Last February, Nike and Tiffany & Co. announced the launch of limited-edition shoes. The market was excited about the partnership between the two superbrands, expecting a creative, unusual, and inspiring product similar to Nike’s previous collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Swarovski.
However, consumers were disappointed to learn that the joint venture included pretty standard Nike shoes with a lackluster combination of Tiffany colors. The partnership was quickly shelved and forgotten.
Many companies look for collaborations that allow them to share costs or achieve desired results more easily. This is doubly true during a slowdown when marketing budgets are cut. But while it seems like an easy fix, it can be complicated. Here are some key rules on how to avoid mistakes in partner marketing.
The value of small brands
Contrary to what people think, small companies often bring the most value to a partnership. A small company that lives and breathes a specific market knows its players and customers well and can easily and efficiently approach them. It can be an excellent partner for a global company.
While the small company enjoys exposure and positioning as a partner of Google or Microsoft, for example – which guarantees marketing budgets and contributes to its reputation, the global company gains “field people” who authentically bring its message to the market.
Not “dollar for dollar.”
Should both sides contribute the same amount of money to the joint campaign? Not necessarily. Companies can also bring value through content, experts, a strategic hold on the target market, or a personal relationship with customers.
For example, pharmaceutical companies, which are usually not allowed to promote a drug, can cooperate with associations that help patients with the disease. The company emphasizes its connection and leadership in the field by promoting the relevant association and creating awareness of patients’ challenges.
In this case, the pharmaceutical company provides the budget for the campaign, and the association offers the vision and connection on the ground. In such projects, the entire budget comes from one partner, yet both sides accurately achieve their goals.
Make sure that 1+1=3
Companies that establish collaborations based solely on convenience without delivering real value to the customer will often find that their campaign didn’t work. The resource-intensive Nike and Tiffany & Co. campaign failed because their collaboration created no added value, even though they are superbrands.
A successful partnership is a force multiplier, bringing more than each partner would get individually. An example of this is the collaboration between IKEA and Lego, which led to the creation of a game in which children can “furnish” a box that simulates rooms in the house using Lego blocks. The box, sold in IKEA stores, also functioned as a storage space.
This classic example of cooperation gives each partner precisely what it needs. IKEA needs to create an affinity for family and children. Through the collaboration, Lego received another significant sales channel, enabling it to reach many homes worldwide directly.
Both companies connect their brands to the primary target audience, and the customer receives significant added value – the main element, without which there is no success.
The day after the sale
Quite a few products, especially in the technological world, require a complex implementation process. A strategic partnership can often be formed between the company that manufactures the product and a professional entity that will take responsibility for the implementation process, assist customers in implementation, and market the product through its channels as a marketing force multiplier.
For example, companies operating in the agricultural world, such as Netafim, Afimilk, or ICL Group, create collaborations that include marketing campaigns with agricultural equipment suppliers to significantly expand their foothold in target markets worldwide.
This is a tricky spot for many collaborations, which often results in an eyesore for the customers. Brands invest heavily in the visibility of their campaigns, but when there is a reluctance to compromise with their partners regarding the design language of both brands, it doesn’t work, and if it does, it doesn’t look good.
In such situations, there are several options: one option is to decide that the stronger brand of the two will be at the front, its design language will dominate, and only the logo of the other brand will be integrated into the campaign.
A second option is to design two separate campaigns, each of which will carry the design of one of the partner brands, and each company will send its campaign to its customers. This solution is most suitable when each company’s customer base is different because if there are mutual customers, they will be exposed to both campaigns, which may need clarification.
A third option is to create a new design language for the benefit of the joint campaign, which will intrigue and arouse interest. Consider that a joint campaign that is not readily associated with either brand will not reap the benefits associated with the brand.
It is essential to have a genuine and brave discussion with the partners before choosing the best option for the campaign.
Do not override
When a company manages several collaborations simultaneously, each partner is expected to launch their digital campaign for the same value proposition without coordination. When these campaigns compete for the same target audiences and use the same keywords, the price per lead goes up, and the money invested in the campaign is wasted.
When should you conduct marketing campaigns with several partners at the same time? Each of them markets a slightly different product, or when there is a defined distribution in audiences: one partner markets to the financial sector, another to the retail industry, and so on.
Another point to pay attention to is working with influencers, who need to echo the message of the joint campaign and explain how the move will bring added value to the customer. Influencers can serve as a mouthpiece for the message that already exists. In many cases, each company already has “its own” influencers – this is an excellent opportunity to launch creative initiatives and connect the influencers into the joint activity.
Coordinate across departments
In many companies, partner and marketing managers are responsible for different departments and work in parallel. Without coordination, the organization makes double marketing efforts to promote the brand.
If there is synchronization, the marketing department will launch a campaign for a new product/service in coordination with the partner management department. It will plan follow-up moves with its partners that leverage the initial activity and create a force multiplier. This will increase brand positioning and memorability, making marketing efforts more successful.