THE POWER OF TWO: How creative collaborations can shoot your business to the top!

Posted on 06 december 2016

Brand collaborations have been around for centuries.

As long as there was a celebrity face or recognisable label in the spotlight, companies have scrambled to leverage their fame to their own advantage. From as far back as the 1760s, Josiah Wedgwood was using royal endorsement to promote his eponymous brand of fine china.

The hospitality industry has long since learnt the value in cross-brand collaboration. Food trends will come and go, and restaurants, food and beverage brands must constantly find a way to remain top of mind for their customer. And, in a congested market of media, advertising, and local activations; there is no better way to be seen than to pair up with a famous face.

From the wildly successful Qantas/Rockpool partnership, to Doughnut Time franchise placement within Topshop stores; Australia is leading the pack with innovative collaborations. But, as a small business, how can you replicate this type of success on a smaller scale? And why is it so important in the modern climate to do so?

Australia has always championed our array of amazing chefs and venues. But even they need a hand to stay high in the ranks of industry leaders. Neil Perry and his esteemed Sydney restaurant Rockpool (now permanently closed), teamed up with Qantas way back in 1997, when he began consulting on their airline menu. At the time, Neil commented that Qantas and Rockpool had changed the in-flight experience. "We have altered the way we cook on board and now we cook using fresh produce," he said. "We literally cook and blanch mid-flight and don't simply reheat like other airlines."[1]

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For Qantas, they were ableto tackle one of the major taboos of flying that didn't sit with their luxe brand status: the food. Airline food always had a terrible reputation, but by bringing on a well-known face, Qantas were able to boast a point of difference above other airline carriers, whilst Neil Perry was able to keep his restaurant and brand in the focus of the high-net-worth demographic who flew Qantas (particularly first class) and would invariably be his target audience.

Hitting a larger mass market is the Doughnut Time and Topshop collaborations around Australia. With 20 stores nationally, Doughnut Time has teamed up with Topshop to set up outlets in their Brisbane CBD, Sydney CBD, Miranda, Bondi Junction, and Melbourne Emporium stores.

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Capturing a younger audience of 15 to 30-year-olds, Doughnut Time has leveraged the youthful, trendy, fun, and playful nature of Topshop, whilst taking advantage of their high-quantity foot traffic. For Topshop, they were able to offer an added layer to their shopping experience with the doughnut food trend that has experienced significant attention in Australia since Krispy Kreme arrived in Australia in 2014.

The mutually beneficial arrangement of marrying two brands together in a collaboration is not exclusive to large multinationals, or high-end restaurateurs.

Here's how you can make it work in your business:

Pick your audience.

Consider who it is you are hoping to capture with your collaboration. Are you a suburban family restaurant looking for weekend visitors? Are you an inner-city cocktail bar, trying to snag the mid-week drinkers? Whilst it is great to try and source new audiences, there is something to be said for growing your primary target, too.

Explore your brand.

Take the time to clarify your value offering. What makes your restaurant, bar, cafe, or coffee shop unique? For some, it might be a scenic location, for others, access to amazing fresh produce. Find your top selling point, and look to amplify it to the public.

Find a partner.

Collaborations do not have to remain local. Depending on whether you are looking to align with a person, a brand, or another company; don't be afraid to approach those who are interstate or overseas. Think outside the square, and cross over your food and beverage offering with a completely different industry altogether, such as fashion, the arts, celebrities, media, retail brands, or charities.

Measure twice, cut once.

A collaboration can bring extraordinary benefits to your business, but if misjudged, can also serve to damage the reputation of your business. Make sure you choose carefully, and have clearly negotiated terms so that both parties contribute equally to publicity, infrastructure, and other maintenance of the project.

Invest in publicity.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, you can execute a fabulous collaboration, but if you don't publicise it - what use has it served? Excellent reach across all channels can be reached with just a small amount of paid boost on social media: for less than $100, you can look to be reaching an additional 600-800 people on your Facebook page.

The hospitality sector is a great place to be collaborating. Consider what it is you, as a business owner, provide: food, beverages, a place to rest, and a place to socialise. The cross-channel space is emerging as the hot new thing in 2016-17, such as inner-city cafes sharing their space with an up-and-coming fashion label; or local restaurants hosting Sydney Writer's Festival events.

Celebrity chef Kylie Kwong of Billy Kwong in Sydney recognises the trend of collaboration. When asked about her trend forecast for the year ahead, Kwong said, "I think the C word has to mean 'collaboration'!"

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Tourism Australia agrees.

"Whether it's fuelled by social media, or chefs and restaurateurs simply becoming more available to their diners, it means music labels are suddenly joining forces with restaurants, creating mini-festivals in abandoned rail yards. There's definitely a cross-platform sense of community in major Australian cities where there's a real attraction between like-minded people," they said on their official website recently.

"Whole suburbs are being taken over for street parties sponsored by craft beer companies, incorporating local restaurants and bands big and small. Eating in Australia is now, more than ever, about the mini-community that pops up around us."[2]

A spectacular example of creative collaborations came at this year's Vivid Festival in Sydney. The 'Sydney Table Series' was held in the iconic Carriageworks building, and paired up a celebrity chef with a performing or visual artist.

"I wanted to bring the best of food and art together in one room," says chef and Carriageworks creative director Mike McEnearney, who helped put together the line-up. "It's like eating in the green room with your favourite chef or creative."

From florists to choreographers, photographers to dancers, the events effortlessly married together two complementary experiences: great food, and beautiful art. The first duo in the series was 'Acme' chef Mitch Orr in collaboration with dancer and choreographer Amrita Hepi.

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With the luxury chefs drawing the traditional, high-end crowd, the local artists on show worked to attract the younger 'movers and shakers'. It was an exceptionally successful showcase of both the chef and artistic talent.

Big or small, a collaboration will breathe new life into your brand, welcoming in more customers from your target demographic, or even further afield. It connects your community - in both the physical/literal sense, but also your extended online and industry community.

Get creative and start building up your collaborative network!  


For more tips, tricks, and actionable insights, download a copy of the Hospitality Industry Success Index (HISI) Report here.