How to Find a Perfect Brand Partnership

Did you watch TV yesterday? Here’s a quick test: Name three commercials you saw. Difficult? Let’s be honest. It’s probably impossible.

By the time consumers reach 65, they will have been exposed to some 2 million TV commercials. On top of this, 15,000 new blogs appear every day, in addition to over 40 billion Internet pages we can now access. No wonder you can’t remember what you saw advertised last night.

How do brand-builders cut through the clutter?


Brands like Coca-Cola once fought head to head with rivals to establish the fastest distribution strategy. These strategies have been transferred from the physical world to the online realm. What can brands learn from this?

Until now, few infant brands (those in the process of being created) have had the maturity to consider brand identity beyond themselves. Much like toddlers with their egocentric worldview, infant brands didn’t consider what other types of brands they might like to be associated with. Classic brand building is all about identifying and expressing values, a selling proposition, and an audience. It excludes one essential component: association. Which brands should your brand depend on throughout its lifetime? Which can help your brand grow?

Information overload is virtually unavoidable in our lives, so consumers’ ad filters have adapted and become impenetrable enough to confound brands’ most earnest messages. We simply can’t remember ad details. We filter the clutter and maintain a grasp on bigger pictures and concepts. Other brands may be the key to your brand’s survival. A brand acting alone is unlikely to secure the attention it needs to rise above the cacophony of competition.

The trick is to find complementary brands, not competing ones. Identify brands or services that enhance customers’ experience of your own brand or service. Consider FedEx and Kinko’s, for example. The partnership makes sense, and it enables an enhanced customer experience for both brands. It allows Kinko’s customers to take delivery of their print jobs “just in time.”

This complementary alliance not only adds extra value to the customer experience, it also gives FedEx visibility in all Kinko’s stores and promotes Kinko’s throughout the FedEx customer community; a community prepared to pay a premium for premium, last-minute service.

There are many partnership opportunities. Here’s how to narrow the choices and identify your brand ally:

  1. List your brand’s core values in two columns. Fill one column with the words your customers associate with your brand. Fill the other with the values you want them to associate with your brand.
  2. Draw a box. Inside, write the type of service or product your brand currently offers. Around all four sides, write the types of services or products your customers would typically use in association with yours, either before, during, or after. Ask yourself which of those services would make your customers’ lives easier, yet not compete with your core business.

    If you sell antique paintings online, for example, should you team up with a courier company specializing in transporting fragile artwork? With an insurance company offering premium transportation coverage? How about a company that specializes in hanging artwork? The possibilities are endless.

  3. List all the companies and services you feel would complement your product or service, then describe the benefits customers would gain from them, as well as the benefits your brand would gain from the partnership. Rank these services from 1 to 10, making 10 the measure of a perfect partnership.
  4. Revisit the answers under point one and determine which companies you’ve listed represent complementary or similar values. It’s essential to identify a value match. This will help ensure your brand is well maintained and not jeopardized by your partner. The brands or companies with the highest score are the ones that offer the strongest value match for your brand. Consider them as potential partners. Ensure both parties gain from the partnership and both communicate the partnership as much as possible.
  5. Constantly evaluate the partnership. To achieve meaningful evaluation, know your objectives: what do you want to gain from the partnership? These objectives determine how you evaluate your alliances. They should always be communicated and measured by all partners, ensuring all parties are equally focused on a mutual goal: all partners grow together.

Partnerships have been around forever. Yet very few brand Web sites leverage this basic business concept. In partnership, allied brands can spread the word about each other and add quality to their customer service. Before you spend more money on banner ads and other traditional tools, consider what a partnership could do for you instead. You’ll be surprised at how effective sticking together can be in a world overcrowded with brands.

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