A puzzle representing partnerships between startups and large companies

In the past few months, corporate partnerships have been flourishing like never before. Everyone is getting on board, from tech giants to start-ups. Whether this is just an easy way to do some co-branding or a true marketing strategy is not really important. The trend is here to stay and no one can ignore it. Naturally, companies like Google and new start-ups have very different goals for these initiatives.

To help you get a handle on this, we have created this quick intro to corporate collaboration for today’s marketers and publicists. Simply put, there are three main types: partnerships between major corporations, those between start-ups, and those between start-ups and large corporations.

1. GAFA and NATU in the treetops…

The main players of the digital age are increasingly willing to join forces for marketing or publicity campaigns in order to boost their influence. So we are now seeing GAFA (Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook) and NATU (Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla and Uber) working together to make sure that they will stick around. No mean feat, given the fierce competition out there. For proof, one need only note the dizzying number of new applications that come out every day (though these don’t usually last very long). Facebook, Uber, Google and Airbnb are the examples we have chosen to illustrate and explain this growing trend.

The collaborative marketing boom

Let’s start with Facebook and Uber. They recently created a partnership that will allow users of the social network to order an Uber right from Messenger, Facebook’s messaging app. It’s easy: just click the little car icon and your vehicle is on its way. But it gets better: a friend can send you the address where they are through the geolocation service. Then, all you have to do is click on it and an Uber will come and get you. You’ll be at your destination before you know it.

Everyone benefits from this arrangement:

  • Users get to easily access several services into one application. This makes it that much easier for them to indulge in a ride with Uber.
  • Uber gets to pull the rug out from under the competition by accessing customers on Facebook before they even think of using another app.
  • Facebook gets a chance to win back users, who are increasingly switching over to Snapchat or Instagram, by offering more services.

Partnerships and publicity 2.0

Our second example involves Google, Lucasfilm and Disney. These American icons orchestrated a vast publicity campaign for the release of the latest entry in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens. The Californian search engine let its users dress up all its applications as Jedi masters (or Sith lords, for the less respectable ones). Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and Chrome are just a few of the customizable apps.

Much ado about nothing? Not so fast, especially considering the dominance of the search engine, with its 90.35% market share and 3.3 billion searches daily. Still not convinced? YouTube has 1 billion active monthly users and holds the record of 4 billion views per day, 25% via mobile. Is your head spinning yet? Add to that 900 million Gmail users and 750 million active monthly users on Google Chrome and the extent of this publicity campaign takes on immense proportions.

It’s big enough for Lucasfilm and Disney to reach an intergalactic audience, at any rate. They can also feel confident as they prepare the way for the video games and other product tie-ins to come. For Google, this is a pretty safe bet, given the worldwide popularity of the space opera. The search engine gets to maintain its youthful, hip image and in doing so it ensures that Internet users keep searching for casserole recipes and answers to their math homework on Google rather than on Bing or Yahoo.

When the bough breaks, SNCF and Airbnb will fall…

You shouldn’t think that this is child’s play, however, or that it works every time. The SNCF tried this kind of partnership and it didn’t end so well. That’s putting it mildly, given the outrage it caused when it teamed up with Airbnb. The idea was solid, but it didn’t sit well with hotel owners. When they booked their train tickets, users got a message from Voyages-sncf.com asking them if they wanted to rent out their apartments on Airbnb. Given the hostility that already exists between the rental platform and hotel owners, it’s not surprising that this project never got off the ground.

As you can see, these partnerships require proper handling when it comes to publicity and an excellent assessment of the inherent risks. Without these, it is easy to wind up getting burned by a public disaster, which is hard on your image and your bottom line.

2. Start-ups get cozy with one another

Start-ups are faced with a whole different set of challenges. Instead of shoring up their dominant position, they are just looking to stay afloat. Working together makes it easier to get their message out. In fact, start-ups have more of a need to collaborate than other kinds of businesses as they navigate the murky, rock-strewn waters of entrepreneurship.

This is how France eHealthTech, an association made up of 58 French e-health start-ups, came about. In September, these start-ups began working together to “make today’s e-health the future of healthcare.” Who knows? Maybe this will result in the creation of some French unicorns (start-ups working with new technology that are not publicly traded but are already valued at more than a billion dollars) in the sector. It seems like this one is off to a good start, as France eHealthTech has already increased its visibility since it was founded. There is no doubt that these 58 start-ups now have more influence when dealing with public agencies and private sector players.

Fifteen start-ups active in the HR sector joined forces to create the Digital HR MOOC. Wait, what the heck is a MOOC? MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Digital HR’s goal is to prepare the way for the digital transformation of HR professions. The new tools and practices that are arriving on the scene are forcing HR reps to make some very fast changes, and the Digital HR MOOC is providing training and support for this pivot. Each partner is bringing its own expertise to the table so that adapting to the digital era is as painless as possible.

To increase visibility and have a say in which new tools and practices will be used in the future, start-ups have every reason to create these kinds of partnerships. They also have the option of taking a shortcut and teaming up with large corporations.

3. David + Goliath #BFF

The third and final category, and perhaps the most interesting one, involves collaborations between large corporations and start-ups. The former want to take advantage of the start-ups’ young, dynamic images and show that they can give these new companies a leg up. It goes without saying that they also want to source some technology to stay one step ahead of the competition. Start-ups, on the other hand, want to take advantage of the visibility and contacts (not to mention the deep pockets) that large corporations have to offer so that they can expand.

Fnac and Intel, for instance, chose to support the made in France IoT by helping ten start-ups develop and market their smart objects. It takes a certain amount of flair to be an innovator, and the two corporations have taken this to heart: they don’t want to miss out on a trend that will be the norm in the future and find themselves in the same boat as Kodak with digital cameras or Nokia with smartphones. This Prix Startup Fnac initiative is a winning proposition: by sowing the seeds and nurturing start-ups today, Fnac and Intel will reap the benefits of these partnerships in the future.

The most obvious example of a start-up working with large corporations is definitely Blablacar. The carsharing service is downright addicted to partnerships. And it seems to be working out, since it raised 200 million euros in September, making it the first French unicorn. In 2015 alone, Blablacar partnered with Vinci Autoroute and Axa. That’s in addition to the partnership it already had with Total. The carsharing site is at it again, collaborating with Boursorama, Société Générale’s online subsidiary. You heard that right, it’s partnering with a bank. An unexpected and bold idea. Boursorama has a special offer just for users of the carsharing service. The online bank is offering a bonus to any Blablacar member that opens an account.

Boursorama’s goal is clear: to get young people as clients. Anything goes in the banking sector where competition is quite fierce. For Blablacar, the benefit is quite simply cold, hard cash. Some may find their strategy questionable, but there is a good reason why the carsharing service became the first French unicorn. It certainly goes to show that fortune favors the bold.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Logo agorize

Agorize comes from “Agora” and “Rise” and empowers companies and people from all over the world through Open innovation Challenges.

Our latest news:

Let's talk!

Send us a message

We will be happy to read it and answer to you as soon as we can.

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.