Good Things Happen When Brands Unite


April 2011 By Brian Heffron

I recently found myself dreaming about bringing two brands together. My wife was tapping away on her iPad as I was driving along unfamiliar roads during a family vacation. She had access to information that I wanted on the dash. Reading espn.com, watching “Modern Family” episodes or going through email doesn’t make sense at 75 MPH. But  live traffic updates, route options, extensive music playlists?  It got me wondering about which automaker would make a good partner for Apple? At that moment I wished for a Honda-Apple marriage. A few years ago there was talk that it would team up with Mercedes. It never happened. Is it the earthy Subaru set?  Lexus? Audi? Volvo?

Automakers continue to embrace relationships with other brands to improve their vehicle experience. Toyota and Microsoft this month announced a partnership to do just what I dreamed about driving along the Shenandoah Valley.  Or they do it to put their cars in front of consumers, like Acura is planning to do for the first time with a major motion picture.

But what if you’re not selling cars, motion pictures or technology? What makes a smart partnership?

Regardless of your industry or marketing budget there is another company that would make an ideal partner. They could improve your customers’ user experience or help introduce your product to a new audience. The ideal partner has credibility, shares some of your personality traits and values, and owns both an established voice and loyal audience.  Ultimately, you are best served when both partners can achieve something greater than a pay-for-play sponsorship.

A committed relationship builds incentive for both organizations, whether matching a company with a cause or bringing together two brands. You have to be on the same page with all tenets of the relationship for it to bring real value.  And be careful not to take on too many partners. As a CTP colleague points out, “Don’t go so overboard in sticking your name on other people’s stuff so much so that it eventually becomes meaningless to consumers and worthless to prospective partners. Like Swarovski.”

When done right, though, partnerships benefit both companies and the consumer.

Now if we can only get Cold Stone, Five Guys and JetBlue in the same room.

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