Why Collaborating with your Customers and Celebrating Your Competitors can be a Success

Posted by Ka-Lok Ho

How to increase customer engagement and strengthen loyalty.

Alright stop. Collaborate and listen.

Seems like Vanilla Ice got it right back in 1990.

Content marketing is about developing an engaged community. The one goal of content is to build trust for your brand. You’re not selling them through your content - if you are, you’re doing it wrong; you’re not trying to close your customers, it’s not a one time deal, it’s a relationship.

Collaborating with your customers, brands that are your peers, or even your competitors is an effective approach to add to your brand content strategy as it shows personality and boosts engagement.

Audiences enjoy seeing their favourite brands interact, it humanises the brand and it becomes a great case study of each brands TOV.

So, collaboration can mean co-developing products together or joint campaigns, which is a big step, but on a smaller scale it’s celebrating each other, starting conversations, or trading quips on Twitter.

Look at the most popular fashion brands currently, particularly in the streetwear culture, it seems like everyday there are new collaborations. Supreme x LV, Balmain x H&M, and even brands that would sound unlikely,. Off-White x IKEA.

By collaborating you open your brand to be discovered by a whole new audience that you couldn’t otherwise reach.

It works most effectively when brands that are in different verticals share similar values, as each brand’s respective audience are more likely to be receptive to the others’ offerings. It’s essentially a targeted marketing campaign to an audience ready to engage as opposed to doing a campaign to a mass audience, most who may not to be receptive to your message. It’s a win-win-win for both brands involved as well as the customers if the collaboration makes sense.

So how can you start adding collaboration into your business’ content approach?

Collaborating with customers
Collaborating with customers is perhaps the most engaging method to build brand affinity. There are many ways to do this, from working with a few talented customers to develop a limited product - or if you’re a service there are sure to be some experts in your audience, so why not invite them to offer their advice.

Other approaches include working with an influencer in a relevant industry on a particular campaign, or my personal favourite; featuring your customers using your product — and to take it to another level, hosting it through a contest.

A brand that has utilised not only collaborations with their audience, but a variety of unconventional marketing methods is the t-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes.

During one of their campaigns they had created a limited edition t-shirt that was not made for sale, and the only way their customers could get their hands on one is to participate in their contest. The rules were simple, post a photo with one of their bottles, and if your photo is featured on their accounts, you receive the shirt.

The benefits here are multi-fold. 

For their customers to participate they would first have to purchase a bottle if they didn’t already own one. Secondly a stream of organic content is being created for your brand which you can use in the future – and this user generated content (UGC) will be far more effective than any organic content you could create in-house as the UGC created is effectively your brand advocates creating testimonials for your other customers to see. 

Now for those featured on the account that won the ‘prize’ you had offered, they will likely post about that too, and for those didn’t, the brand can still offer a discount code for future use, prompting them to spend more with you. Thus, the cycle continues.

Contests and featured posts can be a fantastic way for your customers to actively engage with your brand. Done well, all this combined can far outweigh the benefits of many paid campaigns whilst at the same time being a lot cheaper.

But a word to the wise, use contests sparingly, you do not want to attract the wrong type of engagement, if you only hosts contests, your audience will always be waiting for the next, and soon the contests will quickly become a gimmick for your brand.

Collaborating with other brands

Collaborating with your brand peers and competitors can be as easy as trading a few one-two punches of witty banter over Twitter.

Brand collaborations are a beast unto itself and as we’re solely talking about more organic content, we’ll keep the topic on interactions that where ostensibly unplanned – perhaps it’s less ‘collaboration’ but more celebration of each other.

One example from my past experience was a developing a reactionary piece of content for MOO in response to Pantone’s annual announcement of the colour of the year. The short piece was made in less than 24hours from the reveal, and the video quickly became MOO’s most watched video — then also being featured by Pantone on their own channels, becoming their most viewed video at the time, quickly garnering over 100k views.

Some of the best examples of this usually happen during the Super Bowl, where brands such as Oreo, Taco Bell and KFC regularly knock it out of the park interacting which other, often with a cheeky dig or two.

Further examples include MARVEL/Disney publicly congratulating Universal Pictures for having the biggest opening weekend when Jurassic World was released. And in return when Star Wars Episode VII was released in the same year de-throning the prior, Universal returned the sentiment.


Collaboration and celebration of your peers is a strategy that many start-up brands can benefit from. Even when you’re in different verticals when you share the same values, your audience are likely already aligned. By crossing the streams you are raising each other up, it’s PR for everyone.

Marketing is not advertising, marketing should be helpful. By collaborating you’re not losing a customer, you’re helping them discover a brand that could love too.

Content is trust building to stay on top of the mind, so be apart of the cultural zeitgeist, celebrate your peers and customers, they could lead to interesting collaborations and if it doesn’t, you are still part of the conversation.

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