To keep customers on their toes, brands have to figure out how to create unexpected connections. For some, that means exploring new ways to collaborate with others to create the never-before-seen.
The decision to pursue one type of partnership or another is definitely a strategic one. Think Intel chips in Dell computers—one brand lending a key capability to another. Of course, most co-branding/ingredient/sponsorship relationships feature one brand in support of the other. Attribution? Often unequal.
But what happens when two brands meet each other as equals? They create something different. Unique. That’s the brand mash-up, and it’s sometimes expressed as Brand x Brand, or Brand + Brand.
That naming convention suggests more than just one brand helping another. It’s the mingling of two different forces and promises—even industries—to create something that’s neither one nor the other—the unexpected third.
It’s not totally new, but it’s still on the fringes—practiced by the most inventive. The Stussy x Nike mash-up pairs two very different styles and design sensibilities to produce shoes that are not entirely Nike or Stussy.
Nike has been at it for a while, in fact. It was Nike + iPod in the early days that later produced the brilliant Nike+ set of products. This was the perfect marriage of design, tech, apparel, and fitness. Other notables include, M.I.A x Versus, Adidas x Opening Ceremony. Even retail stores like Target + Neiman Marcus are getting in the mix.
While most mash-ups involve CPG and/or retail, GE is a notable exception. GE + Quirky pairs the resources of GE with the grassroots inventors of Quirky. The mix creates fun, jointly produced products that people wouldn’t expect from GE.
Bloggers are getting in on the side-by-side game. Take Google x Berg for instance. This experimental collaboration may take Google out of the digital and into the real world. The key word being, “experimental.” The essence of the mash-up is nobody knows exactly what to expect.
We’re on the lookout for the next unexpected mash-up that will change the way we look at some of our favorite brands. What’s your dream mash-up? What would it change? Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand.