. Moreover, some artists, such as Andy Warhol, emerged precisely from fashion and advertising. Others, such as Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, or Salvador Dali are known for their collaborations with businesses.

However, collaborating with an artist is somewhat different from simply hiring them to do work such as decorating sales halls or artistically arranging product catalogs. Collaboration means that the brand gives the artist creative freedom, and the final product is a work of art, not a brilliantly executed design task.

The main thing that a brand receives from cooperating with an artist is the elevation of its products, branding, or trading space to a new artistic level. Therefore, we are primarily talking about reputational and PR benefits here.

Examples include:

Depositphotos and Huntrezz Janos: the Social Media Week 2021 identity and visual manifesto

Snapchat and Jeff Koons: a global AR sculpture project

Veuve Clicquot and Yayoi Kusama: the My Heart That Blooms in The Darkness of The Night artwork and a limited edition gift box

3) Brand + competitor brand

We usually see competitors standing up for each other in times of crisis. Let’s take the recent Covid-19 lockdown as an example. Hotels, restaurants, and brick-and-mortar stores were closed during the pandemic, and areas of business that relied on people-to-people contact were at risk.

As a Covid-19 result, former “rivals” united in order to survive. Retailers who had online stores began to teach others how to go digital. Restaurants got creative and launched offline food festivals with meals delivered to your doorstep.

Another case is collaborating for the sake of innovation. Thus, the legendary collaboration between Microsoft and Intel at the dawn of personal computing led to an affordable computer eventually being found in almost every American home.

Examples include:

Microsoft and Intel: Wintel Alliance

Vimeo and YouTube: a new feature for native cross-platform content publishing

4) Brand + non-profit

Gen Z, whose representatives will soon form the basis of any brand's target audience, are distinguished by their social consciousness. Considering this, brands started to actively express their socio-political position and join the fight for a better future. Patagonia integrates environmental issues into all communication campaigns. Hundreds of brands withdrew from the Russian market and initiated refugee aid programs after Russia's brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Collaboration with charitable or non-profit organizations that professionally take care of issues important to the brand's target audience is a way to make a significant contribution to improving the world.

Unlike branded one-off charitable initiatives, collaborations with experienced NGOs are a more effective way to benefit society. In addition, they also mean greater public resonance (as non-profits often have their media accounts and loyal media to cover their activities) and a significant reputational boost.

Examples include:

Depositphotos and META HISTORY museum and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine: The Revival Project

Office Hours and TEACH, courses for hospitalized children

Whiskas and World Wildlife Fund: the global tiger conservation program

5) Brand + niche influencer

We refer to influencers as those with whom you can creatively collaborate, because working with them often means partnership on equal rights or even their terms.

Influencers have loyal audiences and the product they deliver is content. According to this, they will agree to become ambassadors only if your product integration looks natural on their accounts (and not like straight-up advertising).

Collaborations with influencers can take any form, from a simple product placement on Instagram to a large-scale creative project like a street soccer tournament by Red Bull and a star soccer player.

Influencers are one of the smartest ways to use your PR budget. While the effectiveness of their campaign is easy to evaluate using online metrics, the media is hungry for innovative collaborations, such as those with virtual influencers, which widen your organic reach.

Examples include:

Red Bull and Neymar: Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five (a five-a-side street football tournament)

Miquela (formerly Lil Miquela) and Pacsun: the metaverse campaign

Mercedes-Benz and Loki the Wolfdog: 360° Experience

To sum up

Сollaborations with other brands, artists, organizations, or influencers are like interactions between people that carry their own expertise, views, and experience. That’s why joint efforts often bring partners new knowledge and audiences, push industry boundaries, and solve problematic social issues.

Just like you choose your friends, choose your brand collaboration partners. Carefully check their reputation, but give those who significantly differ from you a chance as well—After all, diversity is never a bad thing.

And another intriguing collaboration is still to come: on September 28th, Depositphotos will speak at at The Drum Lounge during the Technology for Marketing event in London. If you're around, don't miss a chance to join and gain first hand insights on how to boost your content marketing strategy in 2023.


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