In the battle for growth, brand partnerships are a savvy and often untapped strategy, as this month’s edition of Admap investigates. Elen Lewis, Admap’s commissioning editor, explains why and how brands should collaborate for competitive advantage

It’s time for marketing to open up to the potential of collaboration.

In a tough landscape where standing out has never been more difficult, brands are forming strategic alliances to stay relevant in an ever-changing world.

The music industry has long understood the necessity of collaboration in adversity. Spurred by declining revenues and changing business models, music artists have a commercial instinct to collaborate, selling to one another’s fanbase.  Today, in any given week, 50-70% of all records in the UK Top 40 are collaborations.

Other categories experiment in this space too, from CPG companies to automotive.

That said, collaboration is not currently baked into the way marketing thinks about how to scale its impact. A recent Deloitte study suggested that only 17% of CMOs collaborate inside their company, let alone outside it. Yet Forrester research shows 49% of companies saw a boost in revenue from brand partnerships.

It’s time for a change of mindset. Beyond fighting for share of voice, brands must consider partnering for share of customer.

In this edition of Admap, we present 10 articles sharing advice and best practice on how brands, agencies and media owners can partner for growth. We look at how to get started in brand partnerships, the key ingredients for successful brand collaborations, the importance of generating shared value and how to avoid brand partnership failure.

In Finding Our X, A Strategic Framework for Collaboration, Adam Morgan, founding partner, eatbigfish, argues that the ability to form alliances is a central strategic capability of war for strategists from Genghis Khan to Winston Churchill. Morgan outlines four key strategic needs to which collaboration can contribute a powerful answer for brands – mutual survival, tapping into another brand’s resources, working together at moments of great change and continual learning and renewal.

McLaren, the racing company, has over 50 partnerships with different brands. Group marketing director, Henry Chilcott reveals the secret behind successful, sustainable collaboration in McLaren: Driving performance through partnership. Brands must understand one another’s business, create a compelling narrative and establish clearly-defined objectives. Today, McLaren’s partnership with Dell Technologies stretches beyond the parameters of the two organisations into the field of digital therapeutics.

For Procter & Gamble, partnerships have become a creative solution to talk about issues with consumers in a new way. In P&G: How US partnerships unleash creativity with CMO, Marc Pritchard, Geoffrey Precourt, WARC’s US editor, offers a comprehensive analysis of the FMCG company’s approach to collaboration. As Pritchard says, partnership programmes “are going to create a whole new genre of advertising”.

Effective partnerships should be mutually beneficial. Faris Yakob’s article, Symbiotic brand strategies explores the spectrum of possible outcomes of brand partnership from the mutualistic, where each partner gains something, to the parasitic, where one gains as the other loses.

Paul Skinner, author of Collaborative Advantage: How collaboration beats competition as a strategy for success, outlines six types of potential partnerships in An overview of brand partnership – who’s your perfect match?, pointing out that a true partnership creates both customer and business value.

But when collaboration fails, it’s a costly exercise in terms of investment, resources and reputation. Brandgym’s managing partner, Simon Gore, analyses the reasons behind failed brand partnerships including Tiffany and Swatch to LEGO and Shell in Lessons from failure: Four reasons why brand partnerships go wrong.

With three in four companies seeing partnership development as central to their sales and marketing strategy, according to Forrester; Florian Gramshammer, managing director, EMEA, Impact, outlines the evidence that partnerships drive growth and create value.

85% of APAC CMOs want to improve customer experience, and brand partnerships offer an effective and economical solution in a market where new gets old, fast. Greg Paull, co-founder, R3, offers Five ways to chase growth with strategic brand partnerships in APAC.

Meanwhile, in China, experimentation and short-termism are rife but as Shanghai creative director, Mike Pearson argues, China’s explosion of brand collaboration is fuelling social media and spiking product demand.

Beware thinking that partnerships can address all challenges. In the US fashion industry, collaboration has reached a tipping point, reveals WGSN Insight associate editor, Cassandra Napoli. Looking to the future, partnerships must look to solve problems, add convenience or enhance existing offerings for consumers.

WARC subscribers can access a deck summarising the expertise and insights from all our contributors.