Collaboration Marketing: Your Guide to a Powerful Marketing Tool

By Joe Weller | May 27, 2023 (updated October 10, 2023)

The phrase “many hands make light work” is well-known for one reason: It’s true. Following from this adage, collaboration marketing can reduce the workload of a large-scale marketing strategy, and produce new and valuable benefits for all brands involved.   

In this guide, you’ll learn about the benefits of collaboration marketing, the five steps to implementation, and collaborative marketing examples your company can use to guide its own success.

What Is Collaboration Marketing?

Collaboration marketing, also known as co-branding, is when similar or like-minded organizations come together to create campaigns or products designed to increase brand exposure, awareness, and leads. This strategic partnership expands the audience and reach of all the brands involved.

Collaborative marketing can be as simple as co-produced social media posts or as complicated as launching an entirely new product created for the brands’ target audiences. Collaborative enterprises are extremely likely to use external collaborative marketing strategies within public advertisements and across social media platforms.

Collaboration marketing is well responded to by consumers.

Benefits of Collaboration Marketing

While internal workplace collaboration is crucial to an organization’s success, external collaborative marketing can produce other unique, pivotal benefits for the brands involved, including the following:

  • Brand Awareness: Each brand in a collaborative partnership has its own specific audience. When brands collaborate, they are introduced to each others’ audiences, which effectively increases their own brand reach and awareness.
  • New Leads and Potential Customers: In addition to increasing brand awareness, having a new audience can also expand both companies’ sources of lead generation and potential customers.
  • Increased Conversions: If co-brands introduce new-and-improved products with unique campaigns together, potential customers can be encouraged to purchase their products and services. Additionally, brands may see conversions from purchasers outside their regular target audience.
  • Improved Engagement: Co-branding partnerships can lead to increased engagement across all types of platforms, including social media and e-commerce sites.
  • Innovative Marketing Ideas: Both partners can bring their respective customer data to the table. Working together, companies have a better chance of coming up with unique, innovative marketing strategies that they can then use throughout a collaboration. 
  • Decreased Brand Weaknesses: Collaborative projects can help organizations identify and regulate current brand weaknesses. For example, a co-brand with a strong customer management system but poor data analysis could identify ways to improve collection and analysis by partnering with a like-minded company.
  • New Expertise: Partnerships also provide a space for brands to learn from each other. During the course of the collaboration, you will inevitably gain new perspectives on marketing strategy and execution; this will arm your own business with greater expertise for the future.
The benefits of collaboration marketing include new leads and enhanced engagement.

Best Practices for Success

In order to get the most out of collaboration marketing, companies should follow a handful of best practices, including how they will connect their brand values, audiences, products and services, and processes. 

These best practices are described in detail below:

  • Share Brand Values: Partner with an organization that shares the same values as your brand. Being aligned from the get-go will be much easier than trying to reconcile incompatibilities during your in-flight campaign.
  • Consider the Audience: Audience members with similar needs, wants, and questions in a relatively similar demographic are more likely to become potential leads. 
  • Utilize Complementary Products and Services: Be wary of partnering with an organization that has competing products or services to your own. Instead, partner with brands whose products will elevate or complement your own.
  • Prioritize Mutually Beneficial Objectives: Choose goals that will benefit partners equally. If reaching your objectives brings you success, it should also bring your partner success. For example, if your brand’s goal is to improve your reputation by providing customers with organic products, your efforts should mutually benefit your partner by promoting their eco-friendly materials. 
  • Plan the Process: Create marketing plans for your strategies so every team member understands their objectives and responsibilities. Keep in mind that the two companies may have different typical processes, so work together to create a plan that works for all parties.
  • Include Flexibility in Strategies: Make your collaboration strategies dynamic so they have room to change and grow based on your needs.

5 Steps to Implementation

Collaboration marketing is typically achieved through a five-step implementation process, which can help accelerate how your organization finds and maintains collaborative partnerships.

1. Identify Businesses With Collaboration Potential

Before drafting your co-branding and project proposals, you need to identify businesses and brands with collaboration potential. To identify potential partners, follow three tips:

  • Seek out Industry Leaders: Brands recognized as industry leaders often have larger audiences and more experience executing new marketing strategies.
  • Partner With Like-Minded Brands: Partnerships should only be forged between brands that hold the same values, goals, and general campaign expectations.
  • Think Outside Your Industry: Many collaborative partnerships are most successful when different industries with similar values or audiences come together.

Potential partners should also hold similar company values regarding leadership and company culture, and they should produce products or services that complement or could be complemented by those created by your organization. For example, an event planner and a florist could easily collaborate and create valuable advertisements or products for both of their target markets.

