Consumption & Production
Industry Odd Couples: When Organizations from Different Sectors Team Up
The old adage that opposites attract speaks to a practical truth: they have something to offer one another. This is true with friendships, marriages, and collaborations.
Similarly, organizations of very different industries — understanding what the other can offer— have taken risks for the sake of innovation. Here are five instances of how organizations from different sectors utilized their knowledge and specialties to collaborate. While not free from difficulty, these cases represent an interest to innovate and share resources for future growth.
1. Coca-Cola and Sanofi Pharmaceuticals: Beauty Drinks
In 2012, the beverage giant and French drugmaker launched a pilot drink line in France called Beautific Oenobiol consisting of four drinks made of mineral water, fruit juice, and nutritional additives, which claimed to improve vitality.
Coca-Cola utilized its manufacturing knowledge and provided the product formula, while Sanofi reacted to a market demand and handled distribution to its pharmacies. The product didn’t become widely available in the immediate aftermath. However, the willingness to collaborate for innovation is notable.
2. Timberland and Omni United: New Shoes from Recycled Rubber
Timberland and tire manufacturer Omni United co-branded a line of tires designed to be recycled into footwear after the product’s initial lifecycle. Leaders from each organization came together to address sustainability and decided to collaborate since their respective industries are two of the biggest users of virgin rubber.
Timberland’s president, Stewart Whitney, deemed the two businesses as “unlikely partners,” but said, “It’s this kind of cross-industry collaboration that’s fueling real change and innovation in the marketplace.”
3. NASA and LEGO: Inspiring Technology through Toys
NASA and LEGO have collaborated since the 1990s. The toymaker and space agency have held design competitions to promote science and technology among students by using LEGO bricks to design aircrafts based on NASA concepts and technology. Astronauts even began bringing the bricks to space for educational seminars, assembling LEGO sets during broadcasts for children in zero gravity.
The two remain partners to this day, collaborating on a series of toys, challenges, and events with NASA-themed content, in order to “build excitement and inspire the next generation to be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers and our shared future in space,” according to a recent NASA press release.
4. Brompton and Mobility Hubs: Linking Transportation with Folding Bike Rentals
Aiming to provide light, sustainable transportation solutions, Brompton, a folding bike company, collaborated with public and private facilities around London. They installed bike rental docks at key mobility points around the city, including stations, universities, hospitals, and car parks.
Under the agreement, the facilities were responsible for purchasing the docks and bikes and Brompton managed user services and maintained the equipment. The initiative aimed to reduce traffic congestion and prevent CO2 emissions. Additionally, the docks were manufactured from 95%-recycled materials.
5. Reebok and Jelly Belly: Sweet, Sustainable, Colorful Sneakers
Last year, Reebok and Jelly Belly revealed a collection of themed sneakers inspired by the candy maker’s jellybean flavors. The shoes feature bright colors and use a sustainable bio textile originating from sugarcane. Several of the more notable flavors personified by the shoe designs include tutti-frutti, bubble gum, and licorice.
This isn’t the only occasion Reebok has partnered with other companies. In 2012, they worked with Marvel on a line of superhero shoes, and they formerly worked with CrossFit as an official provider of licensed apparel and footwear until 2020.