Brand partnerships: when they work and why

One of the most effective ways for a brand to expand its reach is to partner with another like-minded brand in a different industry. By combining their powers, these brands (and their agencies) often find incredibly creative ways to cross-promote and, in doing so, can win over new fans and create serious buzz.

Here are a few of our favorite examples, plus some tips on forming a strong and profitable creative partnership.

Zoolander 2 + Fiat = Riding While Hot

We all love Derek Zoolander for his inimitable style, outsize personality, and bold spirit. These just happen to be some of the traits that make Fiat beloved by its fans. When the two teamed up for this cross-promotion, it was the perfect opportunity to emphasize everything they had in common, while giving fans of both brands a reason to smile. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re both really, really ridiculously good-looking.

Empire + Pepsi = Art Imitating Life

Pepsi is known for featuring prominent musical artists in its advertising. Recently, on the FOX series Empire, Pepsi took its commitment to music to a whole new level. As part of the show’s plot, one of the main characters signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi and filmed a commercial directed by famed director Lee Daniels (also a creator of Empire). The result was a real ad that aired during Empire’s commercial breaks, and felt like a natural plot point for the show. We call that a win-win.

Uber + Pandora = Music that Moves You

Riders can listen to their favorite tunes on Pandora, ad-free, with the Uber Partner App. It’s as easy as logging into the app once you’re in the car, choosing a Pandora channel, and pressing play on your favorite jams. Uber already makes rides easy and fun, with quirky drivers and a well-designed app, but now the brand is able to deliver an enhanced experience that feels even more personal.

So, what makes a killer team?

  1. Shared beliefs: The best brand partnerships work because the brands have similar values or mind-sets. It’s hard to imagine Zoolander 2 partnering with a car like Jeep Cherokee, which positions itself as a vehicle for those who love the outdoors. It just wouldn’t be believable. Focus on finding a partner that represents or complements what your brand stands for.
  2. Clear benefits: When it comes to choosing a partner, the first question to ask is “What’s in it for us?” If both brands can’t demonstrate a clear benefit—whether it’s reaching an untapped market, showing off a new facet of the brand, or creating a better brand experience—it’s not worth it.
  3. Unexpected value: Partnering up can create opportunities to surprise customers in new ways, offering them an unexpected product or service. The Uber-Pandora partnership is a perfect example: no one expects to choose the music for their cab ride. Another is H&M’s collaborations with high-end designers like Alexander Wang, which give fashion-lovers high style at a great price and broaden the audience for Wang and his peers.