Today we are excited to welcome industry veteran, Scott Moore, to the Loop Marketing Podcast. Scott is the founder and CEO of Colaboratory, but his background is filled with experiences with powerful brands ranging from Coca-Cola to Time to PBS, and also including being the CMO of Best Buy and Win Resorts.
Scott founded Colaboratory to reinvent the complicated and often tedious process of activating brand collaborations and helping make them more accessible and scalable, but most of all, exciting and fun. So thanks for being here with us today, Scott.
Great to be here. Thank you very much.
And then of course, we also have a veteran for our podcast, Ryan Green, who's the Vice President of Marketing and Innovation for Coegi. Ryan and Scott have been working together over the last year or so to incorporate some data driven reasoning to these recommended brand collaborations. He's super excited by the idea and the potential that brand to brand collabs can have to actually grow brands.
So to kick us off talking about the power of brand to brand collaborations, I'm sure our listeners understand at a high level what brand to brand collaboration involves in the sense that two brands are working together in some capacity. But Scott, I'd like to hear how you define what a brand collaboration is and how it's inspired you in your career.
Absolutely, and again, thank you very much. Coegi is a remarkable team, remarkable brains and technology and Colaboratory wouldn't be where it is today without Ryan and his team.
So brand to brand collaboration, there's been a lot of focus in the last 10 years on how brands partner with influencers. We did it very early on at Best Buy. We weren't quite sure how it would work. If I partnered 10 years ago with LeBron James, or Paris Hilton, or Ronaldo or Messi or any of these remarkable people, they bring gobs and gobs followers, and they're able to amplify a message to them. I think the first one I did, we paid someone somewhere to like get Tom Brady to say something on Twitter about Best Buy mobile. This was 2008, I think. But when you look at what that is - that's a brand to an individual, an individual with a tremendous audience, the same way Time Magazine has an audience, but it's really one way.
And nowadays it can be measured by, well, what's the value of that audience? And it's pretty clean. What I like about brand to brand collaboration is that each partner is bringing something unique to the table. And so it always starts with what are your assets and your equities?
One of the most famous ones in the last few weeks was Tiffany and Nike. Each brand brought their brand and what it stood for in the marketplace. But they also brought different assets to the table. And that makes a great brand to brand collaboration, which is why I like it. And why our business is focused on this, is that when one brand shows up, they bring who they are and what they can do.
If you're a retail organization, you bring stores. If you're a social media platform, you bring social assets. If you are a big spender, you'll bring dollars. Every single brand brings something unique to the party. And that's why the fundamental math of brand partnerships and collaboration just works because I'm bringing something, my partner's bringing something, and collectively we're getting something bigger, but we haven't put in 100% of the cost. And so it's a bit rational, but that's the fundamental case for what makes it work.
I'm glad you brought up the Tom Brady example from 2008 when he had one Super Bowl ring because I think one of the reasons you're a pioneer in the space is you recognize that Tom Brady is a brand. Yeah, he's a person with a lot of followers, but he's a brand, right? The same way Time Inc is a brand that has an audience of followers too.
So it isn't this leap for marketers to take this logic from partnerships that they had before. Influencer wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for Michael Jordan collaborating with Gatorade, right? The seeds of this have already been there. You need to take into account some of the math on who the followers are, what those overlap areas are. I don't think you wanna have a 100% overlap. The magic happens when there's like-minded brands that have similar, but adjacent, audiences where they are able to recognize the similarities and have it be something that's very natural and organic.
I know you have a number of examples of brands that have done that well, but on the flip side, there's a lot of brands that haven't. You're putting some risk when you're putting an association with an ambassador or with another brand out there because they bring all those equities, but they can bring negative consequences in the future that you don't realize. Subway’s ambassadorship didn't go well with Jared.
And the Sprint guy - I thought that was a genius tactical move when, can you hear me now? Is on to one of the direct competitors. So, I don't know if Sprint uses him now anymore, but yeah. I use influencers, I love influencers, I follow things. It's not that it's wrong, but I think because when brands come together, they're serious, they're corporations, and they have business objectives to achieve that sometimes are not just getting attention. And I think there's an inherent sort of multiplier on outcomes when you get it right. And a level of seriousness because there's brand reputational risk for both, and I think that's a big difference.
There's professionalism when you're working with brands. There's not that same professionalism when you're working with Jared. There should be, but there's a lot more risk of tainting your brand's reputation by working with a hundred micro influencers than working with one well-oiled brand machine that has stakeholders and years of reputation. In a lot of ways, there's probably less risk than there might be with influencers. Would you agree with that Scott?
Yes, absolutely. I think it relates to how these things are constructed. So I think that’s one of the things that makes Colaboratory different. Brand collaborations have been around forever. This is not a new idea. What is different is that we looked at the market and said, Hey, wait a minute, this is a real category. This is a thing. If you're a marketer, you should have a plan for this.
I love to sit at the imaginary knights of the roundtable. You're sitting there with the CMO and various knights, Sir Lance-a-Lot’s over there from media, and whatnot. Everyone else is bringing math, data and insights, and they're reporting off a platform. They're printing out a dashboard. Even creatives, the ads are measured now, especially in the digital space. You're getting, look, the AB testing said this, this is why the line or the image emerged.
Then you have a very powerful weapon, I mean, a little bit creative, like the vorpal sword of partnering with another brand, another institution, another entity. And those teams have been at a little bit of a disadvantage because it hasn't had the rigor, the tools, the resources to be serious about, “Hey, here's an audience match or significant gap where there should be one, we think this is an opportunity, here's what we'll bring to the table. Here's what they'll bring to the table. Here's what our agenda is, here's what their agenda is.”
I think there's the old adage: perfection is the enemy of the good. In brand collaborations, you want to get to a great outcome that allows both brands to achieve their independent objectives in a very breakthrough, very cost efficient way. Part of our job is to arm those teams with facts and tools to be able to compete. I've sponsored and signed off on a lot of good ideas, a lot of bad ideas. Some were data driven, some were not. That's just part of playing the game.
But I want all my teams to be informed, to be able to execute seamlessly and to have breakthrough thoughts and breakthrough campaigns that hit the hearts of their consumers. And I think one of the things we talk about at Colaboratory is, I was fortunate to work on some pretty amazing advertising over the years back when I was just focused on ads and those were visually arresting things, or a headline popped and it caught my attention. And not just visually and artistically arresting, they're conceptually arresting.
One of my favorite ones, was when I saw the Lego and Stranger Things collab. I was like, that is just cool, because they were paying attention. No, I don't play Legos, even though it's cool to do that as an adult now. But they did the Lego Upside Down, that was so clever. And it wasn't just slapping another logo on a product. It had deep meaning. Even though I’m more of a Stranger Things person than a Lego person, I appreciated that. And it caught my attention authentically, which is the hardest thing to do in any marketing era.
You're absolutely right. I'll go back to the knights at the roundtable there, in giving rigor and data to collaborations. A lot of times I think it does start with a lightbulb moment or an instinct that hits to the heart. But those can be very risky if you haven't done your due diligence and really looked through what this is going to mean for both brands and audiences.
So being able to have a data-driven approach to validate those lightbulb moments so that you're sitting next to media and PR and creative that have all this data and rigor and spreadsheets and data visualizations. You have that when you do it with Colaboratory’s process. You definitely are able to get there. And maybe the collaboration isn't always just two brands. You talked about Stranger Things, which is a brand in itself obviously, but it's also a TV show. So is there a product placement adjacent to it the way that coolers and Yellowstone are almost synonymous with each other right now? There's the definition of brand I think certainly is broad here to some degree as well.
Absolutely, look at the number of collabs and partnerships that were featured in the Super Bowl. It's great. I'm a fan of it. Not every brand should be on there, but it's the one time a year you're gonna get a hundred million Americans.
