Have you noticed that 2021 has been a year of ‘let’s work together’ when it comes to brand-to-brand collaborations?
Pandemic partnerships have brought a sense of unity and calm to our worlds in the last year. It’s got us thinking about co-branding hits and misses.
First things first, co-branding hits aren’t just two like-minded brands coming together. Oftentimes, it’s the unlikely ones that strike up excitement amongst their customers. Here are a few co-branding hits:
Nerds and Dungeons & Dragons
Let’s kick this off with an 80’s kid’s dream partnership! The iconic Nerds candy teamed up with Dungeons & Dragons to bring a taste of nostalgia to its customers.
The result is new Nerds packaging and seven custom mini D&D adventures for customers. The promotion is running from September through the end of 2021. You can visit the D&D site here to watch quick videos introducing the Nerds characters.
The Nerds brand strongly celebrates individuality and the idea that we can be better together, like a D&D party, and we couldn’t think of better ally to help spread the importance of those qualities. -Shelly Mazzanoble, D&D Brand Manager
[Source: Dungeons & Dragons]
Amanda Gorman & Estée Lauder
Another great example is the partnership of Amanda Gorman (the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history) and Estée Lauder. This partnership names Gorman as the Global Changemaker and Curator of the new “WRITING CHANGE” literacy initiative by Estée Lauder.
[Source: Amanda Gorman on IG]
While this partnership is at the beginning stages at the time of this writing, we’re listing it as a co-brand hit because of the potential impact it will have on young women around the globe. You can read more about this 3-year collaboration in Elle, here.
Mrs. Estée Lauder shattered glass ceilings as a leader in business 75 years ago. Embracing this spirit, I am delighted that our partnership will help inspire women, girls, and all people around the world to do great things, to disrupt, to be confident, and to be future leaders in whatever path they take. -Amanda Gorman
Needless to say, we’ll have high hopes for this campaign’s mission and will continue to watch over the next three years.
McDonald’s & Burger King
Our last hit is not exactly a brand collaboration. It’s more of a pandemic partnership. It’s not every day that you see a top competitor champion for the competition.
The pandemic brought out a sense of community amongst restaurant workers. Case in point is shown below, on Burger King UK’s Twitter feed from November 2020. Selling the most product was not what fast-food chains were focused on in 2020. Keeping their restaurant workers employed during a pandemic was.
[Source: Burger King UK’s Twitter]
And oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time the two fast-food giants came together. In September of 2019, McDonald’s in Argentina was raising money for childhood cancer, donating proceeds from Big Mac sales for one day only. In a heartwarming move, Burger King did not sell Whoppers for that same day. They coined it, “A Day Without Whopper.”
[Source: Campaigns of the World]
In the end, McDonald’s was able to sell more Big Macs and donate their proceeds to charity. And Burger King earned points for being charitable.
What comprises a co-branding miss? Well, it can be a number of things. But remember, consumers are smart. They do their due diligence and are not brand loyal. If you align with their values, they will shop with you. If you appear tone deaf and miss the mark, they will go elsewhere.
Here are a few co-branding misses that stuck out to us:
Forever 21 & Atkins
Are you already cringing? Yep, the two being paired up makes very little sense. And consumers were quick to call it out right away.
In 2019, the clothing and weight loss brands teamed up to send Atkins diet bars in Forever 21 online orders. Unfortunately, they didn’t think it through.
Many customers took offense (with good reason), calling it offensive and ‘fatphobic’. Forever 21 issued a public statement, apologizing while defending what they sent was to all of their online orders, not just larger sizes. It still left a bad taste in their customer’s mouths.
[Source: Business Insider]
Neiman Marcus & Target
Target has been known to have some great brand-to-brand collaborations. The first few that come to mind are Magnolia + Target as well as Lily Pulitzer + Target. But, there is one that missed the bullseye.
The main reason a collaboration between Neiman Marcus & Target was such a flop in 2013 was that they didn’t know their audience. Previous collaborations with high-end designers like Missoni proved successful because the price points reflected what you typically see in Target. However, the Neiman Marcus price points were…substantially higher.
In the end, shoppers weren’t impressed, and the sales suffered from it. You can read more about this flop in Times Business here.
Shell & Lego
Finally, our last example of a co-brand miss is a well-known one. Shell and Lego had a partnership dating back to the 1960s. But, in 2014, everything was not awesome.
In a nutshell, Greenpeace launched an attack campaign on Lego for working with Shell, an oil and gas company. During their Save the Arctic campaign, they called on the toy company to end their 50-year partnership with the oil company. It’s been said that the popularity of the video put out by Greenpeace is what ultimately led Lego’s CEO to end the collaboration. You can read a more in-depth study of it here.
There’s clearly a lot that needs to be taken into account when brands form collaborations. Sometimes, the most unlikely duos end up working. A great example of an unlikely duo is the friendship-turned-partnership of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dog. Sometimes, it just works!
What co-branding hits and misses stick out to you? Let us know in the comments below!
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