Brand Partnerships

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(CC by ooh.ooh)

A few years ago I was thrilled to be nominated to lead the global brand partnership strategy for the then-fledgling Nokia NSeries brand.  I was the first person at big blue to ever have a job dedicated to this pursuit.

My remit was essentially to identify lifestyle brands whose customers were attractive to NSeries, define a mutually beneficial value-exchange, and "pitch" (for lack of a better term) my partnership ideas.  It was a dream job ... it took me to far off places to meet and work with some of the world's most admired brands and interact with a ton of smart marketers.

For a number of non-important reasons I was recently thinking about that time in my life, and the valuable things I learned on the fly.  I've never really memorialized those lessons, and my memory isn't getting any better.

A bit of a laundry list, but perhaps a nugget or two you can use to get off the blocks a bit faster ...

  1. Before you do anything, you must articulate the objective your partnerships will support.  Sales?  Brand awareness?  Competence in a specific area?
  2. Think about the benefits of a brand partnership, including (but not limited to) marketing efficiencies; access to the passion people feel towards your partner's brand; access to new audiences; amplifies your own brand's values.  Be sure to clearly articulate these to internal decision makers.
  3. Take an honest assessment of everything your brand has to offer ... audience, reputation, distribution, physical assets, media, etc. Remember, partnerships must be mutually beneficial.
  4. This depends on your specific case, but make a list of desired partners, segmenting them in a way that allows you evaluate and prioritize.
  5. Remember that partnerships come with risks, including (but not limited to) less control over the message; slower decision making processes; you take on the reputation of your partner - good and bad.  Proactively develop a risk-and-response plan.
  6. While partnerships are often thought of as consumer or industry facing, don't forget what they mean to your internal stakeholders.  Build in some kind of benefit to your rank-and-file ... a discount, exclusive access to some content, etc.
  7. Long-term partnerships tend to fare better than one-offs, but require dedicated resources to manage and optimize.
  8. Related to the above, partnerships based on a single product or service can be fickle, and don't give the relationship time to blossom.
  9. If done right (and with the right brand) partnerships can not only amplify the good things about your company, but also help mitigate negative perceptions.

Any lessons you care to share from your experiences?