Back to your point of how do you leverage assets creatively even within one family. So Miller Coors had a very interesting collab that four different brands were featured in. So we would call that a coalition collab. It's not one x one, it's one x x x x. And so who was featured in that, Miller Light versus Coors Light, and it ended on New Moon, which is very clever. So well-played agency, whoever came up with that. But they also integrated DraftKings in the pre-launch phase where people could go guess the Easter eggs that were gonna appear in the spot. That right there was great. So all brands benefited from it. It's a cheeky little nod to New Moon, which would not get a lot of Super Bowl ad time anyways.
What is DraftKings trying to get out there? They're trying to awaken the world of prop betting, which I know a little bit about from Winn. Prop betting is like betting on the random stuff, don't bet on the core, such as when will the quarterback touch his helmet, whatever the random stuff. All that came together through a collaboration, and that's exciting. Marketing used to be where the creative people went and advertising's where the creative people went to do creative stuff and breakthrough. It's got pretty math-y pretty fast. And I'm glad that it has because it's treated a little more seriously. When it comes to brand to brand collaborations, we just believe it should not be the sole domain of the C-suite.
The CEOs I've worked for, they do our brand pretty well. Like I was a marketing leader, but you can't tell me that the CEO of Best Buy, the CEO of Winn does not know their brand. They do. It's just a very small pool. That human being can only have a network so big. They can only think so many thoughts and they can only run to so many people. The functions of the old way are proximity (I ran into you), personal networks (we both went to HBS together or were at Kellogg's at the same time), and serendipity (I ran into you at the Delta Club, at the Grammy's) There's nothing inherently wrong with that. And I certainly trust the stewards of companies to know what they want to do, but that does not look like the rest of marketing and the creative people who went in to do interesting breakthroughs to build brands with as their career. I want them to have the ability to say, Hey, wait a minute, these ideas are good. And you don't have to do a collab just with Nike or with Rihanna. You can do lots of micro collabs to learn and get some data, some fact patterns. And so that's part of what we're trying to do.
It's not an all-in move. Tiffany and Nike's brands are not forever intertwined because they had their week in the sun.The way that DraftKings did it, and by the way, I'm a horrible prop better, Scott, so you'll make a ton of money off of that, if we make any side bets on anything. I'll go back to your comment about how quickly marketing has moved from a creative realm and into a math realm. I'm one of the math guys here. I think the power is when you get to both - when you have the math people who can speak about the emotion and the heart and the soul of a creative piece or of what a brand could be. I think because collabs are both old and new and are having their moment right now, those ideas can come from anywhere.
It can come from the deepest quant analysis and finding that nugget in the bottom of a barrel of data, or it can come from the dreamer. It can come from somebody who's really focused on the visual or it can come from the CEO sometimes, that is the ultimate brand steward. Those ideas can come from anywhere. And I think that's what makes this space so exciting is that there's not one mindset that's going to be dominant in this space.
In fact, I think it is true that the collaboration has to be from a number of different parties. It could be from in-house teams or agencies or consultants that bring these ideas forth that are the ones that ultimately move forward. They can be macro or micro in nature. It can really be anything you want and you can have a very tight or loose definition of what a brand is to bring these ideas forward. I feel like it's knocked down a lot of silos and barriers that needed to be knocked down between marketing departments anyways.
You know, I think part of whether it's a micro partnership collaboration or a macro partnership collaboration, the thing that has to be universal is that the sum of the two together is greater than its individual parts, right? So how can brands go down that path of figuring out the right partnerships and how to right size those partnerships and get started on what can be sometimes a tedious process.
It should not be the domain of the high priests and priestesses, like it should not be the C-suite. We want the right ideas to win. I love concepts that I would've killed. That’s how I know we’re doing something good and the math and science is winning. The way we think about it is the first thing you need to do is understand two things, any brand of any size and scale -
And we work with huge billion dollar brands and tiny emerging brands. And there's been people who tried to shove us up to the bigs and down to the smalls. And I refuse. Because what we want is audience matching and conceptual interest.
Just take Liquid Death, who I talk about all the time, partnering with them three years ago is very different from partnering with them. Now, same brand they, they've built it over time. You'd have been using them differently three years ago than you would today and different from five years from now when they're bought by Coca-Cola or whoever buys them, right?
