In life, and in business, you can only get so far when you go it alone. Even sharks, those fearsome creatures of the deep, have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with a species of fish called the remora, which swims alongside - or even attaches itself to - the shark—both species benefit. The remoras get transportation and a free meal, while the sharks enjoy free grooming.
Plenty of brands out there are taking cues from this sort of symbiotic relationship. They're banding together to share resources, swap expertise and tap into each other's audiences, with great results. Let's take a deeper dive into what these relationships look like - and why you should hunt down a strategic brand partnership of your own.
Brand Partnerships That Are Killing It
One of the reasons that Discovery's Shark Weeks looms so large in our collective imagination is that Discovery has spent years perfecting the perfect brand partnership. This year has brought us a toothsome partnership with Oreo's, and one with 7-Eleven that's bound to make a splash. Both tap into key consumer behavior - i.e., everyone loves to snack while riveted by Shark Week - while using the large footprint of these huge consumer brands to bring Shark Week to a larger audience.
Of course, there are plenty of different takes on the brand partnership out there (some more shark-themed than others). Here are a couple of different forms they might take:
- Startup meets stalwart. Startups often have big ideas and momentum but lack the marketing spend they need. Enter the corporate-startup partnership. Here, the startup receives resources, clout, and mentorship from a major brand, while the corporate partner gets to dabble in fresh new ideas - and give its reputation a boost.
- Influencer meets icon. Influencer marketing is a hot commodity these days. Basically, brands "partner" with individuals (or other brands) with a major social following, leveraging the high conversions associated with word-of-mouth marketing. The influencer receives a payment, goods or materials, or additional brand credibility.
- Designer meets designer. Usually, the preserve of fashion, design, or cosmetics brands, this style of the partnership involves bringing in a designer to create a line for an established brand. Karl Lagerfeld did it for H&M, and Drew Barrymore did it for Walmart. This approach can be a great way to elevate a "fast fashion" brand, as well as to bring a new or high-end designer to a larger audience.
How to Build a Killer Brand Partnership
The key to a winning brand partnership is that both parties benefit. If sharks didn't enjoy a free remora grooming session, they'd probably eat their buddies for breakfast. And if remoras didn't get a ride and a meal out of the agreement, they probably wouldn't take the risk. Here's how to make sure that your brand partnership makes sense from both a brand and a business perspective.
- You both get what you need. Ideally, the outcome is increased revenues on both sides. But how that happens depends on what the other brand offers. Maybe your partner needs to reach a large Millennial audience, and you've got that on tap. Perhaps you're looking to build a reputation in a new industry or vertical, and your partner is the leader in that field. A great partnership ensures that both sides win out.
- Your brands make sense together. Some partnerships make total sense - GoPro and Red Bull; Nike and Apple; Betty Crocker and Hershey's. Others suffer from a clash of culture, branding, or approach. Today's audiences are market savvy, so don't disappoint them. Before approaching a prospective partner, determine whether your brands are a good fit and whether the partnership will add to your reputation or diminish it.
- You're stronger together. The partnership should be able to deliver more bang for its buck than two separate campaigns would. Ideally, the partnership will mean more resources, more reach, stronger creativity, and greater scalability. Make sure that your efforts are greater than the sum of their parts.
- You have shared goals. A great brand partnership requires a shared vision and shared goals. Your brands need to align not just in outlook, but also about how you go about things. Your partnership should be an asset, not a liability, so ensure that you carefully vet your potential partner before signing on the bottom line.
Make a Splash With A Brand Partnership
Brand partnerships can be a great way to expand the reach of your brand or campaign or to help facilitate a shift towards a new market or audience. If you've been swimming alone, now's the time to consider whether a symbiotic relationship with a like-minded company could be what you need to take your brand to the next level. Let the branding experts guide you through the waters.