Unlocking Value Through Brand Ecosystems Part II: Cross Sector Partnerships

If you haven't already, please check out Part 1 of this series.

Cheetos apparel: a strange glimpse of the future

I love Cheetos. I love the crunch, prefer the puffs, and occasionally go for the flaming hots. It’s no wonder that the brand has 87% of market share in the cheese snacks category. What is a wonder is that the brand is now available in the pasta aisle and at the specialty apparel retailer, Forever 21. Brands are breaking traditional boundaries faster than ever before – what gives?

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12 Best Brand Collaborations, including Forever 21 and Cheetos

In a recent survey, McKinsey identified that ~37% of CEOs worldwide are concerned about cross-sector dynamics. They worried about market share losses arising “because companies from other industries have clearer line of insight to my customers than I do.” The article goes on to say that the value at stake could easily be as high as $60 trillion within a decade.

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Competing in a world of sectors without borders

Threat or Opportunity?

It would be easy to think that $60T up for grabs means opportunity for all. However, to get a piece of the pie, we’ll have to be prepared. BCG identified several leverage points of collaboration within an ecosystem that will benefit the collaborators. For brand managers, we highlight three areas within their framework that are critical to brand success.


  • Mutual continuous value creation. For brands and CEOs, building on this dimension requires imagination. What possible collaborations are we overlooking? What audiences could we get closer to? What equity or insight opens a new door that was previously closed?
  • Highly adaptable ecosystems. To deliver at speed and low cost requires digital transformation. Does our brand tech stack connect to the platform we need to deliver to our core business? Do we have the systems in place to quickly pivot when we need to?
  • Savvy navigation of public and private rules. As government’s role in business constantly changes, will we have the expertise we need to continue succeeding? As our world becomes more globalized, how are we optimizing a geographically dispersed operating environment that includes developed and emerging markets.


Brand leadership will need to go beyond the traditional resources we have deployed and bring an additional skills sets to the daily operations of the business. Most companies do not have the resources needed to be a part of this boundary-breaking. Transforming an organization to include intermediaries with the right skills will determine if the age of ecosystems will bring benefits.

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The brand ecosystem solution

Before a company moves to manage relationships in the ecosystem, there are some fundamentals that can help you get your footing.


  • Think with a purpose: Think wide-open but in terms of achieving a purpose, behavior, or emotion with a user of the brand. Here’s purpose statement to keep in mind: “I want to generate ideas that will help this customer overcome X.”
  • Use out-of-category inspiration: Explore out-of-category, but analogous, content to spark new ideas or modify the intended goal or problem to solve. Anything from a speech from a movie or a childhood amusement ride can drive more meaningful experiences.
  • Embrace opposing views: Always consider alternate scenarios and opposing points of view, they can lead to creative directions that are breakthrough and diverse.
  • Harness passions: Unique backgrounds and experiences make our work richer. Learn hidden skills, celebrate them, and nurture them because there is often more than one way to do something.
  • Be willing: Have a clear idea up front of what you want to accomplish and where you want to be precious. Even if a concept might not be exactly how you want it at first, push it into the ecosystem. Learning from in-market feedback is the fastest way to improve.


For brand managers, it’s not a matter of will over skill or skill over will. It’s a choice and commitment to evolve and collaborate in the face of pressure and resistance.



What conversations is your organization having about partnerships? We’d love to be a part, reach out to us!

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