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Matthew Ong

Look out for these qualities in your brand partners

With swipes of your thumb (swipe left for no, right for yes), Left, Left, Right. Left, Left, Left, Right. Match! Voila! You might have found the Prince Charming or Tinderella of your dreams! Finding your other half on the dating platform, Tinder, can be that effortless.

In the world of marketing, however, it calls for more than just swiping for marketers to choose the perfect partner to work with. Picking the right partner can help amplify your brand voice, attract new audiences and elevate your brand equity. Pick one that’s a mismatch, and you could put your brand in jeopardy.

So, when choosing your Romeo or Juliet for a brand partnership, keep an eye out for the following:

Halo effect

Ask yourself this. What do you envision your brand to be like? What do you want your customers feel about your brand? From there, seek a partner that fits into that imagination. Chances are you will find customers have the same favourable feelings and attitudes towards your brand, just like how they feel about your partner. We call this the halo effect. Look at it this way: Collaboration between a start-up brand and Apple will catapult the former into the spotlight and boost its brand equity.

At the very least, your partner should have adequate brand awareness and brand equity.

Shared DNA

The second thing you should look for is compatibility. You want a partner who is similar to you in many ways, someone who shares the same vision and goals as you. Avoid ending up in a tug-of-war game with your partner, where both brands move in opposite directions. Take for example: After two brands have come together, one of them focuses on breaking into the digital world, while the other fixes its attention on building brick-and-mortar experiences. Such straight-out misalignment means that both parties would not be able to leverage each other’s branding and marketing efforts for the better, not to mention internal disputes.

Consumers must also perceive a fit between your partnership otherwise they will be left confused and question your brand and its direction. This will dilute your brand meaning and hurt its image. Worst-case scenario, they could think your brand isn’t what they want anymore.

So before saying yes to or approaching any potential candidates, make sure that they share a common genetic code with you.

Which way to go?

So which is better, a premium or a mass-market brand? The decision can be tricky. Teaming up with a premium brand is not always a golden ticket that can help lead you into a successful brand partnership.

If your brand belongs to the mass-market category, you may be tempted to collaborate with high-end brands to earn attractive margins and at the same time enhance your brand’s image. But be cautious that it may easily backfire if your marketing programmes do not support that image upward lift. On the other hand, joining forces with a mass-market brand can make your offerings more accessible, but it may also cause your brand to look “downmarket”.

The point is: Consider your long-term vision before going upmarket or downmarket. Just look at Coach.

Every partnership has 2 sides

In a brand partnership, each brand is able to ride on the positive coattails of the other.

Red Bull and GoPro. At first sight, it seems to be an odd combination; an energy drink and a camera? On closer look, they are a match made in heaven. Sharing identical targeted demographics, they piggybacked each other’s marketing efforts and distribution platforms to inspire the world to live a bigger and more exciting life.

Another stellar example comes from Apple and Hermès. “Just like Hermès, Apple is all about craftsmanship and innovation,” explained Jennifer Carter, the president and CEO of Hermès Canada. On one hand, Hermès–a brand founded on tradition and heritage–injected freshness and modernity into its image, and on the other Apple was able to reach out to an affluent and fashion-conscious segment that was not previously reachable.

Closer to home, in 2015, MasterCard made Apply Pay available to MasterCard cardholders in Singapore as both brands saw digital wallets gaining rapid ground locally.

While it’s clear that a successful brand marriage can help to enhance the brand equities of both brands, it may not come to one’s mind that brand partnerships are not exactly risk-free. A poorly managed partnership can expose a brand to negative feedback effects and risk diluting its brand equity.

What matters most?

Of course, there are many other elements that contribute to a successful brand partnership: Your partnership tactics, key performance indicators, to name a few. But all these would not matter if you don’t pick the right partner. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of this, even if it is not in the context of brand partnerships. Think about how these tips can be applied to the following scenarios:

  • When you are planning to acquire a brand
  • When you are thinking of having a brand or product extension
  • When you are choosing influencers to work with

Best of luck finding your perfect match! If you need advice and Google isn’t helping, you can always drop us an email or ping us.