When Brands Buddy up

Bringing brands together for a joint marketing campaign can drive more than profits

By Elliot Leavy

The saying “Two heads are better than one” first appeared in the English translation of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible in 1535. At the time, it also came with the adjoining statement, “because they have a good return for their labor” — the implication being that two heads were better than one because it led to higher profit.

It is a strange text, one that has launched many phrases such as "eat, drink and be merry", "nothing new under the sun” and "a time to be born and a time to die”. Perhaps most importantly, it begins with "vanity of vanities; all is vanity”.

The beat-writer Thomas Wolfe (who Hunter S. Thompson credits for his famous phrase "Fear and Loathing”) had this to say of the ancient Hebrew text: “I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound."

The ideas buried within Ecclesiastes have had a profound effect on society since they were first written all those years ago. Certainly in advertising, brand collaborations - the understanding that “two heads are better than one” - are nothing new. But are such partnerships simply an exercise in landing a “good return for their labour”? Or do brands have more to gain than profit alone?

“Partnerships are a great shorthand for a brand to get a new perception,” says Martin Beverley, chief strategy officer at adam&eveDDB, “because they allow brands to borrow equity from others”.

We’ve seen such a collaboration many times before and the strategy is still going strong. Collaborations in fashion are, well, fashionable. Later this year GAP is uniting with Kanye West’s Yeezy on a new clothing collection and adam&eveDDB’s recent work bringing Lucozade and Sports Banger together during the latest London Fashion Week. “We wanted to keep the Lucozade brand relevant. It’s always had that underground, unofficial association with rave culture, but at the same time, it’s what your granny would give you when you were sick,” says Beverley. “This was about cementing it as the former.”

On top of the reputation boost by association, brand partnerships can also work across several levels, says Beverley, “whether that be access to a lucrative audience or by co-promoting products and services that can work symbiotically”.

VCCP London recently released a campaign bringing together two Pepsico brands - Walkers and Doritos - with EasyJet. Walkers and Easyjet both work with VCCP and sharing an agency certainly helps when it comes to bringing brands together. And competitions are one of the most obvious and effective ways for brands to collaborate.

Such a symbiotic partnership is seen time and time again, says Jo Arden, the out-going chief strategy officer at Publicis•Poke. “Whirlpool, the home appliances brand, and detergent brand Ariel have a long collaborative relationship because it makes sense,” says Arden.

And when there's no obvious product link, sharing a good cause can be a smart way to leverage the power of brand collaborations.

Whilst Arden believes that linking up through common causes will drive even more brand collaborations in the future, she does caution that collaborations can be hard to pull off. “It’s really complicated," Arden admits. "You’re going to have to align the objectives, the brands, the brand personalities, and the worlds in which those individual brands live, the timing, the budget etc. — it’s incredibly complicated."

Then there is the more egotistical element, says Arden, “where we deceive ourselves that brands are more unique and distinct - and therefore shouldn’t be polluted by other brands - than they truly are”.

So should brands work together? “Absolutely”, says Beverley, “If you’re brand is quite middle of the market, you can quickly buy a bit of cool by associating themselves more fringe brands as well as early adopters — and that can be with influencers, other brands, or rivals, it all depends on what you need."

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