How to Pursue Powerful Brand Collaborations

There isn’t much that gets consumers more excited than seeing an “X” between their two favorite brands. Marketers are learning more about their target audiences and some of the most valuable information is what other brands they have their eyes on. Brand collaborations and cobranding are a win-win–plus, these campaigns can cost 25x less than other forms of digital marketing.

We’ve seen a lot of collabs in the fashion and music space, but right now, the winner for best brand collaboration might be e.l.f cosmetics and Dunkin’.

It’s more than cooperating, it’s cobranding

While e.l.f’s Dunkin’-inspired product line might not have launched until April, the two brands have a comarketing history. In late 2021, e.l.f. launched a TikTok “reality show” style campaign, “Eyes. Lips. Famous.” The campaign featured three challenges set by influencer judges with the winners taking home a year’s worth of free e.l.f products. One of those challenges just happened to be a Dunkin’-themed look.

The campaign helped e.l.f leverage affiliate marketing tactics, gave a glimpse into potential consumer interest in a brand collaboration, and created an opportunity to gather authentic and exciting user-generated content. Altogether, the TikTok hashtag “#EyesLipsFamous” garnered 41.8M views. It’s no wonder that Dunkin’ and e.l.f decided to take their brand partnership a step further with a product launch.

The odd couple

Coffee might not seem like it has a lot in common with concealer, but e.l.f. and Dunkin’ have managed to make their partnership seem organic. In some ways, they’re leaning into the seemingly offbeat nature of their partnership, like how Dunkin’ did when they first tweeted about the partnership.

In other ways, this brand partnership makes perfect sense. On social, Dunkin’ and e.l.f. are working to appeal to the same audience of younger, budget-conscious consumers. By working together to create a campaign, they’re able to reach a wider audience of their ideal customer profile.

We dove into Sprout Social’s Listening tool to quantify the campaign’s impact. We looked at social media data from March 14 to April 14, 2022, to examine how the brand partnership affected social performance.

Since launching their brand partnership with Dunkin’ on March 30, 2022, 21% (12.9 million) of e.l.f.’s Twitter impressions are coming from the keywords and hashtags, “Donut,” “Dunkin,” “#dunkindonuts,” “#elfxdunkin” and mentions of @dunkindonuts. This marked a 52% increase in impressions for e.l.f. compared to the two weeks leading up to the product launch. Those impressions are hitting the target audience too: 80% of Tweet authors are between 18 and 34 years-old.

Pie chart of Tweet author age breakdown

Positive Scarcity Mindset

Everyone loves a limited edition. The e.l.f. and Dunkin’ product is super niche–and super sought after. Only allowing members of e.l.f.’s Beauty Squad loyalty program members to purchase the product–and only having a limited supply–ensured that this cobranded product would sell out. Even after selling out, it’s still sought after. While the original “Classic Dunkin’ Stack Vault” sold for $75 with free shipping, it’s being listed on resale markets as high at $135 with $30 shipping.

Even after selling out, the brand partners hyped up the products more with an Instagram giveaway. Using Instagram’s Collab feature, e.l.f. co-posted the offer with Dunkin’ for maximum reach. The post earned 88,658 likes and 148,969 engagements. Between March 30, 2022 and April 14, 2022, e.l.f. managed to rack up over 681,000 total Instagram engagements. The duo planned a winning social strategy of using Instagram and TikTok for engagement and Twitter for reach.

How to identify valuable brand collaborations

If you’re thinking about creating some cobranding magic of your own, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

Choose wisely

Deciding how to collab with brands can seem tricky. Try to focus on what you might have in common with potential partners. Dunkin’ and e.l.f. had common market segments they tackled together. Maybe your perfect partnership revolves around the types of feelings your product invokes, shared interests your audiences have, or the priorities of your target market. Keeping something in common will keep your brand collaboration on track later on.

Test early

Dunkin’ and e.l.f. were able to test the reception of their partnership early through their TikTok campaign. Social is a great barometer for your audience’s interest in potential cobranded projects or products. Through social listening, you can figure out which parts of a collaboration to lean into–and which you should cut.

Get creative

A collaboration is a perfect opportunity to go big on brand. For e.l.f. and Dunkin’, honing in on the coffee and baked goods chain’s iconic brand colors and embracing the cosmetic brand’s reputation for creativity worked wonders. Identify what your audiences associate with your brands and don’t be afraid to get bolder than you might on a solo campaign.

Running on Dunkin’

It’s not just America that runs on Dunkin’. Successful social strategy apparently does too. By leveraging their existing brands and following, Dunkin’ and e.l.f. multiplied their reach and efforts–while making something cool in the process. Using social to understand, reach and influence their target market, the brands created a product that crossed industry lines and kept consumers craving more.

Social listening data can help you understand your audience and create the next cult classic. Learn more about how social data can unlock fresh insights into what your customers want.




Sprout Social

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