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4 ways to elevate your brand collaboration launch strategy

May 16, 2024
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Collabs are one of the best ways for brands to increase sales, expand their audiences, and get people talking. From the natural pairings to the out-of-the-box, collaborations spark conversation and interest and unite fanbases. And, when done well, they sell like hotcakes, too.

The world’s biggest brands use collaborations to stay top of mind with their fans and demonstrate their commitment to creating unique and interesting products. Whether it's partnering with a celebrity, a like-minded brand, or a talented designer, collaborations provide a platform for mutual promotion and endorsement, enhancing brand visibility and perception. Collaborations also help brands stay relevant and adapt to changing consumer preferences by introducing fresh perspectives and approaches to their products or services. 

Here at EQL, we've had a front-row seat to some of the world's hottest collabs over the past few years— running launches on everything from the recent Futura Laboratories x Nike release that had fans gushing, to the elegant Tiffany x Daniel Arsham X Pokemon collaboration that captured hearts. And we've taken some notes on how brands can use these moments to stoke the fires of fandom.

Futura Laboratories x Nike SB Dunk Low 
Futura Laboratories x Nike SB Dunk Low

Let’s look at the top 4 things brands need to keep in mind to truly nail their next big collab launch — along with examples of what went right in some of the most notable recent collabs. 

Storytelling: Building excitement for your collab

When it comes to brand collabs, as with anything, first impressions matter. The way you announce your collab to your fans and start building excitement will go a long way. When done well, your initial promotion efforts can snowball the fan fervor, but in order to accelerate word of mouth within your fan communities, you’ll need to strike the right note with your storytelling.

A compelling, authentic story can actually transcend the product. If you want a strong emotional reaction to your product, you have to help them feel something. Strong storytelling makes the difference between a simple pair of sneakers and the must-have item of the year.

Some things to consider as you’re crafting the story behind your joint launch:

  • What’s sparked this particular collab? How did it come to be? Whether your story is true, embellished, or totally made up, everyone likes an origin story.
  • What parts of your story will connect with the cultural zeitgeist?  Is there an angle to your story that’s seasonal, relevant to current events, or connected to a larger pop culture conversation or movement? 
  • How do you ensure it's authentic to both brands, and both audiences? There have been many collabs that fall flat because they don't know the WHY of their collaboration, and not putting in the work to make it make sense.
  • How will you bring the story to life? Are you creating content, will you tap into influencers? Will you leak a detail that can become a key part of the story, etc.

Once your story is starting to come together, carefully choose the channels by which you’ll best reach your target audience — Instagram? Tiktok? Twitter (eh, sorry, X)? Reddit? Celebrity endorsements? 

The answer is likely a mix of all of the above, but different fan demographics consume different media. Some will respond best to organic-feeling social media messaging from relevant content creators, while others will appreciate slick, well-produced storytelling. Invest in understanding your audience so your marketing efforts can achieve the biggest possible payoff for your brand collaboration.

And don’t just dump all the information out at once. Master the art of sequence. Most brands want to release everything all at once, or as part of one activation, but the cadence in which you tell the story matters. Get fans invested before getting into the nitty-gritty details, and dole out more information slowly as the launch date approaches to gradually build and nurture fan enthusiasm.

For a master class on the art of the storytelling-driven tease, check out how TROPHY ROOM intro’d its brand collaboration with Air Jordan. The short video has the production quality of a major motion picture and packs a compelling story into a few brief minutes. It taps into the roots of sneaker culture and seamlessly blends a retro feel with modern tastes. It gives the sneaker an almost mythological feel, sending the message to fans loud and clear: this drop is something special. Spoiler alert: It was.

TROPHY ROOM x Jordan "Rookie Card" Away Pickup

Promotion: Getting fans ready to buy

Once you’ve crafted your storytelling and spun the tale of your upcoming brand collaboration to your audience, you’ll want to shift your communication efforts to the more practical details. Fans know about your new product, and they know they want it. Now, you need to make it crystal clear how they can get their hands on it.