So first thing, understand your audience. Who are they? What makes them tick? And what brands do they love that are hidden beneath? Because every marketer, myself, when I worked at Best Buy, all I thought about you was a Best Buy customer. You're 100% a Best Buy customer, even though demographically, psychographically, occasion-based, you were the same person. You are sleeping with other brands. You were eating with other brands. You were dancing with other brands. But we thought of you as this one thing.
There's a fundamental connection between brands through their customers. So one, know that and know that well, and that's where Coegi and team have been so helpful. The second thing is with whom am I trying to win? To tell them what, when you can segment based on, oh, I wanna win Black Friday, I wanna win with African Americans, I wanna win in Texas, I wanna win millennials, or not millennials.
These are marketing jobs to be done that each brand manager has to think about. How am I gonna break through and capture the heart and mind of this customer for this moment? So who's my audience? What am I trying to get done? We do that work. That's what begins the process of figuring out who a potential perspective brand partner is. This is unique. I think a bit just because of my background and those two really unique environments of retail and casino. We look at both and we're like, okay, let's not go just sell a Lollapalooza sponsorship or an opportunity to do some existing thing. Let's build something. And when you hear bespoke, you think software. No. The software powers the opportunity to say, wait a minute, audience match, job match. What can be? So that's step one. We reach out.
The next step, which is interesting and kind of counterintuitive. We drew our biggest insights in time when we're like rich and famous, which we are not. But someday, hopefully we will be. We will not be an agency with 25 beautiful logos each paying us a million dollars and feeling great about us. That's not our vision at all. I want thousands of brands on this platform. I want them interacting all the time based on their audiences and their jobs. I want to feel like a marketplace.
And that word marketplace is not commonly used in this segment at all. The way we started really when it broke through, I'm like, all right, let's think of the characteristics we described that our customers face: serendipity as strategy, proximity, personal relationships. That sounds a lot like how I met my first girlfriend.
We met because we knew someone's sister or brother. We met because serendipitously we were on the same bus ride home. Those are characteristics for how the market for love was solved for millennia.
Now, take a look at how my kids will find out their first girlfriend. It's more likely when they find their partner, they will have used an additional platform. They will have written a profile that says, this is the job. I want to find a partner who likes things like this and will do these things for me.
And so whether it's the market for love or the market for jobs, we've realized that marketplaces actually solve really complex human problems very efficiently, and they lead to dialogues that get to excellence. So we help brands say - this is the job we're trying to get done, with these people, at this time. We then help them find other brands who want to solve a similar problem. And that's a big piece of our product today.
So, an intermediary piece to that too, you talk about your kids finding love on Tinder, there's an algorithm that's in between that. Etsy has an algorithm. Can you talk about algorithms and AI and how that may adjust the the brand collab space? Where do you see that headed and how are you guys involved?
Absolutely. I’ve thought a lot about this and also one of the things you need in AI or machine learning is gobs of data. And one of the things this segment does not have is that. So you're not seeing lots of exceptionally brilliant breakthrough AI-driven solutions because there's no massive dataset to come across, right?
That is one of the reasons why the world needs a Colaboratory, is we're going to be one of the few people who tracks all this and not just track, did it yield a a successful outcome? Did it create this? But every single step in the process.
Why is it that everyone Hilton wants to win with such and such customer? Why is it that none of those customer brands want to partner with them? Now, I just made that up. We don't work with Hilton. That's a signal. The absence of a signal is signal.
Some of our customers have deep machine work going on and they may identify a gap in their business, in their model, a customer who's likely to attrite - whatever the issue is. The math will understand the problem identified, the job to be done. We'll say, okay, there's the analysis, which is fine, we'll probably lose to deep machine. But I don't care. I'm thinking - how do we solve it?
