Why brand collaborations have never been more powerful

Some of the most experimental brands around are those that are able to create a devoted fan base: a passionate following is often more likely to be open to new ventures and unorthodox strategies. This has created a tradition wherein companies put different brands together – such as the delicious new combination of Dairy Milk chocolate and Ritz crackers from Mondelez – to produce new collaborative products and initiatives. There are obviously many different ways of doing this, and I thought I’d take a look at some of the most successful partnerships of this kind, and see what there is to learn.

Mondelez has a history of merging portfolio brands together, particularly when it comes to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk label. In recent years, Dairy Milk has been combined with Oreo, Philadelphia and Daim, meaning that this latest Ritz venture is nothing new. And it seems to be paying off. In reporting 6.5% revenue growth over 2013, Mondelez cited the influence of ‘power brands’ including Dairy Milk and Oreo in driving growth. Given that the company is hailing the positive impact of these flagship products, the logic behind putting them together makes sense. It is certainly cheaper than creating a whole new product from scratch, and the collusion of two brands means two separate customer demographics that will be attracted to what is on offer.

The basic principles behind brand collaborations seem to be sound, at least from marketing and product development perspectives. Another firm that has specialised in this for some years is McDonald’s, which has never been afraid to collaborate in order to make menu items such as the McFlurry more exciting. What I find interesting is that where Mondelez’s collaborations span different locations (Britain’s Dairy Milk combining with the American Oreo label, for example), McDonald’s appears to split its additional flavours by geography. While the US offers American staples like M&Ms, the UK offers partner ingredients including Munchies, Smarties and Crunchie. Is this because McDonald’s has a reputation for being ‘safe’, not wanting to alienate any potential new consumers? If so, they could possibly take a lead from Mondelez, which has reaped the benefits from mixing and matching snacks from all over the world!

Lastly, I thought that ahead of St Patrick’s Day next week I’d talk about one of the most innovative branding partnerships of the last few years; namely, the Marmite and Guinness collaboration that has returned to shelves each year since 2008. Marmite has a great history of playing with its name and heritage – just look at its Ma’amite packaging for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 – and the Guinness tie-up is just an extension of this cultivation of its brand image. As well as being the perfect St Patrick’s Day celebration, it’s also a testament to the power of having a solid base of loyal consumers who will follow experiments enthusiastically, one unifying factor seen in all the businesses I’ve talked about above.

There seems to be a pattern to producing successful brand collaborations that resonate with customers – what other examples are there, and have there been any which have flopped? Let me know at moira@thembsgroup.co.uk, and have a brilliant sunny weekend.