Boosting Business Reach through Brand Partnerships

Next time you’re in the drive-thru, pause for a moment to take a look at the Happy Meal, that wonder of marketing: a bit of food to keep the children quiet and satisfied; a box emblazoned with the company logo, styled in brand colors, and decorated with images from the latest kid’s movie; and inside a toy to reinforce the imagery.  What you’re seeing here is not just marketing wizardry, but a partnership between companies–food chain, movie studio, and toy maker.

Brand partnerships are mutual agreements between companies to benefit both entities, to increase brand exposure, to tap new markets, and to add value to products and services.  Brand partnerships are nothing new–think of that box of cereal you cherished as a child with a toy inside–but in today’s world of social media, digital platforms, and one-click availability, the potential for making meaningful and profitable connections between your company and others has expanded exponentially.

You don’t have to look far to find innovative agreements such as 7-Eleven’s partnership with Door-Dash to provide online shopping.  Or how about the alliance between Whiskas cat food and the World Wildlife Federation’s Tiger Alive program that overlapped the world of pet owners and animal lovers?  Jeans giant Levis has partnered with Google to create “smart fashions.”  Platforms have bundled their services to save customers money as in the recent alliance between Spotify and Hulu.

But you don’t have to be an established, longstanding brand to take advantage of the benefits partnering can offer.  In fact, the pursuit of a brand partnership is one of the first considerations for new businesses.  With thoughtful research and a little knowledge, you can find a match company that acts as the perfect complement to your brand.

The Benefits of Partnership

Creating a balanced partnership that offers enhanced value to customers takes work, but can provide a number of benefits to involved companies.  As Natalie Staines, Director of Marketing at r2i says, “partnering with the right brand can help your company reach an audience that thinks it’s not interested in new content — until it sees what you have to offer.”

As you decide whether partnering is right for you, consider some of the advantages it offers:

  • Increased brand exposure:  It is almost inevitable when two reliable companies partner that the combined pools of brand-loyal customers will increase awareness.  The broader scope and strategies in a combined campaign opens avenues for new markets and greater customer base.  In addition, the buzz generated by partnerships enhances brand awareness and cross-marketing traffic increases traffic on websites and other promotional platforms.
  • Partnering adds value:  Not only does the combined profiles of partnered companies create a sense of intrinsically higher value of products and services, but a thoughtfully created complementary union provides more reasons for customers to purchase.  Furthermore, partnering allows companies to pool marketing resources, and to offer larger market shares that provide negotiation space for reduced advertising costs.
  • Partnering extends a company’s reach:  Combined resources often offer new potentials for providing services, selling products, or placing items on shelves. Distribution avenues and locations are extended.  Furthermore, cross promotion increases the likelihood of connecting with customers who are in the market, but haven’t yet found your specific services.

If you’re starting to think that a brand partnership may be right for you, then start planning a strategy to maximize your possibility of success.

Making a Partnership Work

Certainly a solid partnership is built upon achieving success for both companies, but too often businesses make the mistake of viewing the alliance as simply a dual promotional strategy.  Both companies should benefit, but the customer must see a value-added element to the union and understand a harmony between both businesses’ visions.  Thom Newton, CEO at Conran Design Group, makes clear, “Consumers are increasingly discerning and brand savvy—they will work out very quickly if brands are only collaborating for PR purposes.”  Such partnerships inevitably fail.

The first step, then, toward a successful venture is to do your homework.  Start by examining data for a potential partner.  Look for complementary attitudes and product usage.  You’ll learn a lot by reading blog posts and comments on a potential partner’s site, and the way they interact with customers can tell you the goals and values they cherish.  Note the differences in your customer bases and what they have in common.  Finally, look for points of brand alignment that say your products will be a good match.

Once you’ve found a potential partner, focus on solving a problem for the customer.  Spotify partnered with Uber, for example, to create a seamless playlist as the customer moved from personal phone to car system.  Focusing on bringing new value to the customer means working with a partner who has a shared vision and who offers complementary strengths.

As you build your partnership, create a set of common goals and agree on the best means for achieving them.  And remember that the relationship is symbiotic.  Don’t be afraid to promote your partner company, even when it doesn’t directly benefit you.  The bottom line is that your partner’s success is your success.

A business partnership is a means of exploring new possibilities, of examining potential links between products and services that haven’t been tapped.  Luke D’Arcy, president, U.K. at Momentum Worldwide notes, “The challenge is that collaboration is as much a thought process and journey of exploration before you even get to the possibilities,” he said. “Many opportunities are killed before they even start.”  Consider the journey of a business partnership and allow the time to let yourself discover what this new union might offer you.