‘Tis the (Cuffing) Season

By Janet Levine, Managing Director, Invention+, Mindshare

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. We’ve already survived a city-crippling snowstorm. And Netflix binges are on the rise. Which can only mean one thing: it’s cuffing season. As described by Urban Dictionary cuffing season is when, “people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be ‘cuffed’ or tied down by a serious relationship”. But we aren’t just seeing this phenomenon happen across consumer behavior, cuffing season has infiltrated marketing behavior in a major way. Rather than going at it alone, brands are banding together to form powerful brand-to-brand partnerships to disrupt the marketplace and delight consumers.

In Episode 3 of Media Dystopia, The 2nd Rise of Paid, Owned, Earned, we explore this territory and envision a future where robust, brand-building media partnerships go extinct as a result of shrinking audiences for mass entertainment and the ability to comprehensively buy media programmatically. To compensate, brands turn to each other to help articulate their equity, and brand-to-brand partnerships become a central part of media plans.

We’ve seen a great deal of brand-to-brand “cuffing” partnerships in the marketplace recently. Here are a few that have stood out recently.

Pepsi x Pizza Hut: Two Super Brands. One Super Bowl Promotion.

Pepsi and Pizza Hut are leveraging their mutual NFL sponsorships to create one massive Super Bowl promotion, sending fans to the big game along with an on-field experience during half-time.  Fans enter by purchasing limited edition Pepsi packs available across all Pizza hut locations or through a shared hashtag, #HutxPepsiSweepstakes. While the two brand have a rich history together this is notable for two reasons. First, it’s a big, bold “welcome-to-the-NFL move” from Pizza Hut given they recently took over as the official pizza sponsor from Papa Johns. Second, Pepsi is synonymous with the Superbowl but to drive home even more equity, they are leaning into the equity of a complementary product.

KFC x Mrs. Buttersworth: Having the Time of their Lives

To promote the new limited-edition Kentucky Fried Chicken & Waffles, KFC launched a TV spot that had Colonel Sanders sharing the screen with the incomparable Mrs. Buttersworth. Together in the “most delicious union of all time” they recreated the iconic lift scene from Dirty Dancing. What we love about this is that it tapped into nostalgic culture and brought two of the most famous fictional characters together in one place.

Facebook x Macys: Helping Small Businesses Together

Facebook in partnership with Macys, created their first-ever pop-up shop embedded in The Market @ Macys, to show off goods from 150 small businesses and online brand that currently advertise on their platform. The pop-up featured New Feeds themed displays along with button imagery so consumers could feel like they were shopping Facebook in real-life. As an amazing dual-brand gesture, both Facebook and Macy’s didn’t take any revenue, passing through 100% of the profits to the businesses.  In the face of store closings, it’s very interesting to see Macy’s help smaller businesses and e-commerce brands as a way to drive innovation and more footfall to their stores.

Citizen x Disney: What a Time for Partnership

Citizen and Disney forged a strategic alliance earlier this year and recently they’ve been busy! A major benefit of the partnership is that Disney IP can be used on the Citizen timepieces. We saw special releases during big, cultural moments: for Mickey’s 90th birthday, Citizen rolled out 9 custom Mickey watches and during New York Comicon, Citizen unveiled eight Marvel timepieces inspired by some of Marvel’s most popular Avengers: Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain America, and the Hulk. Moving onto a different way to tell time, we also saw that Citizen became the official timepiece of Walt Disney World & Disneyland parks with branding on select fast pass clocks. This partnership allows for mutual benefits – Disney generates another revenue stream through IP licensing on the watches and Citizen gets premium, 100% SOV real-estate within the Happiest Place on Earth.