Considerations for collaborations: How to make unique brands work together.

Considerations for collaborations: How to make unique brands work together.


Marketing is a group activity.

However, branding is often created and deployed in a silo. There are some external considerations of course—industry trends, competitor sets, etc.—but beyond that, brand development is not a decision that necessarily needs to be “coordinated” with anything outside of the company. Even nested organizations or those under the same ownership tend to be visually independent of each other.

Right, so what’s the issue?

We are operating in a collaborative age: companies, influencers, popups and celebrities are mixing and mingling their brands. With all this crossover, it takes real work to keep all those logos, color palettes and keywords from turning into a puddle of melted crayons. When brands collaborate, talented designers—like the ones we’re fortunate to have here at TJA—are responsible for keeping aesthetics consistent but complementary, without muddling or diluting the impact of the organizations involved.

Join us as we share our top tips for keeping cooperative branding from becoming a mess.

Don’t just smoosh them together and hope for the best.

You have the logos for both organizations, so why not just paste them in the same area? You have pictures of both products, so why not just collage them together? No. Please don’t. Trust us; we know whereof we speak. You could probably get away with asset dumping, but that doesn’t mean you should. For the sake of brand (and visual) integrity, we encourage you to explore some of these alternative strategies before you Salt Bae logos and photos all over the place.

  • Cut to the core.
    A great place to start is with why these entities are collaborating in the first place. Did they come together to support a cause? Are they selling complementary products? By looking at the end goal, you’ll be able to create a narrative for the partnership as a whole.
  • Symmetry is your friend.
    Sometimes it’s impossible to work with perfectly coordinated colors, logos, assets, fonts and voice. Strive to find equivalent content, and then mirror it in layout. I.e. do you have two photos of people having fun? Two illustrations of buildings? Using subject material that’s as similar as possible can show how well the two brands go together.
  • Have the elements converse with each other.
    Try a call-and-respond methodology when you’re selecting which photos to use. If one has a couple at breakfast, pick another that has someone walking through a street during midday. End with a photo of a family at night. There’s a way to create a continuous theme throughout the piece even when you’re working with seemingly unrelated content.

Respect the integrity and individuality of each brand.

It’s a good idea to unify the palette and marry the messaging of the players involved to a certain extent. It becomes an issue if your audience isn’t able to tell that you’re portraying more than one brand if you took the names of the organizations involved out of the equation. Be sure to pay homage to what makes each brand unique.

  • Play up the contrast.
    There’s harmony in opposition; allow the brands to become foils for each other. It creates an interesting dynamic when the distinct traits of each brand play off each other. Execute this well, and the entities will appear more complimentary than ever.
  • Give the brands a platform.
    Even if brands are working toward a goal that is separate from self-promotion, the secondary goal of any collaboration for the brands involved is to expose themselves to a new audience that shares traits with current loyal fans. Always keep in mind what will pique the interest of the individuals who may not have encountered the organizations before, displaying what qualities align with the audience’s affinities.

Speaking from personal experience.

Mountain Shadows and Hotel Valley Ho—two of our long-held clients—run an annual, cooperative 3-Day Sale in the springtime. While both properties have histories that begin in the midcentury, they have unique brands, looks, voices and personalities. Both hotels appear together on the collateral, billboards, emails, social posts and more during the lead-up and duration of the 3-Day Sale.

In previous years, the 3-Day Sale was hosted simultaneously but separately: each hotel used its own branding and promoted the sale through their specific channels. This year, the hospitality concepts came together to maximize exposure and broadcast the event to a broader audience than ever.

The properties are distinct, but the creative team utilized the similarities the hotels share to create symmetry for visuals and narrative. We also pulled out and highlighted the differences, which allowed each concept to shine where they specialize. For example, Hotel Valley Ho has a lighter, brighter, mid-century-mod vibe, whereas Mountain Shadows has an elevated, secluded, contemporary aesthetic. By choosing colors from the brand standards that are complementary, photography that created the narrative we knew would be appealing to both audiences and crafting copy that conveyed the urgency of the sale, the collateral came together and made the brands look like they always belonged together. 

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