How PR Can Borrow a Page from Marketers to Give News a Twist

Brands have always worked together to create new or integrated products, but apps and social media are creating opportunities for more united customer engagement. For instance, Uber and Snapchat’s recent partnership allows riders to add special Uber filters to Snaps. They’re implementing a smart business strategy: twisting brands. A brand twist, according to brand enthusiast and consultant Julie Cottineau, is typically a partnership between two or more companies with reciprocal benefit for all companies involved. Think of a “brand twist” like intertwining two brands to create a new thing — sort of like a marketing pretzel.

Learning about innovative branding and twisting brands at Julie’s workshop got me thinking about how these concepts apply to marketing and PR. How can my colleagues and I create brand twists — or do we already do so without calling them a twist? Perhaps you combine commentary from one executive with data from another client to create a unique well-rounded story that highlights the strengths of both companies. Or maybe you have a different twisting approach.

Before combining brands, you should consider the brands’ strategy and messaging to make sure they’re aligned and complement each other. Brand strategy and messaging help define how you want customers to feel about your brand and what you want them to associate it with. If you compare several places you can buy coffee, you’ll notice they all have different brand traits. Starbucks is known for its convenience, availability across the country and seasonal beverages. Dunkin Donuts on the other hand is beloved by Northeasterners who swear by the phrase “America Runs on Dunkin.” At the other end of the spectrum are third-wave coffee roasters like Sightglass and Blue Bottle that are known for hyper-personalized coffee and enjoyable work environments. Each of these brands has a different loyal customer base, depending on what customers are looking for. Brands that partner must have enough in common in their strategy and messaging, but not be too similar that they don’t offer a unique value add.

Twisting brands takes advantage of the experience and traits that attract certain customers to another brand as loyal shoppers. When looking to form partnerships, brands should ask, “How can we stand out and differentiate from the crowd?” That will help identify what your brand can offer other brands and the gap that you’re hoping other brands can fill.

How do you know when your brand should twist? Julie recommends twisting for these five reasons:

1. To develop fresh names and designs
2. To create marketing campaigns
3. To build a strong employee brand or culture
4. To drive interest via social media and online channels
5. To create new products or services

I challenge you to think about how you can twist brands together to create more powerful stories.