How Media Partnerships Can Rock Your Brand

Some things seem like they were made to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Wine and cheese. Summer and ball games. High fashion and laptop computers.

If this last pairing doesn’t strike you as being quite as natural, it’s because the two wouldn’t normally mesh. Apple has made some big strides for the personal computer industry in equating technology with style, but for the most part they remain diametrically opposed.

HP is clearly looking to change that. Some time ago, the brand decided that style would become its marketing niche. To track its advertising efforts over the years is to find an unwavering loyalty to the fashion industry and its audience of consumers.

Back in 2005 one of HP’s executives summed up its objective as blending “technology with personalization and design.” Sure enough, the brand has been actively creating a positive style association with its brand through efforts like its partnership with celebrity, style icon, singer, and designer Gwen Stefani. You’ve surely seen her microsite promoted offline (along with other stylish stars, like Serena Williams). Naturally, it’s as fashionable as Gwen is, all while promoting HP products and their ability to help consumers express their personal style.

Last year, HP rode the wave of a high-power fashion event when it promoted itself in conjunction with New York’s Fashion Week, during which it launched its new Chic Computing Portfolio. It continues the theme this year through an association with “Fashion Rocks,” Condé Nast Media Group’s entertainment event that celebrates the influential connection between music and style.

Through a partnership with CondéNet, Condé Nast’s online counterpart, HP has launched a microsite that amalgamates fashion trends and news content from Style.com with the underlying theme of “Fashion Meets Technology.” The custom-made site is sponsored by HP with banners that read, “There’s no reason why only your shoes or your purse should be fashionable.” The ads even go so far as to suggest that the HP Special Edition notebook might become “your favorite accessory of all.” The microsite is being promoted on the back cover of the coveted “Fashion Rocks” magazine.

The microsite itself isn’t particularly impressive. Content is rehashed from Style.com and its blog, and — despite the opportunity to create a deeper correlation — is rarely technology-specific. It’s the way in which the site figures into HP’s overall style-themed media strategy that makes it worthy of attention.

Through its strategic media partnerships and event ventures both online and off-, HP has done a good job of demonstrating how to successfully create a brand association where there is none. As a product category, computers didn’t typically come to mind when a consumer thought of fashion and personal style, but HP has changed that by continually affiliating itself with this powerful, if fickle, industry. It has parlayed the passion consumers feel for creating a unique personal style into a brand image that offers the ability to extend this style to the personal computing experience.

HP seems to understand that selecting the right media partner is an essential part of building one’s brand image online. Sites like Style.com have spent years cultivating loyal readers, and an advertiser like HP can benefit from that existing consumer devotion through affiliation. If it can offer a product that’s relevant to the site’s users, all the better. But as HP has shown, the connection needn’t be overt if the creative message links the two, particularly if the advertiser has remained consistent with the nature of its other media partnerships.

Planners and buyers know the right ad placement can make a campaign. By the same token, selecting the right media partner and content can transform a brand.

What’s your favorite marketing tool or service? Which one made your campaign a success? We want to know! Nominate your choice in the 2008 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards. Nominations are open until August 14. Nominate now!

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