Market Well: Partnership Marketing

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Our must-read column, Market Well, explores the key marketing strategies that are essential for the growth of a wellness business.

Every month, Vicky Ellison, who is also the Director of Marketing for Equinox in the UK, examines how brands can create and maintain a marketing campaign that connects with both their intended audience and potential investors.

Providing valuable insight into the methods, services, and tools needed for both new and established businesses to drive exposure and boost brand value, this month Vicky is focusing on the benefits of partnership marketing….

Marketing partnerships are not a new phenomenon. Brands have come together for mutual benefit for a long time, but you could say that they have become more prevalent and sophisticated.

It is no longer enough to partner for the sake of a quick marketing fix, today the most successful partnerships are carefully considered alignments coming together to create meaningful collaborations.

Here are a few things to consider when looking at potential partners for your brand.

Know your objective

If negotiated well, a partnership can be a way for two brands to embark upon a win-win journey that benefits both the companies involved and their customers.

There are multiple reasons why brands enter into partnerships, but a successful alliance should help your brand tap into potential it can’t realise on its own.

An alliance might help you access an area of production or expertise that you don’t have in-house, an audience you want to tap into through an existing trusted relationship, or a brand alignment that will reinforce your goal positioning.

How do you choose who to partner with?

Choosing the right partner is vital. But how you approach this step will very much depend upon the approach you take to your business in general.

I have worked with brands that utilise complicated algorithms to ascertain the appropriateness of the alliance. I know other marketers that prefer to go with their gut feeling and general perception. Whichever approach you prefer, there are some important things to consider as an initial check list.

These may sound simplistic but it’s surprising how often people get quite far into partnership conversations before seeing a misalignment in one of these areas:

  • Brand values & approach

Do your values align? Dig in a little – know where you want to sit in your market and make sure your audience perceives your potential partner in the same way.

For example, if your brand is premium but playful, perhaps you should think twice before partnering with a bland, mass brand just because they have a larger database.

When Red Bull and GoPro partnered for Stratos, it was a natural fit. It made sense because both brands sell more than just their products; they promise a fearless lifestyle full of extreme adventure.

The partnership’s record-breaking jump from space was the most watched live stream in history. New content was still being released a year later and sales of Red Bull saw double-digit growth across multiple markets following its release.

  • Audience

Do you speak to a similar audience? Can you reach a new audience through this partnership, or strengthen the relationship with your existing customers?

Look at The Montblanc for BMW partnership. Both brands speak to an audience who appreciate high standards of design and craftsmanship, which meant their collaborative product line was well received by their niche audience.

In fact, BMW is now launching similar partnerships with Moleskin and Bowers and Wilkins, to further serve its consumer base.

  • Objectives

Compare each company’s objectives to see if they match up in a meaningful way, so both parties can see the value.

Any imbalance can make the process painful. If the arrangement is something pivotal for you but a nice-to-have for them, it might be better to go with a company that will put as much passion, time and budget into it as you will.

  • Competitive position

Does the potential partner compete with any areas of your business? Do they already partner with brands that could be seen as competitors of yours?

Partnerships work best when they have category exclusivity, to avoid potential conflict either internally with other departments or externally through existing relationships.

The Uber connection with Spotify, which allows passengers to be greeted for their ride by a favourite playlist, was a smart pairing of two brands known for disrupting their respective industries.

The exclusive alignment gave them a unique advantage over their competitors and earned both brands a wealth of coverage.

Uber used the partnership to add value to customers and generate positive word of mouth in the face of negative press. Spotify was able to upsell users to their premium service while also taking a step into the lucrative in-car listening market, which is still dominated by radio.

Marketing advice

Image: New Balance

  • Partner reputation

Take the time to do research.  A partnership is as good as a mutual endorsement.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Tim Little, Owner and Creative Director of footwear brand Grenson explained that he is regularly approached about brand collaborations, but he will only accept them if the partnership offers something special beyond the use of a logo or a new colour.

Grenson’s ‘One Shoe, Two Factories’ project with New Balance has been heralded as a stand-out collaboration. The limited edition hybrid tan leather trainer became a story of craftsmanship for the brand’s discerning customer.

  • Cost & Legalities

Consider all costs and legal technicalities involved with the collaboration. Is it a sponsorship arrangement? How are you using each other’s brand assets in market?

Make sure you have your bases covered in a contract, if the partnership warrants it.

Keep in mind that successful brand partnerships should be a long-term play. Once you’ve been through this checklist, take time to cultivate the relationship with your chosen partner and lay the groundwork for a strong, mutually successful venture.

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