In today’s landscape of fragmented consumer behavior, media consumption, and attention spans, strategic partnerships present exciting opportunities to introduce brands to consumers in new and unexpected ways. Over time, partnerships can achieve a variety of customized goals and initiatives unique to each brand’s needs and vision.
Strategic partnerships come in many forms. In general, they rely on two or more separate brands coming together to capitalize on brand loyalty, positive brand associations, and complementary audiences. They entice consumers to try something new or gain awareness for a product, brand, or campaign.
The Key is Delivering a Symbiotic Relationship
Through combining forces in a mutually beneficial co-marketing program, each brand can drive growth, enhance their image, build trust, deepen consumer relationships and engagement, and develop new revenue streams.
Marketing partnerships deliver time-tested results. There are tried-and-true examples that demonstrate the added value for both parties, such as Citi’s AAdvantage card offering rewards miles with American Airlines, McDonald’s including toys from recent Disney movies in Happy Meals, and T-Mobile offering free Netflix subscriptions with qualifying mobile plans.
Surprising Brand Connections Create a Spark
Unexpected partnerships and bold pairings can generate extensive buzz, driving new consumer demand while delivering record-breaking sales. For example, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream created a (surprisingly good) “macaroni & cheese” flavor with Kraft that crashed Van Leeuwen’s website and sold out in an hour.
The Yeezy brand (from Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West) partnered with Gap, producing instant sell-outs. Yeezy Gap moved more units of a product in a single day than in the entire history of Gap.com.
Gap also gained new customers – 70% of Yeezy Gap purchasers were shopping Gap for the first time. Gap stock shares were up 166.4% in the first 12 months of the partnership. In 2022, the next phase of this successful co-brand brings in a new Yeezy Gap collection with luxury fashion house Balenciaga – a rare instance of a high-end brand partnering with a mass retailer, which continues to raise Gap’s global profile.
Strategic partnerships in the non-profit and public service sector can send compelling messages and build brand awareness, especially in parallel with paid media activations. At the onset of the pandemic, Cleveland Clinic academic medical center partnered with Clorox, joining forces to develop cleaning protocols to combat COVID-19 and help employers with best practice protocols. To the benefit of both parties and the consumer, this partnership evolved into a research program to develop the virus-fighting cleansers of tomorrow.
Potential Partnerships in Media
These are among some of the splashier examples of strategic partnerships, but great partnerships don’t always need to be on the world stage. Digital and social media exchanges, such as online co-promotional programs, can prove incredibly effective for brands and campaigns. In the media planning process, strategic partnerships can be tailored to a client’s overarching business needs, campaign goals, and other marks they aim to hit.
Here are just a few ways that a strategic partnership program can complement foundational paid media plans and campaigns:
- Increase presence without increasing budget:
- Every brand has a collection of owned and operated assets that can be traded with other brands in a co-promotional capacity. This ranges from intellectual property and brand image, to packaging, storefronts, signage, social media feeds, digital assets, CRM lists, in-app real estate, and more.
- Pilot test new audiences:
- If data suggests a new target audience, but a brand is not ready to invest in paid media testing, a strategic partnership with a brand that delivers this audience can provide proof of concept to show that this new sector of consumers is worth a media investment in the future.
- Extend market presence:
- Through their partnerships, brands can have a presence in market when their campaigns are dark, or go live with promotions during an important season.
- Align brands with good causes and the arts:
- Today’s consumers are interested in a brand’s ethos and what they represent, beyond the goods and services they provide. Strategic partnerships offer an avenue to join forces with meaningful causes to create an emotional connection with consumers.
- Insert brands into entertainment and pop culture:
- Entertainment and pop culture reaches consumers’ hearts and minds. Through partnerships, brands can insert themselves into the conversation and connect with customers’ passions.
Opportunities are endless in the world of strategic co-branding and co-marketing. Partnerships open doors for both brands to achieve goals, provide marketing solutions, and deliver new revenue streams. In all sectors, there are new, bespoke strategic partnership possibilities awaiting every brand.