Finding Your Brand Soulmate
Secrets to identifying, courting, and achieving success with “the one.”
Brands understand the value of a great partnership, but finding one that expands reach and drives sales and loyalty for both brands can prove as elusive as the search for a romantic soulmate.
Some brands are an obvious match. Ulta Beauty and Beautycounter recently expanded their partnership and increased Beautycounter’s presence both online and in Ulta stores. Aligning with Beautycounter’s 10th anniversary, the deal makes the brand’s products available on the Ulta website and in its 500 stores across the U.S. For Ulta, the partnership provides a clear differentiator and increases clean product offerings in its stores.
While some brands make a natural fit, other times opposites attract. Shoppers love out-of-the-box partnerships and promotions, and brands are experimenting with unexpected pairings across industries.
Sportswear brands continue to push those boundaries with a mix of high-low duos, and Nike has led the charge with a recent pair of unexpected collaborations. Luxury meets streetwear in the latest partnership between Nike and Tiffany. The limited-edition Air Force 1 Low ‘1837’ marks the first collaboration between the brands though Nike has previously partnered with other luxury fashion brands including Dior and Louis Vuitton in an effort to expand its audience. For Tiffany, the partnership is a continuation of the brand’s efforts to attract and retain younger consumers.
For a brand built on athleticism, a partnership with a content streamer may seem like an unexpected choice. But Nike knows hybrid fitness is here to stay with 56% of fitness professionals and enthusiasts responding to a 2022 survey that they are still working out a home, in some capacity, even post-pandemic. Netflix also understands their customers want more than passive entertainment. A partnership between the brands brings Nike Training Club to Netflix members with a variety of 10- and 20-minute at-home workouts including High Intensity Training and Yoga.
How about a weight loss program and a cupcake bakery? Weight Watchers has teamed up with Baked by Melissa to provide a line of bite-sized cupcakes that count for 3 points or fewer on the weight loss program, allowing members to both enjoy a treat and meet their program goals.
Whether collaboration is between brands that seem like a natural fit, or if it’s a creative connection that expands audiences, identifying a partnership that delivers on business objectives for both brands takes patience, strategy, and creativity. It’s a challenge but finding “the one” can reap big benefits for both brands.
Finding the one
In my work, I often help brands strategize around such partnerships. To begin, I always ask why — why does your brand want a partnership? For example, do you want a partnership to broaden your brand’s visibility? Or do you want it to enhance your customer experience? Do you want a partnership to drive revenue? Or do you want to attract new customers? Your brand’s potential partnership strategy might have any of these goals or other goals in mind. But understanding why you want a partnership is crucial to its outcome — both in terms of the potential partner you will approach and what that partnership will look like.
Let’s say, you’ve answered those questions and identified your partnership goal or goals. Now how do you find the right partner? Again, you need to answer questions: First, which brands align with your brand identity and share your values? Determine that list and you can move on to the second question: Which of these brands can help you achieve your partnership goal(s)? Ideally, you’ll whittle this list down to a few targeted potential brand partners but likely one that you really want. If that sounds a little like looking for the right romantic partner, it is. But you’re not swiping right on a bunch of brands. You’re looking for “the one” that checks all your boxes.
Once you’ve found your potential brand soulmate, you’ll need to communicate that message: My company isn’t looking for any old brand in your industry — we want you. And of course, you’ll need to explain why this brand should want to align with your brand. The two brands must make a great fit, even if it’s not obvious to everyone in the room.
Plus, you’ll both need to ensure that customers are top of mind. In fact, in any successful brand partnership, there are three entities: the brand seeking a partner, the potential partner and the customer. All three have to win for the partnership to be fruitful.
Once your brand has landed on a partner, it’s important to talk about goals up front; doing so ensures that you’re setting yourselves up for success. Then, when your initial promotion together is well-received, you’ll know why. And perhaps you’ll want to take this relationship a step further — cocreating content or merchandise or deepening this union in any number of ways.
But what if the initial partnership stumbles? It happens to the best of brands. Perhaps then it’s time to tweak a goal, an approach, the audience or some other factor, and try again. Or maybe it’s obvious from key performance indicators that this partnership just isn’t meant to be. That’s OK. It’s all right to sunset a partnership — from a defeat, a brand can learn, evolve and look for the next ideal brand partner.
Amy Farsht is senior director, partnership marketing for The Lacek Group, a Minneapolis-based data-driven loyalty, experience, and customer engagement agency that has been delivering personalization at scale for its world-class clients for more than 30 years. The Lacek Group is an Ogilvy company.