I think what we'd say is don't just drop another display ad there. Don't just up your digital spending here or host a concert nearby. What partnership could really light that up to win the hearts and minds of the customer? Again, Hispanics in LA, sneakerheads in Boston, it doesn't really matter. It's more partnership with AI and ML. And then the last thing, just since ChatGPT is getting so much love and attention, you could just enter in ChatGPT brand one next to brand two, and it's gonna tell you what it thinks a collab should be. There's actually another function where you put in two brands and two art pieces for it to crawl across and smash together.
That's cool, that's clever, but it's gimmicky. The way we are exploring using these things are, et's just say Nike and Tiffany. That's a proven CoLab. It would've been interesting for the team who built that to put into ChatGPT “CoLab between Nike and Tiffany”. What comes back to me is not what I would do, but it is certainly an interesting data point.
I made this reference earlier today. It's sort of like an SEO-ready view of what the computer world thinks should happen. I take that as an input. What the compute world doesn't know is my strategy. It doesn't know the depth of my customer information and insights on where I'm trying to bend. But boy is it interesting to know that if somehow for Dunkin’, they guessed who should be the celebrity at the drive-up window in the Super Bowl commercial. Maybe the computer thought Ben Affleck should be standing handing out Munchkins. That's how I see brands using technology in new exciting ways and in our vertical. It's to build powerful breakthrough collabs.
So an idea occurred to me when you were talking about the Super Bowl and the coalitions that were on there, some of those in the same house of brand, some that are from different houses, they saved money by going in together on that ad spot. They are able to both talk to one audience they're trying to win, and a second adjacent audience that they're also trying to persuade.
So if brands do it well, they could be saving money on the media side because instead of one company paying for those expensive Super Bowl spots or full takeovers of YouTube, they can split that cost and can reach a broader audience in a more relevant way. That can pay for a lot of the strategy and background work and save just on the media feed side of it too.
Well actually, Ryan, that brings up a one of our listener Q&A’s about how to evaluate success of a collaboration. Obviously there's a win from saving money, but are there other ways that brands should be considering whether a collaboration has been effective apart from saving money and reaching a broader audience?
Yes, I think when we start with, “divide the cost and multiply the outcomes”, which is one of our hooks, that's a CFO discussion, because they don't believe in this in the first place. They're like, that's foofy marketing stuff in the first place. Now it's unmeasurable. But that's true. That's basic math. That's not why to do it.
I think it's less about broad awareness, although that's important, it's treating this space with the same rigor every other part of the marketing funnel gets and defining, okay, what are we trying to do with whom and how we measure it. That has to happen. There's, everyone wants, I always talk about this I've been hiring and looking at multi-touch, omnichannel attribution tools for over a decade.
So this is new to some, but around if you're in retail, you've known about those for a very long time. As I spent a dollar, why is, why was digital so effective at the beginning? It was the only thing you could track. It got a 100% attribution for everything else that was spent that was just patently untrue.
I think in all these cases CFOs want it to be like that Fidelity ad with the green line or Google Maps with the exact answer and the exact address of what this did. We're just not in that arena yet. Maybe in 10-15 years we will be, but we don't have to navigate by the stars. We can use maps, we can use things besides GPS to navigate better, and that's what those tools provide.
In the end, it's about the leaders defining what they're trying to do, being very crystal clear on the customers are trying to win, and finding clever ways to capture their attention. And then with that attention, throw it in a direction where they'll do behaviors that are beneficial to the brand.
Yeah, I don't think a MMT model's going to gonna be working for anybody. In particular, there's less signal now with deprecation of cookies, with iOS15 and walled gardens - that was gonna be a fool's errand for digital anyways. As it pertains to brand collaborations, I think you really need to think about the leading indicators of success. What are the things that are going to show somebody has a genuine interest in your brand that didn't before that collaboration?
It's a little bit easier when it is a product. Obviously, with the Nike/Tiffany shoe, you'll be able to know pretty well when that sells. But we focus a lot with collabs in the luxury/retail/clothing space. There's a lot of other opportunities and a lot of blue ocean space where collabs aren't as obvious, but where nobody's doing them right now, no one's doing collaborations in healthcare space, right?
