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How to Get in Bed With Another Brand–and Not Screw It Up

Partnerships can help or harm you. It’s all in the execution.

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BY Tom Marchant - 06 Feb 2018

How to Get in Bed With Another Brand--and Not Screw It Up

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Brand partnerships, both big and small, have the power to enhance your business's image, enrich credibility, and amplify exposure. It's the foundation on which our brand was built, and fast forward 12 years, partnerships are still at the heart of our growth strategy. When done well, any brand with a unique offering can transcend size barriers and collaborate with companies - and really crush it. Whether you're a geocoding navigation company targeting the automotive industry, or a luxe fashion house seeking traction with a different audience, a well-planned brand collaboration can mark a turning point in your business.These three rules will help steer your partnerships in the right direction and avoid getting in bed with a bad fit.

1. Never partner for partnering's sake.

Collaborations with the wrong brands aren't just a waste of time, they're damaging for brand image and confusing for your audience and clients. It may sound like I am stating the obvious but it happens (a lot). If the fit isn't right, the most likely outcome will be that customers will question the purpose of the collaboration, resulting in disengagement. Often these tie-ups are the result of a desperate push for data acquisition, a brazen revenue push, or attempted awareness with an unaligned audience. Target is no stranger to enlisting upscale designers to collaborate on often very successful and buzzed-about collections for their shoppers; however, this tanked when the company joined forces with Missoni and Neiman Marcus. Target's customers and fashion gurus alike criticized the offerings as overpriced, poor quality, and uninspired--and the brand had to cut prices by 70 percent to unload the 400 piece collection.

The lesson? Target and Neiman's didn't closely align with their vision and the edgy, avant-garde textiles didn't appeal to the mass market consumer. Poorly planned partnerships almost guarantee a negative effect on your business. So, think carefully or you risk jumping into the wrong bed.

2. Use your value proposition to transcend size.

Being confident in your offering and how it can enrich your target partner is key in securing the kinds of collaborations that are truly successful. Take the partnership between Mercedes-Benz and navigation startup what3words --a tech start-up that's overhauling the global addressing system. Thanks to a truly unique value proposition and a timely offering in an age of hyper-localized experiences, what3words is being rolled out as the new standard satellite navigation system in all Mercedes Benz cars in 2018. The success of this partnership is two-fold. What3words, a comparatively tiny brand, is able to reach a new, global market thanks to their ability to genuinely enhance Mercedes' offering. And for Mercedes, this opens doors to elevate their position in the space as an innovator by collaborating with a forward-thinking disruptor. If your value proposition is strong then you can appeal to even the biggest and most influential brands. Don't be afraid to aim high.

3. Amplify your brand with good synergy and shared goals.

When great brands come together, it's essential that they still focus on ensuring the value proposition is present and clear. The purpose of collaboration between two well-aligned brands can be missed if the reason isn't evident to the combined audience. But if it is, it can amplify your business in ways that would be impossible to achieve on your own. Take the music streaming collaboration between Uber and Spotify as an example--two brands at the top of their game, collaborating on a beautifully simple campaign that gets people talking, reflects one another in a positive light and, above all, is a genuinely useful service. Collaborations such as this epitomize how the right partnership with a well-aligned brand can completely enhance your value proposition and brand image.

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