Full access to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

'There Is No Room for Fakeness and Lies and Manipulation': Shawn Mendes and Nicholas Reichenbach Reveal What It Takes for a Business Partnership to Succeed

The Flow Water founder and singer-songwriter discuss the needs of the next generation of consumers.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Creating celebrity partnerships is a fine art, and succeeding requires a careful pairing on both the celebrity and the brand. For some brands, perfecting this recipe means reaching out to celebrities and convincing them that your business aligns with their values. Canadian water brand Flow, on the other hand, uses a strategy where the celebrity comes to that conclusion by themselves.

Flow Alkaline Spring Water

“[Our partners] have all organically come with us and met us through what we're trying to do in the first place,” Flow founder Nicholas Reichenbach says.

Take the partnership development process between singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes and Flow. The partnership officially began four years ago, but Mendes’s appreciation of the brand dated years prior, when he personally discovered the water brand in 2015. The company then sent Mendes a letter, and when he met the Flow team things clicked between the two parties. 

As a brand, Flow set itself apart from other water brands in its efforts to use the minimum amount of natural resources necessary in its production, which include its completely recyclable packaging. The integration of its sustainability practices into the brand’s ethos was what drew Mendes to the brand.

“As I've gotten older, I’ve realized the importance of changing the world for the better, even if it's in small, incremental ways, and how important that is for me — how that actually drives me to keep doing what I do,” Mendes says.

Related: Celebrity Placements are the 'Holy Grail' of Marketing. Here's How to Score One for Free.

Such a partnership, where a celebrity cares about brand values just as much as the product itself, seems to carry weight in the Influencer Age. A 2021 survey by Pipslay Research found that 59% of Americans say celebrity endorsements influence their purchasing behavior. For many customers, brands are tied to their ethics: 62% of Americans agreed that celebrity endorsement is a reflection of brand quality and integrity. 

Living out your values as a way to help your partnership thrive

As a brand's morals are now just as important as the brand's product, having the right business partnership isn’t enough. If your business fails to clearly relay its values to the consumer, the partnership can fail à la Kylie Jenner and Pepsi. But living out the values that attract the right celebrities and consumers can be difficult when problems like labor shortages or pandemic issues threaten to cut a business entirely. As an alternative, Reichenbach says business decisions don't necessarily have to act purely for profit's sake. Instead, Flow implements a philosophy he calls the triple bottom line.

The triple bottom line is simple: Take care of the people, profit and planet. Though the idea sounds idealistic, Reichenbach has found power within this concept when Flow had to figure out how to ship its spring water to U.S. consumers. Instead of relying on the same Canadian spring as always, the business found a spring in Virginia. By bringing operations stateside, Flow was able to hire the local community, save money on logistics and even go carbon-neutral for the first time. For Reichenbach, this type of business model is the value-aligned way to make profit and something businesses have emphasized more since the pandemic.

"In anything that you're succeeding as an entrepreneur, you've got to really stick to your values as a person because there's so much noise in the world today. The more you convolute your values, the less clear your happiness is, too," Reichenbach says.

Related: 5 Considerations When Seeking a Celebrity to Endorse Your Brand

A forward-thinking mindset

Because of the sustainability concerns of today’s youth, Reichenbach adds that businesses can’t afford to make choices between the planet or profit — business decisions need to consider both. This value Reichenbach places on the next generation is something that resonates with Mendes, who also sees the investment in the young consumer as an important part of the partnership.

"It's a new age vision for companies and CEOs. I think that that's the type of company that celebrities and people with voices need to get behind, because it's [up to the companies] to inspire the next generation to have that mindset,” the singer-songwriter says. “Nowadays — especially younger generations, like my sister, who's 17 — you can't get anything by them. There is no room for fakeness and lies and manipulation. They are really on top of it. And I think one of the most amazing things is that I've always known Flow was a great company with true intention. But the more that we've been announcing my relationship with Flow, the more people reach out to me being like, 'Wow, I love this company.'"

To keep the partnership strong, Reichenbach cites trust and transparency as the company's main strategy. However, Mendes and Reichenbach's mutual enthusiasm for the company's sustainability initiatives also seems to be at the core of this particular connection. And there's plently to be enthusiastic about — with Flow's plans to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Reichenbach says it feels the water brand is writing its first album.

Mendes is there to support it every step of the way.

“With Flow, it’s that when you stand for something that's bigger than yourself, you have the energy of 10 people. That’s the beauty of it. I felt from Nick and the team that Flow was about something bigger than them. It wasn't about becoming the most talked-about water in the world,” Mendes says. “I'm very careful with brands that I work with, and I consider Flow to be part of my history and part of my future. It’s much more than just a partnership. It really feels like a purposeful thing.”

Related: 10 Ways to Get a Celebrity to Use Your Product