Every brand takes a different approach to drops, which can be confusing and frustrating for fans who don’t know what to expect. This gets especially challenging when you add resellers to the mix — motivated by profit, these are the guys who have all the time in the world to follow launches and create a strategy to cop the hottest items by any means possible (including programming bots or creating multiple accounts). 

Let fans know what they can expect and how they can give themselves the best shot at a successful purchase from their favorite brands. Clearly share the details on when the launch will open and where fans can access it. If past launches from either of your brands have been plagued by poor fan experiences, explain what you’ve learned and how you’re going to do better this time — like by incorporating bot mitigation technology or using a platform that’s committed to fairness.

You might also incorporate some tools at this point to simplify communications to your customer base and limit launch-day chaos. For example, EQL’s launch reminder system allows fans to register their interest in advance to be automatically notified when the launch is live and it’s time to enter the launch.

Whatever you can do at this stage to demonstrate your commitment to the fan experience will go a long way. 

For example, the masterminds behind the recent Pokemon x Daniel Arsham brand collaboration planned ahead for the insanely high demand and crafted a strategy to gives fans a leg up. In addition to offering fan notifications, the team worked with EQL and incorporated an option for fans to select their preferred style — or indicate that they were happy with any piece from the collection's product line. That meant that as certain pieces sold out faster than others, the less-picky fans could increase their chances at getting something from the drop.

Tiffany x Daniel Arsham x Pokemon Collaboration

Launch: Focusing on the fan experience

The biggest benefit of a collab is the opportunity to significantly increase your audience reach and brand awareness. Dropping a highly hyped collaborative product doesn’t just earn attention from a whole new audience by combining multiple fan bases. It can also get people talking who weren’t previously followers of either brand. 

The collab shines a spotlight on your brand, but what you do with that attention matters, too. If everything goes smoothly with your drop, great — you’ve just earned yourself a ton of new customers. But if it goes poorly, while everyone is paying attention? The dark side of all this buzz is that it can do lasting damage to your brand reputation as people take to social media platforms to air their displeasure.

So take it from us: do not flub your launch moment. 

That means paying attention to the possible problems that can arise with a high-heat launch, and coming up with proactive solutions to all of them. Your website might work great for day-to-day e-commerce operations, but can it handle the heat of thousands of fans showing up at once to buy? Most sites will crash under that kind of intense traffic spike.

And then there are all the bad actors to contend with. Because if you did your job well in step #1 on your storytelling, there will be quite a few folks who recognize this as an opportunity to make some money. That means a lot of bad actors showing up to enter as many times as possible, including with the use of bots programmed to add to cart and checkout faster than any human ever could.

When all your fans (new and existing) see your inventory disappear in seconds, only to show up on resale websites shortly afterward at triple the price, they’ll blame you. 

Work around these challenges by choosing the right tool for the job and utilizing a platform like EQL for your drop. The customized landing page offers a seamless experience for fans, but behind the scenes, EQL’s tech will be hard at work filtering out bots, verifying entries, and removing those using shady practices. That means less chaos and more wins for real fans — exactly what you want from your time to shine.

EQL launch page for Funko, Project Fred

By using EQL, you can even take things a step further and ensure an above-and-beyond experience for your most loyal fans. Use audience targeting tools to upweight certain fans or provide special access. Offer better odds to members of your VIP program, or even fans of your brand collaboration partner to give them a great introduction to you. 

You could even incorporate geotargeting technology to show some special love to fans in a given area. That’s what Joe Freshgoods did with the ‘Keisha Blue’ colorway of his New Balance collab — the electric blue sneakers were only able to be purchased by fans in his hometown, Chicago. The move generated a ton of buzz, making this one of the best brand collaboration examples of the past year.

Get the tech you need for your brand collaboration launch

Hopefully, you’re full of inspiration and ideas for your next brand partnership. Now you need the tools to make it a success. Remember, along with the spotlight of attention from fans and media comes the pressure of delivering on the high expectations you set. Stakes are high on launch day, and you don’t want to get fans talking about your brand for the wrong reasons.

Get in touch with EQL’s team today to learn more about how our platform can help you maximize the moment of your big collab drop and give your fans a seamless, satisfying experience.
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

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