Collaboration, not competition, is what makes better marketing

Collaboration is a learnt skill and a core philosophy that is much-needed in todays marketing environment. The awareness, knowledge and skill of collaboration is the key to working smart in the modern marketing world.

Lets also be clear about one thing – just because we say we collaborate it doesn’t automatically mean we really do it in practice. Collaboration requires conscious effort and some key operating principles (I mention Colab collaboration principles down below).

What is collaboration stated simply?

Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organisations working together to realise shared goals. Collaboration is very similar to cooperation, and both are an opposite of competition.

I find this definition (by Wikipedia) quite insightful and interesting because it highlights that collaboration is the opposite of competition.

When things change in such a way that challenges an entire ecosystem to rethink itself there are two reactions that generally happen:

1) We choose to compete with others and their organisations in order to lead the way with our own closed thinking

2) We work with others and their organisations to build the future together

The problem with competition is that it divides and separates awareness, knowledge and skill in creating new ways of doing things for the benefit of a greater level of common good. It decreases the potential for better and more agreeable solutions to be conceived and created, which builds a better system within which we can all play a part (and compete).

When an industry is in turmoil then competition is the often the enemy of constructive problem solving and collaborating. It is in these situations where healthy collaboration is much-needed. These are the times that require a greater willingness to think together than to think apart.

By collaborating and building the bigger picture together we can create systemic change that can benefit us all in the long run. Competition will always be part of getting ahead but collaboration must always be part of building the improved race track upon which you will compete for greatness!

We are in a tumultuous time right now in advertising, marketing and media where many of us are being challenged to make sense of the many new innovations and disruptions shaping each of our industries, and the resulting interrelated challenges we are all facing as a whole. It is in times like these where brands, agencies and media companies really ought to be committing to some major collaborative goals, instead of creating major blindsiding competition in all corners.

So what are these major collaborations that need to take place in marketing, advertising and media? We have given this some thought from our perspective and we have distilled our ten commandments of healthy and productive collaborating.

  1. Create collaborative partnerships through openness
  2. Collaboration requires authenticity
  3. Collaboration gains access to greater thinking and problem solving capacity
  4. A collaboration mindset builds trust
  5. Collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts
  6. Collaboration leads to positive influence and reciprocity
  7. Collaboration builds healthy and optimally functioning networks
  8. Collaborate with people you can learn from
  9. Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better
  10. We all do better when we invest in our common future

So where must these collaborations be happening across the marketing value chain? Here are some of the most important ones I can think of:

1) Marketing collaboration with non marketing departments during the marketing strategy development phase to ensure alignment and relevance of marketing strategy with business strategy.

2) Brand and agency partner collaboration during the brief development phase. Poor briefs are a major problem for us all. These briefs flow all the way along the media value chain, often leading to vague and unfocused media spend and wasted budget.

3) Brands collaborating with a larger pool of agencies and specialists to achieve ‘fit for purpose’ marketing solutions rather than having one or two large agencies doing everything but possibly not doing this well enough.

4) Brands and agency partners collaborating with consumer networks in order to better understand and deliver relevant communications, services and support to consumers.

5) Brands collaborating with each other to drop marketing costs and increase overall exposure and return on investment through joint marketing initiatives. Sharing media costs and production costs to create symbiotic content which benefits both parties.

6)  Internal marketing collaboration across non marketing departments to enable more relevant marketing communication for consumers at every stage of the buying journey, and to enable a culture of content production across the greater organisation

7)  Marketing collaboration with senior leaders outside of marketing (CEO / CFO / CIO) to ensure alignment of marketing with key business strategy and required business metrics for tracking and proving ROI.

These are some just some of the problem areas of building a relevant and effective marketing strategy. Collaboration in these areas would undoubtedly help to elevate the potential of a brands marketing strategy to deliver value to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.


Building a culture of collaboration within your marketing team is the best way to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve. Thinking together and not apart is what will make your marketing strategies and tactics more relevant, more valued and more effective to the consumers and brands which you serve.

Where do you believe a collaborative mindset is lacking the most? I would love to know your thoughts!

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