Developing brand collaborations with outside partners is a tried and true method for established brands looking to demonstrate relevance and broaden appeal to new audiences.  The best are truly innovative.

Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot Rocks Benaroya Hall

I recently got an email from GeekWire in which their managing editor, Taylor Soper, shared a hilarious video showing how the Seattle Symphony teamed up a few years back with Seattle’s own legendary rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot.  As part of their critically acclaimed Sonic Evolution project, the Symphony commissioned composer Gabriel Prokofiev to write a new composition inspired by Sir Mix-A-Lot, and orchestrated two of the rapper’s most famous hits, including “Baby Got Back.”

I’m sharing the video of their performance because it’s so full of joy.  And we can all use a little levity in our lives right now.  But I also want to make a point about how we as marketers can approach brand collaborations in a more innovative and powerful way.


The Symphony’s stated goal for the Sonic Evolution project is, in their words,

“To create a bridge between the Symphony and Seattle’s reputation as a launchpad for some of the most creative musicians on the popular music scene.”

This project is central to their strategy of bringing in new, younger audiences.

Compare the Symphony’s approach with a more classical (ahem) approach to brand collaborations.

U Can’t Touch This – PepsiCo’s Brand Partnership With Rapper M.C. Hammer

PepsiCo has always been an expert at brand collaborations.  When I was at Pepsi Cola International in the 90’s, Pepsi launched a hugely successful music sponsorship with M.C. Hammer.  It featured the rapper singing his mega-hit “U Can’t Touch This” in a new execution of their Pepsi: The Choice of a New Generation advertising campaign.

Pepsi Sponsors M.C. Hammer

PepsiCo brought M.C. Hammer back this year to introduce Cheetos Popcorn during Super Bowl 2020, reprising his signature hit.  Because everyone knows that if you eat Cheetos U Can’t  …

M.C. Hammer reprises his hit “U Can’t Touch This” for Cheetos Popcorn

Which Brand Collaboration Approach is Right for You?

Both collaborations involved a well established brand joining forces with a super-hot rap star to demonstrate relevance to a new, younger generation.  Both approaches were highly successful.  But they differ in how innovative the collaborations were.

At PepsiCo we used what we called “borrowed equity” to associate brand Pepsi with the most popular artists in the music scene, to appeal to younger soft drink consumers.  This strategy has served the brand well over the years. But everyone understands these are commercial tie-ins for money.

IMO, the Seattle Symphony achieved something more profound. They could have just presented rap music artists “in concert with … “ and left it at that.  But their relationship with Sir Mix-A-Lot was an authentic collaboration.  Both parties participated in creating something genuinely new, leaving both parties changed, and energizing their audience. That’s alchemy.

So when you are considering a brand collaboration, ask yourself, how can you go for alchemy?

Of course there are other ways to collaborate!  If you want to read about collaborating with customers, here you go …



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This