There's so many opportunities outside of luxury where you can make true impact on your brand, where you can use the way you're measuring upper funnel success for everything else and seeing from an incremental standpoint, what happens when we added in a collaboration into the ecosystem? What happened to our brand perception? How much engagement did we get?
When we release this 100% on mobile and social to start to have those conversations with CFOs and say, we found a predictive indicator of success and we're smashing it out of the park when we surprise and delight our customers with well executed, well thought-out brand collaborations,
I want to talk about the role of micro collabs. A macro collab is like what you saw in the Super Bowl or the Nike x Tiffany. And so I wanna come back to that. I'm thinking back to what Elise asked earlier. One of the powers of this is having access to something - a good that's not actually available on the market. Nike can't buy Tiffany's brand on a marketplace and just use it. It's not not for sale, but clearly it's said a lot about Nike. It took their price point from maybe a hundred bucks to 400 bucks. That was the Tiffany part, right?
I think the other analogy is my local sushi joint. It's not high end, it's just a neighborhood one.
Years ago, someone asked, you wanna see the secret menu? I was like, oh hell yeah, what's on the secret menu? I guess we just showed up enough, they gave it to you and I felt like I was ordering off a special menu. It was the same when I worked at the Winn. There's a lot of things at the Winn that are off menu that are ridiculous.
When I was at Best Buy, I remember as we were launching the Diddy Beats, which are P Diddy's version of the Beats headphone, what was valuable to me was everything related to Beats: this new product, the exclusivity, whatever it was. I had my agenda and I was Best Buy. But what my team was excited about was being able to talk to the Blue Shirt leaders and have them on the phone with P Diddy.
So just think about this - it is a non-normal thing and it's an example from the stratosphere. But they valued being able to have the blue shirts talk to P Diddy. That was not for sale, but in a partnership it helped get the blue shirts fired up, which was cool. They're excited. That helps drive impact in store. And those are things that are exciting about products you can't get access to. The problem with this analogy is I'm using Best Buy and a humongous artist, which is the myth of what a collab has to be. That you can't do a collab unless you call the president of Nike or you have Jay-Z on speed dial.
I fundamentally disagree with that. It is what Ryan was pressing towards. We think all brands can collaborate, and that's why we're so excited and why investors are excited about our business. The same way search started - it was all big brands. Well now my barber - he's advertising on Google to make sure he gets his share of share of wallet in my local neighborhood.
We see collabs happening - not just big to big or big to small, but small to small. There's artists who come through town and maybe they'll stop by a local pizza chain, which they couldn't have conceived of before. The artist will get something out of the local pizza chain. That's interesting. And so this all needs to be powered, not by relationships, not by serendipity. I sat next to so-and-so on the the plane, but by strategy, by data, and a software platform that captures demand, creates demand, and then creates the means to execute it quickly.
So I want to ask one more question. Just as a consumer, what's your favorite brand collaboration you've ever seen and how do you think that collaboration has helped transform each of those brands?
My favorite collab was McDonald's and Burger King. And what I love about that, is that two brands who are set in opposition came together for the day. I love the notion that with the right idea, these two big brands could come together to do something special and different.
Brands can collaborate if you're paying attention, if there is strategic job to be done. The audience alignment between McDonald's fans and Burger King fans: they look a lot alike. One of the fundamental insights for Colaboratory, as I was thinking about the state of the market, is that there is no better time to be a marketer.
There is so much data that powers better segmentation - thanks to media. I can get channels into your lives and interrupt you in your bedroom or at the stoplight. I can interrupt you everywhere, but it's all in this age of digital distraction. I just don't pay attention. The deepest question that led to Colaboratory was, what am I aware of that I shouldn't be?
What do I know that I shouldn't. It's suggests something bigger going on. Like, why do I know that Clinique and Crayola did a colab? I've never bought a Clinique product in my entire life. But, collabs are conceptually interesting and if I love one brand, I'm curious who they partner with and what that'll introduce me to.
Well, awesome. Thank you both so much for being here today. I know I'm personally revved up now about brand collaborations. We'll talk to you next time.