If you’re struggling to reach new audiences or find new stories to tell, you may want to consider a brand collaboration.

It can be a clever and cost-effective way to reach new audiences. By working together, brands can create a level of value that goes beyond what each individual brand could have done on its own to reach loyal – and new – audiences.

For example, GoPro and Red Bull are considered lifestyle brands, even though one sells video cameras and the other sells soft drink. By working together to promote action sports, they have reinforced their individual branding and reached new markets.

Similarly, BMW and Louis Vuitton share a reputation for luxury. They teamed up successfully when BMW launched the i8 model. Louis Vuitton created a matching four-piece luggage set that fit perfectly on the car’s rear parcel shelf. Both the luggage and some parts of the car’s interior use the same carbon fibre material.

These are examples of smart collaboration. However, for every collaboration that works, there are many that fall by the wayside. This can happen for any number of reasons.

So how can you make a brand collaboration work for you?

There are four key ways:

1. Understand what you’re trying to achieve 

Deciding on a brand collaboration shouldn’t start with choosing an ideal partner. Instead, consider what you’re trying to achieve. This may be connecting with a new audience, launching a new product or changing your brand perceptions, for example.

Once you understand the key goals of your marketing strategy, it’s important to decide how you will share the message. Are you looking to get people to trial your products and post about them on social media? Are you looking to increase your social reach overall? Do you want to run an event or experiential campaign? All of these decisions will affect your ideal partner choice.

2. Know your brand and align with like-minded brands 

BMW and Louis Vuitton make sense as partners. They are both in the high-end, luxury market where style and performance are equally important. So, if you’re looking for a brand to partner with, make sure you know exactly how your target market perceives you and your potential partner.

It wouldn’t make sense for McDonald’s to partner with Versace, for example. The two brands are worlds apart in public perception and it is difficult to see what value they could offer each other.

That’s not to say that surprising partnerships can’t work. Of course they can. But it’s still crucial to ensure there is a connection somewhere. Otherwise, with the best will in the world, customers won’t get the connection and the marketing effort won’t translate to sales.

The partnership between Apple and IBM in 2014 seemed unlikely given the two companies’ history of competing against each other. Yet working together helped IBM to invigorate its image by associating with one of the coolest brands on the planet. Meanwhile, Apple benefitted by being able to leverage IBM’s big data analytics and massive global team to penetrate the corporate enterprise market.

3. Make it a mutually-beneficial partnership 

Partnerships must benefit both parties, or they don’t make sense. So, once you’ve chosen the ideal partner, you must be able to articulate what’s in it for them.

When Bonne Bell partnered with Dr Pepper back in 1975 to create a Dr Pepper-flavoured lip gloss, it seemed like a gimmick. After all, what’s the connection between lip gloss and a soft drink?

But the lip gloss kept the flavour of Dr Pepper top-of-mind for teenage girls in the US and, more than 40 years later, both the lip gloss flavour and Dr Pepper are experiencing strong sales.

4. Close the loop 

Like Dr Pepper and Bonne Bell, a successful brand collaboration is one that lasts for many years. To nurture ongoing positive relationships, it’s important for both parties to communicate with each other honestly. You need to convey results to the partner and open up a dialogue to discuss successes as well as highlight areas for improvement. By fostering a true partnership, the brand collaboration may continue to deliver strong results for decades to come.

If you need advice about collaborating with another brand contact the Write Away team on +61 2 9978 1400 or email simone@writeaway.com.au.