2. Set Collaboration Terms

Once you establish a partnership, set clear terms, expectations, and boundaries. Collaboration terms should be written with input from every collaborator and should include the following agreements:

  • The Products or Services: Collaboration terms should verify which products or services the partners agreed to work together on.
  • The Promotional Plans: Advertising and promotion expectations should be drafted within the early stages of a collaborative marketing strategy.
  • A Launch Plan: Product launch plans need to be clearly defined and drafted.
  • The Responsibilities of Each Partner: Partnerships with unequal responsibilities frequently fail and can lead to dissatisfaction between brands.
  • A Budget Breakdown: Early collaboration terms should note how much each organization is expected to contribute to the overall campaign.
  • A Timeframe: Setting a realistic timeline for a collaborative plan allows organizations to fully invest in partnerships for an equal amount of time.

3. Construct a Collaborative Team

One of the most crucial components of collaboration marketing is building a collaborative team. To successfully partner with another brand, each company should assign specific individuals to communicate project issues, successes, and needs with the other brand. These teams may not be able to meet in person, so they should consistently communicate by using collaboration tools.

Depending on the products or services offered by a partnership, you may also want to include IT professionals, SEO specialists, marketers, designers, UX writers, content writers, backend developers, and other specialists on this team.

4. Synchronize Goals

If you’re committed to collaborating, you need to synchronize your goals with those of your co-branding partner. Each goal should benefit — and be attainable by — every brand involved. If one organization reaches a specified goal, the other should also see benefits. Collaboration marketing should never benefit only one partner.

5. Plan a Marketing Strategy

To implement collaboration marketing, the final step is planning a marketing strategy with your collaboration partner. Every marketing plan is unique to the organizations involved, but there are a few general co-branded plan tips you should consider at this stage:

  • Split Advertisement Costs: Creating co-branded advertisements allows both businesses to market their products and services across multiple platforms while splitting the cost of a single campaign. 
  • Merge PR Campaigns: Brand partners can host PR campaigns together, which can help increase brand awareness and reach PR goals. 
  • Partner on Publications: Newsletters and other media publications produced by your brand partner are great places to run product or service advertisements.
  • Look for Promotional Discount Opportunities: Each business can offer discounts for their partner’s products, which can help brands reach new customers.
  • Share Social Media Reach: Along with co-branded social media posts, collaboration partners can share other companies’ ads across their own platforms.
  • Consider Referral and Commission Plans: Customers can be encouraged to promote a variety of products through referral and commission schemes.
  • Jointly Promote Your Work: Giveaways and competitions are common first-time activities for brands interested in collaboration marketing.
Collaboration marketing can be implemented in five steps.

Collaborative Marketing Examples

Collaborative marketing is a popular marketing tool for a variety of industries. These five examples showcase some of the most notable and successful collaborations around.

Doritos and Taco Bell

The Doritos Locos Taco, a Taco Bell menu item — one of the best-selling examples of collaborative marketing of all time — sold more than a billion units in its first year. The two companies worked together to create a product that appealed to the audiences of both brands while simultaneously staying true to each company’s recipe and branding.

Spotify and Uber

Ridesharing apps changed the transportation game, but the partnership between Spotify and Uber elevated it. Together, these two companies designed and implemented an option known as Soundtrack Your Ride. Users were able to choose their own music while traveling from one place to the next by connecting the Uber app with their Spotify account — creating a unique edge over other music and rideshare competitors.

GoPro and Red Bull

GoPro and Red Bull are both well-known for the products they sell, but they may be even more popular for the lifestyles they promote. Those who identify as adventure seekers and extreme sports fanatics are more likely to use these brands’ products, so GoPro and Red Bull developed an out-of-this-world collaborative stunt known as Stratos, designed to delight and amaze onlookers while promoting both companies’ products.

Casper and West Elm

Casper is an online mattress retailer and West Elm is a high-end furniture company — two like-minded brands that collaborated seamlessly over mattress testing. Customers could test a Casper mattress inside a West Elm store and order their products directly from the sites of both brands. Plus, these customers were introduced to West Elm’s modern furniture at the same time, which effectively created a one-stop shop for bedroom furniture.

Apple and Mastercard

When Apple and Mastercard agreed to collaborate, they decided to prioritize practicality by introducing Apple Pay. This simple application opened the door for virtual payments from phones and Apple Watches. Mastercard became the first card company to partner with Apple’s newest technology, allowing both companies and their audiences to evolve alongside consumer tech changes.

Realize the Benefits of Collaboration Marketing With Smartsheet for Marketing

The best marketing teams know the importance of effective campaign management, consistent creative operations, and powerful event logistics -- and Smartsheet helps you deliver on all three so you can be more effective and achieve more. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.


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