Pay attention to your local events happening in your neighborhood and you’ll notice that nearly every week, there is some sort of event thrown in partnership with another local business. Whether it’s a fitness event co-hosted by a gym and a fitness retailer, or a food organization meet up hosted by a local restaurant, brand partnerships are becoming increasingly popular amongst brands, retailers, and local businesses.
This makes sense, as brand partnerships are a great way to improve customer acquisition and retention rates — when done well. Below, learn how to embark on your next brand collaboration and ensure success for all parties involved.
Understand the Value of a Brand Partnership
Before setting out on your first brand collaboration, it’s a good idea to identify what you bring to the table. One of the main benefits is that both brands have something to gain. And while it might be easy for you to identify your goals, a strategic move would be to identify what you have that other brands would view as appealing.
Perhaps you have an extremely loyal customer base who have invested a lot of trust in your brand. Other advantages could include large(r) budgets or a physical retail space to offer an ecommerce brand. This “value statement” may also change depending on who your potential brand partner is.
Once you understand the value you bring to the table, you can also weigh potential wins for your own business. A few of the advantages of brand collaborations include:
Reach New Audiences and Build Brand Awareness
Regardless of the size of the audience, your brand partner will have access to consumers who don’t already know your brand. There may be overlap, but that actually works to your advantage too. If consumers are seeing your brand through your point-of-view and your collaborator’s, your message may resonate more strongly.
When you find a highly visible brand partner, that has the potential to build awareness — and validate your brand — on a global scale. That was the case for fine jewelry brand Shahla Karimi: Kenneth Cole saw and approached her at a pop-up event. The brands ended collaborating on a product line together, catapulting the Shahla Karimi brand to the upper echelon in fashion.
Strengthen Existing Customer Relationships
While brand partnerships are great for customer acquisition, they can be effective customer retention tools as well.
If you partner with the right brands (more on that later), you’re helping your existing customers discover new brands. And when your partnership is a philanthropic one, this also creates a stronger and more positive image for your customers.
Some brands take a different approach to social good through partnerships. Women’s knitwear brand Pico Vela is very active in their mission to “celebrate women.” One of those women was also a retail business owner, Denisa Piatti of Denisa Piatti Jewellery. The jewelry brand styled a photoshoot for Pico Vela, which eventually led to the brand featuring Piatti herself in their campaign.
Test New Concepts
A brand collaboration, especially when campaign- or event-driven, also allows you to test new concepts for your business. Whether it’s a new product, new messaging, or new audience segment you want to test, a collaboration could be a great way to do it.
Find a brand who has experience with the type of products you want to launch or the messaging and audience you want to expand to. That way, you can test the waters with the support of someone who has experience and success in that area.
Choose the Right Collaboration
While brand partnerships present great opportunities, they can also render ineffective when you don’t have the right counterpart. You’ll want to look for brands that share a similar audience and mission. Under Armour’s partnership with (and eventual acquisition of) MapMyFitness is a great example: fitness-minded individuals who use the app and wear the retailer’s clothes while doing so.
Brands that offer complementary products to yours are also appealing options. JCPenney and Sephora paired apparel and cosmetics with their collaboration. The two verticals go hand-in-hand. JCPenney opened Sephora stores in their larger locations, a move that drove more foot traffic while not taking away from sales.
Seek partners who have something that you already don’t (but remember, be prepared to offer value too!) Sunglass brand Privé Revaux has partnered with a number of celebrities who have the social reach and recognition that the brand itself didn’t already have on its own. This has also garnered the brand quite a bit of press around their products and events.
Those who have had successful partnerships in the past are great options too. They’ve already likely learned lots of lessons and how to work with another brand. Pottery Barn found a great partner in designer Monique Lhuillier. The designer had already had a great collaboration with nail polish brand essie, and Pottery Barn has had such success that it’s become a serial partnership.
Tips for a Successful Partnership
Look to the future: Your partnership doesn’t have to be a one-and-done collaboration: Don’t be afraid to think bigger and long-term. Privé Revaux has brought on its celeb partners for long-term collaborations, continuing those business relationships and keeping the buzz alive.
Communicate effectively: Communications on both ends need to be buttoned up. The more people working on a project, the more important — and potentially muddled — communications become. This includes your internal communications, too. Keep all of your teams looped in, from product to marketing to operations.
Freda Salvador, a frequent brand collaborator, faced operational challenges as the business and partnerships grew. Advanced inventory management software helped keep data accurate and team members on the same page.
Digest what happened: After your partnership is over, a post-mortem analysis can help you determine success. Looking at your email list or social followers can help you understand if you met brand awareness goals, while metrics related to sales can help you understand customer retention and acquisition rates.
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