Companies are always looking for ways to increase awareness and grow the value of their brand, but partnerships are often overlooked or underutilized as an effective approach for achieving these goals. There are many different types of partnerships (e.g. ingredient brands, sponsorships, co-marketing, joint ventures, etc.), and all can be used to drive tangible results.
Opportunities will come up for an organization to enter into a partnership and that tends to be how they are managed as well – opportunistically. As a result, partnerships are looked at as a one-off basis to achieve more tactical, short-term objectives. There is no doubt that this approach can have a positive impact and provide a brief boost in awareness, but over the long-term this does little to truly grow your brand.
Instead, when managed more holistically and proactively, partnerships are a strategic tool that can help to strengthen and even re-define your brand in the long-term. When dividing the benefits into tactical vs. strategic, it is easy to see why partnerships can be a powerful method for building brand equity when thought about over the long-term.
- Increase marketing exposure and visibility
- Create efficiencies and cost savings through shared resources
- Reach new audiences and channels that were not previously accessible
- Reinforce current positive associations that drive preference and loyalty
- Expand perceptions beyond what audiences currently give the brand credit for
- Improve the overall value of offerings and the company through expanded capabilities
- Build stronger, emotional connections with audiences through associations with other brands they love
While the benefits may be numerous, the number one rule to keep in mind is that you must protect your brand. Partnerships are inherently riskier since you are associating your brand with something you don’t have complete control over. With the risks involved, it is surprising that more companies don’t have a clearly defined partnership strategy. Here are a few tips to help develop or strengthen your partnership strategy:
1. Use your brand strategy to guide your partnership strategy
The first step is to have a clear picture of what your brand stands for. In order to effectively grow your brand, audiences should be able to easily understand the connection between partners – there needs to be the right fit. Without proper alignment with the overall strategy, you are only able to achieve some tactical benefits, and you also increase the risk of the partnership in general.
2. Evaluate your partners
Most people wouldn’t marry someone they just met, and you also shouldn’t enter into a partnership without getting to know them better. You may not always have access to appropriate research to do a proper evaluation, but a simple Google and media search can go a long way in finding more out about a company’s reputation and any potential causes for concern.
3. Ensure partnerships are tied to business results (ROI)
You should be able to measure how any partnership is generating tangible results. Whether it is increased traffic to a microsite or a boost in market share, monitoring the success of partnerships will ensure that all efforts are truly adding value to your brand in the long-term.
4. Institute a partnership governance process
Just like your core branded-assets, all activities related to partnerships should be carefully managed and monitored. Tools such as decision trees and guidelines help to ensure consistency and effectiveness. Depending on the size and complexity of your company, you may also want to consider a Partnership Committee that reports to the Brand Council (if one exists). Regardless of the tools you decide are most appropriate for your company, given the visibility and potential risk involved, governance is a critical aspect of any partnership strategy.
5. Identify partnership opportunities and create an action plan
The key to becoming more strategic than tactical is to create a clear plan of action to proactively put your partnerships to work. The first step is to define the key areas that the organization wants to be known for that align with and support the overall strategy and positioning. Perhaps a company wants to become more known for sustainability efforts, or become better known in in a certain market. Once these parameters are defined then it is easier to identify the partners that will help you achieve your goals. Waiting for opportunities to come to you is not a strategy. You must have a clearly defined plan to proactively pursue in order to drive real, long-term value.Social tagging: co-branding > co-marketing > growth > ingredient brand > joint venture > partner > partnership > Sponsorship > strategy