How The Pandemic Forced The Hand Of Creative Collabs

How The Pandemic Forced The Hand Of Creative Collabs

Jessica Ruhfus, founder of Collabosaurus, the brand matchmaking app. in this piece, she looks at some of the best brand collaborations in recent times and shares advice on how marketers can streamline their partnership efforts.

Cast your mind back to March 2020, I don’t think I was alone thinking that the COVID19 pandemic would be blown over by June 2020. It seems a naive and distant memory now, but there was no blowing over. Instead, marketers across the globe were faced with long lasting challenges of budget cuts and limitations on creative freedoms that we once took for granted.

In the face of all these challenges, adaptation has given way to ingenious and creative solutions to traditional marketing techniques. With reduced funding in advertising, events and PR, the increased tension has forced the hand of creativity. And a creative lot we have been. The tension of 2020 has bred some of the most creative out of the box thinking and collaborations are at the forefront.

Cash strapped, ideas rich

When I reflect on my six years bootstrapping Collabosaurus I’ve found constrained budgets and quick decision making, forces creativity in a way that’s hard to replicate in the everyday. 

In 2018, our cashflow was hitting a breaking point while I was working day and night trying to secure funding in San Francisco. Born out of a chance meeting with a senior marketer at GAP, came the idea for a feature that completely changed the game for our company moving forward. The feature idea attracted the likes of ASOS, Olay and Sofitel, and kickstarted a growth rate we hadn’t seen in the company up until that point. As the pandemic has shown, creativity is born out of many things; boredom, limitations and definitely necessity.

The majority of brand collaborations leverage currencies other than cash, making them an attractively cost-effective tactic for marketers with cash-strapped budgets.  A fabulous beauty product might be offered by a retailer as a gift with purchase, a limited-edition ice-cream flavour could be dreamt up by two brands, or a dream venue may become the backdrop to a big brand moment.

From ‘nice to have’ to killer ROI

Brand-to-brand collaborations are coming together at an all-time high, as the gears have shifted from a ‘nice to have’ marketing tactic, to an incredible ROI generator for brands. From big brands to small brands there is no limit in creativity. The Iconic x Binge saw their well-timed ‘inactivewear’ campaign, featuring a limited edition product collaboration, explode with overwhelming success through media placement, social media, in-order postcard reach and web traffic. Fashion houses like Gucci have also jumped on the bandwagon partnering with the likes of North Face for an exclusive range of fashion wear and creative content creation. This was the collaboration that ‘broke the internet’ with a collective 8.7 million views on the Gucci IG account alone.

Large scale, limited edition product collaborations aside, engaging social media content partnerships such as Monday Haircare’s self-care campaign with Instagram dog personality, @boobie_billy saw Instagram native content generate over 20,000 engagements for both brands. 

Microsoft Surface x Vanessa Megan custom candle. Photo credit: Nicole Cooper and Alex Carlyle

Intimate branded experiences for long term success

With almost everything turning online, the collaboration game was no different. Born out of pandemic budgets, social media content collaborations and clever experiential marketing in intimate settings emerged.

Personalised, engaging brand experiences are an all important element of a marketing plan, and I’m thrilled to see brands teaming up in order to achieve this with intimate COVID safe events, while pooling their resources for new reach. Take Microsoft Surface, who hosted a creator dinner as part of their ‘School of Surface’ campaign. Through Collabosaurus, Microsoft Surface were paired with luxe skincare brand Vanessa Megan and together they created a custom scent that beautifully pervaded the National Art School space and graced the swag bags for guests. This begs the question: if your brand event doesn’t have a custom scent, is it even a brand event at all? 

It’s safe to say that brand collaborations have cemented their place and continued to prove ROI within marketing strategies here and abroad. With technology making partnerships more accessible and less time consuming than ever, it’s an exciting time to team up.

How marketers can streamline their partnership efforts

Centralise conversations and pitches into one place.

It’s no secret that Instagram DM’s, LinkedIn messages, website contact forms and email are all avenues for inbound partnership pitches that are frustrating to manage. Streamlining collaboration conversations is a necessary time saving hack, pick one platform or avenue, and direct all inbound conversations there. Platforms like Collabosaurus (and our shiny new app) mean that partnerships are accessible and centralised in your back pocket. 

Diversify collaboration types and partners.

Gone are the days where brands only collaborate on one, gigantic ‘holy grail’ partnership every few years as the only appearance of collaboration in their marketing strategy. ROI is driven exceptionally well through smaller scale partnerships that are leveraged across multiple channels. Instagram competitions and giveaways are not the only way to explore this strategy, either. Think gift-with-purchase partnerships, a short IGTV series in partnership with another brand, or a small run limited edition flavour product. 

Leverage currencies other than cash.

Brand collaborations present a unique opportunity to leverage currencies other than cash to help achieve meaningful reach and engagement. Many brands have underutilised assets, from internal resources, to media opportunities, to content and social media or email list shout outs.


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