Chances are you have amassed a strong base of brand-loyal supporters and companies have already started reaching out for potential partnerships. Many of these could be lucrative revenue streams for your bottom line. But in the world of brand partnerships, how do you know if a partnership is beneficial to your brand beyond the paycheck? The brand identity you have built needs protection with every business decision. So how can you make sure a brand collaboration you embark on will elevate your brand and not alienate your consumers? Here are three steps to determine just that.
1. Pinpoint each entity’s brand identity – both yours and the potential partner.
Imagine one of your brand pillars is professionalism. Your brand prides itself on being crisp and polished, and your imagery and voice are always business formal. A lucrative proposal crosses your desk to partner with Hot Topic, a brand associated with teen rebelliousness. And man, it sure looks enticing because that extra revenue stream would help you hire a new sales agent to bring in even more clients.
Yet, if you follow through with such a partnership, you may cause irreparable harm to your business by tainting the most valuable asset you possess: the brand identity. In the book, From Individual to Empire, Laura takes a deep dive into the psychological-based marketing tactic called transference. Research has proven that one brand, when side by side with another, will transfer its brand identity to the other and vice versa.
In this particular example, we've chosen to use a brand that is the antithesis of professionalism to drive home the point. If the brands clash, the consumers will be left woefully confused, and potentially turned off. If your audience begins to question your purpose or brand identity, they will turn elsewhere and not think twice.
To prevent this, the very first thing you should do is make a list of the brand pillars of the other company and confirm their pillars will coincide with yours naturally and authentically. If any of them stand in opposition, this short-term partnership may seem nice in theory, but will not benefit either brand long-term.
2. Find the shared message.
Now that you’ve identified both entity’s brand pillars, this should be an easy task. Is there a narrative attached to any pillar that is shared between both brands? If so, this is where you should lean in.
On the surface, Beyoncé and The Home Depot do not seem like a good fit for a brand partnership.It’s safe to say, Beyoncé would never be caught dead in burnt orange. It doesn't exactly match her glamorous image. However, in taking a deeper look at the brand narratives from each, there is a potential connection between the DIY culture of The Home Depot and Beyoncé’s independent women. When we construct the joint message to empower women everywhere to do it themselves, we make a partnership that is not only understandable but even desirable.
It may take a little digging into the narratives of pillars, in which there are many, but without a shared message the partnership will fail. When we look to past examples like Sarah Jessica Parker and her first round with GAP, the consumer became turned off, and the retailer suffered a decline in sales. SJP was quintessential haute couture during Sex in the City’s reign, so why was she telling us to wear comfortable denim and everyday cardigans?
You want the viewer to think, “Wow, that’s genius, why didn’t I think of that?!” So don’t be afraid to dig for a narrative below the surface. That’s how great campaigns stick in our psyche for years to come and make a whole lot of sales.
3. Ask yourself: Does each brand enhance the other in this partnership?
This is a partnership. And as such, both parties should accentuate and enhance the great qualities of each brand’s identity. Each party needs to ensure value gains by becoming a more solidified and better version of itself. After all, as we discuss in #1 their brand will be transferred on to yours for potentially years to come.
Is it likely that you will gain brand loyal consumers who discover you through this partnership? Is your audience likely to want to invest in the other company’s product? Any brand partnership in which you engage should create these simple outcomes. But taking this a step further, the collaboration should complement your brand pillars and elevate both brands. When a consumer sees this partnership, do they understand your brand more deeply than before? Do they connect with your brand more because of the other brand?
If you are investing time and energy into something , it must be worthwhile, beyond a simple paycheck. This should really be at the forefront of all your business decision-making as an entrepreneur.
Following these quick steps should make it easier to determine if a brand partnership is right for you. Never feel bad for deciding not to pursue a partnership with a company that doesn’t fulfill the long-term goals you have set for your brand strategy. Your audience expects nothing less. And if a collaboration will require you to compromise your pillars even temporarily, it isn’t worth it.