When marketing brands, marketers try to maximize reach in cost effective ways to create the required awareness, drive sales, grow the business, build customer loyalty and engage with their consumers. These objectives vary based on the product life cycle. For example: a new toy concept which is introduced recently to the market has the objective of creating awareness, a toy which competes with other strong competitors in the same category has the objective to persuade customers to choose their toy against competitors, while well established brands have the objective to stay top of mind and engage with consumers.
Above the line and below the line channels are utilized to reach the marketing objectives and now with the new social media platforms, marketers have no choice but to consider some of these channels which suit their brands and goals the best in order to reach a large audience in short span of time at relatively lower cost in comparison with other traditional marketing channels.
In addition to advertising in all its forms (outdoor, print, TV, radio, online, retail, etc) and other elements of the promotional mix like direct selling, public relations, events, promotions and social media, nowadays marketers are looking for creative ways to further boost the business and grow their markets. Here is where companies can explore the power of another tool available in their marketing kit, a tool that is usually overlooked: “Partnership Brand Marketing”. Partnership brand marketing is the idea of brining 2 or more companies/ brands together, each with their own brand equity and distribution strength. These partners usually have complementary needs and similar customers’ profiles, and they work together to further enhance the buying process and create more value to customers in addition to their own brands.
Usually partnership marketing is classified into 2 main categories; 1) Short-term (tactical) partnerships or 2) Long-term strategic partnerships. The first category is mainly boiled down to one off basis and simple cross promotions delivering tactical short-term objectives. An example would be a cross promotion between F&B brand and toys, like giving away toys with happy meals or in cereal packs. Definitely these promotions have their short term benefits in increasing sales, boosting brand exposure and reaching new audiences through new channels yet the later one – which we believe is a much stronger option – is planned on a more strategic level to include all elements of marketing mix (product, place, price & promotion), hence playing a greater role in redefining the brand, enhancing its value and expanding its distribution channels. Think about the following benefits of a strategic “partnership brand marketing” and how it can influence the 4Ps of marketing:
- Product: when a strategic partnership takes places, the product can be redesigned adding more value to customers
- Price: keeping the above point in mind, enhancing a product can result in adding value to the price
- Place: Usually in partnerships, brands benefit from exploring new distribution channels and accessing new places which were not accessible before
- Promotion: Also brands gain higher marketing exposure through utilizing the marketing efforts of all partners using different through the line channels
Moreover, a strong partnership program can elevate the brand’s equity and strength. And the best part that all these value added benefits can be achieved in a cost effective way through sharing the cost while leveraging shared assets and budgets of all participating partners.
A very nice case I came through which proves this strategy to be extremely effective was a partnership brand marketing between Volvo Car and LEGOLAND California to promote driving safety and family values. The two brands did a cross promotion by placing Volvo car at the theme park, yet the partnership evolved further to a strategic partnership brand marketing resulting in the following long-term benefits:
- Volvo Car becoming the official car of LEGOLAND California
- Volvo Car placed at LEGOLAND California
- Volvo Driving School program for kids was developed giving kids the opportunity to drive electric powered vehicles in a controlled drive course environment which educates kids on safety tips like buckling up seatbelts and other rules of the road, thus reinforcing these rules in kids’ minds at a young age
- A life-sized replica of Volvo's award-winning SUV, the Volvo XC90 was constructed using 200,000+ LEGO bricks
- Activities like joint advertising, marketing exposure on the National Show Circuit, LEGOLAND California marketed in Volvo auto dealer channel and other events/ employees program
The beauty of the above strategic partnership brand marketing resides in the great benefits it offered for both brands. LEGOLAND California was able to reach customers of the automotive industry and Volvo enjoyed the same benefits through promoting its brand and engaging with a new audience from the theme park industry! This is in addition to the effect this partnership had on developing new products to customers hence developing new revenue streams and also expanding both marketing and distribution channels for Volvo Car & LEGOLAND California while reinforcing family values which both brands reflect.
Also in terms of toys, last year LEGO Technic and Volvo Construction Equipment partnered to create a fully remote-controlled model that has the features of Volvo CE’s largest real-life high tech L350F wheel loader, which was launched to the market back in August 2014.
It’s important to highlight that partnership brand marketing is a fantastic tool for marketers, yet brands have to choose their partners carefully considering the brand's values, attributes, quality and definitely the brand’s strength points whether in providing strong marketing exposure or an access to new channels of distribution that can grow the business and support in gaining new market share. Furthermore, a successful partnership plays a major role in strengthening the brand's equity and positioning similarly to what happened in the Volvo Car & LEGOLAND California case.
As an overview, Partnership Brand Marketing has a great influence in delivering growth cost effectively. It is a creative tool to access new audiences, gain high brand exposure, add value to customer/ partners, reduce cost and leverage shared resources!