March 1, 2024

Finding the perfect partner: The art of brand matchmaking

Managing Director of Continuous, Stephen Ardern on finding the perfect partner, embracing the bizarre, and firing up nostalgia

Stephen Ardern

Managing Director

“There’s no secret to finding the perfect brand partner, but – like with most things in life – clarity, careful consideration, and planning can help to increase your chances of success”

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Finding the perfect partner in life is difficult – and it’s no different with brands.

Get it right, and as reported by Harvard Business Review, you could out perform your competitors by 168% in revenue growth.

Get it wrong, and it could prove detrimental. Think Adidas and Kanye, and Kraft and Starbucks.

Our Marketing Manager, Alice Irving, sat down with Managing Director Stephen Ardern to dissect perfect brand pairings that have dazzled consumers, thrilled marketers and received praise from entire industries.

Managing Director at Continuous, Steve Ardern

Alice Irving: Who repeatedly gets an A+ in your books for matchmaking?

Stephen Ardern: Take Primark for example, a retailer that has capitalised from fruitful partnerships time and time again.

With Disney, Primark successfully positioned itself around fun and happiness while connecting to a global customer base to cross-promote products.

A partnership that proved to be so successful that currently, in the UK, the high street giant now sells more Disney products than Disney itself.

With the 2023 partnership with Mattel on the Barbie franchise, its team found even more innovative ways to further cross-promote to a plethora of new audiences.

AI: How can brands stand out in what sometimes feels like an overcrowded market?

SA: By forming a memorable alignment with a distinctive brand (that still shares a similar set of values or target audience), marketers can create a differentiated positioning, making a brand more appealing and harder to forget in the minds of consumers.

For example, Nike’s recent partnership with Montreal-based retailer, Off The Hook, did just that – creating the tasty Nike Low Dunk Montreal Bagel: totally bizarre but an instant hit.

AI: Besides tasty collaborations, are there other methods to gain interest from new audiences?

SA: Absolutely. If we venture into the cosmetics market, Clinique joined forces with – what initially seemed like an unexpected partner – Crayola, resulting in an unpredictable expanded reach.

When Clinique’s customers noticed that the original Chubby Sticks looked similar to the iconic Crayola crayons, the brands came together to create a genius limited edition range.

Clinique, tapping into a moment of nostalgia, could extend its reach to all those who shared positive emotional memories of playing with colour during childhood, while Crayola profited from exposure to a new generation of mums looking to buy for their children.

Screenshot of Clinque x Crayola advert for Chubby Stick. Credit:

AI: Name a brand collab, closer to home, that has cemented the power of partnerships for you.

SA: To break into untapped territory as it began losing market share to Nike and Adidas, 200-hundred-year-old football brand Mitre partnered with Disney to engage a much younger audience.

Following the collaboration – which included anew Star Wars edition of ‘Scriball’, a colouring football line designed by our team at Continuous – the product went to new heights, and Mitre could sell outside of the sports retailers for the very first time.

The StarWars edition of Scriball for Mitre. Work created by our team at Continuous

AI: What does a successful marriage of brand identities look like to you?

SA: To end on perhaps one of the most effective partnerships of all time, two of the most recognisable fast food and soft drinks brands that have cemented their top-ranking positions across the globe for decades – McDonald’s andCoke.

The two brands have become synonymous with one another. Partners since 1955 and, most likely now, for life.

Coke and McDonalds have been synonymous with one and other – partners since 1955, and most likely now, for life

AI: Advice to aspiring matchmakers?

SA: There’s no secret to finding the perfect brand partner, but – like with most things in life – clarity, careful consideration, and planning
can help to increase your chances of success.

As the business in the middle that manages two sets of needs, we’ve compiled insightful lessons on finding, dating and locking in the perfect partner for you and your team (if you’re into that sort of thing).

01. Make your profile

Identify what you hope to achieve through the partnership and who your target audience is.

This will help you choose a partner that aligns with your goals and has a similar target audience.

02. Swipe right on your type

With your objectives in mind, consider brands that share common interests. It could bean audience type, a territory, similar values, shared cultural moments, or a complementary brand image.

03. Find their green flags

Review factors such as target audience overlap, product or service compatibility, and brand image alignment.

04. Envision your future together

Look for opportunities to create a mutually beneficial relationship to help both brands achieve their goals.

05. Lock it in

Develop a detailed plan that outlines the partnership’s goals, target audience, messaging, and marketing strategy.

Ensure that both brands are fully committed to the partnership and clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.

06. Keep fanning the flame

After the partnership is launched, monitor and evaluate its success regularly.

Track key metrics such as brand awareness, engagement, and sales to determine the impact of the partnership on both brands.

AI-generated image showing what a brand collaboration between Telfar x Tupperware. Created by the Continuous team

Experimenting with AI

Perfect partners are rarely created by chance – but as a way to creatively explore matchmaking with little effort, test partnerships can be created by AI – just like we’ve done in the image above showing what a collaboration between Telfar and Tupperware could look like.

It’s a great way to explore those ‘wouldn’t it be good if...’ moments to gauge customers’ responses to new ideas before the significant investment required to bring them to life.

If you'd like to see more of our brand collaboration experiments using AI, click here to request a copy of New-Fashioned Brand Essentials – a downloadable zine created by our studio for fashion brand and marketing professionals


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