January 16, 2024


In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, brands are constantly seeking innovative ways to capture the attention of their audience. One strategy that has gained prominence in recent years is brand partnerships. Remember the infamous Redbull x GoPro Startos campaign or the always-viral puppy and kitten interviews with celebrities from Buzzfeed and local animal shelters? These collaborations were successful because they generated excitement and intrigue, allowing both brands to enter new markets. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. 

Collaborations between brands can create a powerful synergy, but what happens when these partnerships step outside the boundaries of convention? The result is often unexpected, exciting, and best of all, effective. In this blog, we’ll delve into the world of unconventional brand partnerships, exploring how they can breathe new life into your marketing strategy. We’ll also provide a checklist for success and a hypothetical scenario to illustrate the concept in action.

a handshake across a desk between 2 business people
The Power of Unconventional Collaborations

To understand the impact of unconventional brand partnerships, we must first differentiate them from conventional ones. Traditional collaborations often occur between brands within the same industry or those with related products or services. Think Taco Bell and Doritos — Frito-Lay created a Dorito-flavoured taco shell for an exciting twist on the Locos Taco recipe. While these partnerships can be effective, they are also expected. In contrast, unconventional collaborations involve brands from entirely different spheres, creating a unique and attention-grabbing fusion.

Unconventional partnerships have the power to disrupt the market and capture the audience’s imagination. They pique curiosity, generate buzz, and drive engagement. The novelty and surprise factor associated with unexpected collaborations can significantly boost your marketing efforts.

Why Unconventional Partnerships Work

The success of unconventional partnerships is rooted in psychology. Humans are naturally drawn to novelty and surprise. When two unrelated brands come together, it creates a cognitive dissonance that demands attention. People are curious to understand how these partnerships make sense, and this curiosity is a powerful marketing tool.

For example, when fashion brand Louis Vuitton collaborated with the video game “League of Legends” to create a limited-edition capsule collection, it raised eyebrows and generated conversations. The unexpected union of high-end fashion and gaming showcased the limitless potential of unconventional partnerships, while also introducing new audiences to both brands that they may not have reached otherwise. 

Unconventional Brand Partnerships in Action: Real-life Examples

Let’s explore some other unconventional but highly successful brand partnerships:

  • Pokémon x Van Gogh: The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam teamed up with the Japanese “pocket monster” brand to create an exhibit of post-impressionist paintings in the style of popular Van Gogh paintings, but with famous Pokemon characters in their place. While the exhibit was a success, the limited-time merchandise drew all of the attention. In fact, it drew so much attention that it shut down the museum’s website
"Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat" by Naoyo Kimura, an illustrator of Pokemon trading cards since 2001, alongside its inspiration, Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat"
"Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat" by Naoyo Kimura, an illustrator of Pokemon trading cards since 2001, alongside its inspiration, Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat". - Copyright Courtesy: Van Gogh Museum
The BYGGLEK LEGO® collection. The lego toy building blocks are building a staircase in an IKEA white storage box
The BYGGLEK LEGO® collection. Copyright Courtesy: Lego x Ikea
The KFC x crocs footwear collaboration. The crocs shoes feature designs of KFC chicken on the upper and vamp part of the shoe
The KFC x crocs footwear collaboration. Copyright Courtesy: Crocs
  • Nike x Powerpuff Girls: Celebrating the iconic trio’s 25th anniversary and promoting the show reboot, the SB Dunk Low Powerpuff Girls Pack is a unique collaboration merging Nike’s streetwear with superheroines’ style. Vibrant colourways inspired by Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup create a nostalgic and fashion-forward sneaker collection.
Left to right. E
Left to right: designs of the Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup Nike x Powerpuff Girls shoes. Copyright Courtesy: Nike
  • Tiffany x Arsham Studio & Pokémon: Uniting the Pokémon universe with Tiffany’s sophistication, the collaboration with artist Daniel Arsham introduces a luxurious collection featuring 18-karat gold Pikachu pendants and silver renditions of Squirtle, Charmander, and other pocket monster friends all embossed with diamonds. Ranging from $1,290 to $31,000, this special collaboration seamlessly blends Tiffany’s luxury touch with the charm of Pokémon, offering an exclusive collection that perfectly balances high-end style and nostalgic appeal.
Left: Pikachu pendant in yellow gold with diamonds. Right: Contemporary artist Daniel Arsham holding the Tiffany & Arsham Studio & Pokémon nabuka Poké Ball packaging.
Left: Pikachu pendant in yellow gold with diamonds. Right: Contemporary artist Daniel Arsham holding the Tiffany & Arsham Studio & Pokémon nabuka Poké Ball packaging. Copyright Courtesy: Tiffany & Co.
How to Build Successful Unconventional Partnerships

