Brands & Startups: The New Normal

The world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Think about some of the newest services that have fundamentally changed how people behave, consume, and connect: Uber, the world's largest taxi service company, owns no cars. Airbnb, a rising accomodations provider, has no hotels.

The list of disruptive and game-changing startups goes on: Spotify, Snapchat, Mint, MailChimp, EventBrite... all of whom leverage the power of technology to challenge existing models, resulting in innovative solutions and services that incumbents didn't think would work.

According to the Brands Working With Startups study published earlier this year by the Association of National Advertisers, more than a third of surveyed marketers said they work with startups because the partnership allowed them to "leverage up-and-coming technology, stay ahead of trends, drive innovation, and gain competitive advantage at a reasonable cost."

Companies are not buying technology, they're buying solutions. In a marketing technology space, the existing agency model is unable to support the content need at scale, so new creation models have emerged by necessity. Startups are sought out to solve the content challenge. Around half of the marketers who work with startups said they use them to source content or social media services, which are common pain-points for many marketers. Over the past two years, FlashStock has been providing visual content for over 200 leading brands using a model that didn’t exist before.

As a startup, we admire other visonary startups who have the mind and courage to challenge the status quo; we also cheer for those leading brands who embrace innovation and build the future hand-in-hand with emerging startups.

Here are some startup programs from some of the most prestigous brands for inspiration:

Standard Chartered Bank noticed the shift to mobile early in 2009. In response, they founded their development office, SC Studios, to house a number of startups to help with data analytics. Now, SC Studios has 30 full time designers, technologists, and analysts on contract who use their entrepreneurial know-how to improve the bank’s data analytics and mobile interface.

Coca Cola introduced its Founders incubation program to foster collaboration between the large company and startups to tackle problems faced by the soda giant. Some of the startups include Wonolo, who provides on-demand staffing solutions; Winnin, a curated video search tool; and NoSolo, a real-time GPS-based activity finder. The potential returns are huge: Coca Cola retains a stake and can leverage the startup's capacities, while the startups enjoy access to Coke's relationships, reach, and resources.

Unilever has sponsored a number of awards and programs for burgeoning businesses, and its Foundry program is dedicated to showcasing and supporting innovative startups that provide solutions for brands and marketing. The comprehensive program is divided into subcategories, including Ideas, Mentorships, Investment, and the Foundry Lions event, which finds and showcases the world's top 50 marketing technology startups.

In the new world, the boundaries between industries and company stages are blurring. It seems that leading brands collaberating with startups is the new normal, so maybe we all need to take a fresh look at the future of marketing.