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Why brand collabs are a driving force behind Gen Z marketing

By launching creative partnerships with other brands, you can give Gen Z consumers something they’ve never experienced before — and expose your brand to new audiences.


Gen Zs love it when a brand stands out from the pack, offering them authenticity, innovation, humor, or all-of-the-above. They’re forever on the hunt for companies able to deliver them products they’ve never seen, heard or otherwise googled before.

But no matter how inventive your marketing happens to be, here’s the thing: At the end of the day, you’re only one brand; your niche is what defines you — for better or for worse. If you’re looking to deliver the inventive, singular and uniquely weird (and fun) experiences that Gen Zs expect, odds are you’re going to have to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Sometimes the way to make that happen is by collaborating with another company, often one in an entirely different vertical than your own. In doing so, you’ll be able to serve up novel experiences and expand your reach into new markets. Here are a few examples of collabs that might spark Gen Zs’ interest.

Tinder + Ford

When it comes to brand collaborations, you’d think Tinder and Ford U.K. would make for unlikely bedfellows. But that’s not how either company saw things when they decided to co-sponsor a contest where Tinder blind dates would meet up for the first time in Ford Mustangs.

Tinder users, obviously, aren’t swiping for cars. And it’s a pretty safe bet most Ford buyers aren’t scoping for dates when they’re researching a new vehicle online. But by partnering in the way that they did, Tinder and Ford U.K. found a way to connect with each other’s respective audiences successfully. Up-and-comer Tinder took advantage of Ford’s heritage, while Ford got to capitalize on Tinder’s young, tech savvy audience. And besides, who among us — at least at some level — doesn’t associate dating with car culture?

Levi’s + Google

Here’s a match made in quirky heaven: You can’t get much more vintage than Levi’s jeans, the denim company whose roots date back to the days of the Nevada Silver Rush in the 19th century. At the same time, you can’t get much more current than a brand like Google, whose very name conjures images of artificial intelligence, driverless cars and pretty much the future of you-name-it.

But you can’t deny this recent brand collaboration between Google and Levi’s isn’t pure genius: a denim “smart jacket” that can warn its wearers if they’re about to leave their phones behind. For mobile-obsessed Zs, it’s a collab that comes with added value stitched into every seam — and a win-win partnership for two very different brands Gen Z happens to love.

Benefit Cosmetics + PBteen

At first glance, the beauty and home furnishing verticals may not have much in common. But when you consider the disruption that both industries are experiencing from direct to consumer brands, the question arises naturally: How do you make your brand stand out from its competitors when you’re playing on such a crowded field?

Benefit Cosmetics and PBteen found one way of making it happen. The well-known beauty brand partnered with Pottery Barn’s Gen Z-focused home décor spinoff to create a 20-piece collection of cosmetic-inspired home furnishings. For a beauty brand like Benefit, it was the perfect opportunity to present always-online Gen Z beauty shoppers with a new, “offline” means of experiencing that brand as a lifestyle;: as a permanent feature of their apartment or home.

Brand collabs x Gen Z marketing are here to stay

When done right, cross-collaboration between brands (and even industries) is the perfect way to breathe new life into how Gen Z perceives your brand. Whether you do it by pairing vehicles with dating apps, denim jeans with automated detection systems or beauty cosmetics with beautiful furniture, that’s your call.

The bottom line is that cross-collabs — when done right — can increase your audience reach, introduce your brand into fresh markets as well as earn additional revenue. It’s reasons like these that will ensure brand collabs remain a driving force behind successful Gen Z marketing.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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