If you’re considering an unconventional brand partnership, here’s a checklist to ensure success:

  1. Identify Shared Values: While the brands may differ, they should share common values or goals. This alignment ensures authenticity and resonates with the audience. 
  2. Understand Your Audience: Know your target audience and how the partnership can benefit them. An effective collaboration should cater to the audience’s preferences and needs.
  3. Leverage Complementary Strengths: Identify what each brand brings to the table. The partnership should leverage the strengths of both parties to create a unique offering.
  4. Set Clear Goals: Define the objectives of the partnership, whether it’s increased brand awareness, product innovation, or expanding into new markets.
  5. Legal Considerations: Ensure all legal aspects of the partnership are thoroughly addressed, including intellectual property, licensing, and revenue-sharing agreements.
  6. Communicate Effectively: Craft a compelling narrative that communicates the essence of the partnership. Storytelling is crucial for engaging your audience.
  7. Feedback Loops: Create mechanisms for feedback and adaptability. Monitor the partnership’s progress and be prepared to make changes as needed.
Potential Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Unconventional partnerships are not without challenges. Brand misalignment, audience confusion, and potential controversy are all risks. However, with careful planning and consideration, you can navigate these challenges successfully:

  • Brand Misalignment: Ensure that the partnership aligns with the core values and goals of both brands. Clear communication is key to maintaining authenticity.
  • Audience Confusion: Craft a compelling narrative that explains the purpose of the partnership and how it benefits the audience. Transparency can dispel confusion.
  • Controversy: Be prepared for potential controversy and have a crisis management plan in place. Address issues promptly and professionally.
Two men sitting on a couch in an open living room space
Hypothetical Scenario: A Creative Unconventional Collaboration

To further illustrate the concept of unconventional brand partnerships, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario:

Imagine a collaboration between a renowned chocolate manufacturer and a leading national park foundation. The chocolate brand creates a limited-edition series of chocolate bars inspired by the natural beauty of national parks. Each chocolate bar is wrapped in packaging featuring breathtaking landscapes and wildlife from these parks. A portion of the proceeds from each sale goes directly to support the conservation efforts of the National Park Foundation.

This creative partnership leverages the love of both chocolate and nature, offering consumers a sweet treat that also contributes to a meaningful cause. The chocolate company gains increased brand visibility and a reputation for social responsibility, while the National Park Foundation receives vital funding for its conservation efforts. The collaboration captures the attention of nature enthusiasts and chocolate lovers alike.

Conclusion: Elevate Your Strategy with Unconventional Brand Collaborations

Unconventional brand partnerships hold the potential to revolutionize your marketing strategy. They captivate your audience’s attention, stimulate curiosity, and drive engagement. By following a checklist for success, addressing potential challenges, and crafting a compelling narrative, you can unlock the power of unexpected collaborations. The hypothetical scenario we explored demonstrates how creativity can lead to a win-win situation for both brands and their audience, and the real-life examples support this. 

So, dare to think outside the box and embark on a journey of unconventional brand partnerships to elevate your marketing strategy. Reach out today to tap into Giant Shoe’s expertise with creative and effective campaigns.

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