Brand Partnerships: How to get it right

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If you’ve got a young, emerging brand, this one’s really for you. Brand partnerships, co-registration campaigns and collaborations can be incredibly effective tactics for growing awareness and targeted customer engagement. So how do you know which companies to partner with? Good question!

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When you’re still small, it’s tempting to partner with any brand that will have you. I know from experience how difficult it can be to get even the smallest amount of traction and it often feels like any publicity will help.

But not every partnership is right. Getting it wrong can confuse customers and become a giant waste of money. To save you the headache, I’m going to show you a simple strategy to identify the right brand partnerships.
 

How to do it

Before you start: great brand partnerships are defined by companies that recognise they can’t do everything. They understand their brand is only a (likely small) part of a culture far bigger than their brand alone. So you can forget about the idea of “owning” a cultural territory. 

Identify the cultural values your brand is a symbol of. Start by describing your customer and his/her life-stage. How does she define herself? What do the brands she buys say about her? Does she want to feel like a modern, unapologetically feminine feminist? Does she want to feel like an inventor? Maybe because he works an office job he wants to feel like a journeyman, or a tinkerer-craftsman? How does using your product symbolise that type of culture or values set?

Put a name to the cultural territory your brand is a part of, or that you want it to be a part of. It doesn’t have to be perfectly accurate, but it’s a useful exercise.

Don’t look to partner with brands just because you think they are cool or have a huge database. Just because you like a brand, doesn’t mean its values match that of your own. And even if a brand has a huge database of customers/readers you want to tap into, it will still confuse people if your values and aesthetic are totally misaligned.

Seek out brands in other categories who do one thing well. Each emerging culture will have room for many different brands, but very few overlapping categories. As in “Girlboss culture” you might find a dominant brand for each category: a food, a drink, an activewear, a fashion magazine, a food magazine, a political magazine, a luggage brand, a casualwear brand, a workwear brand, a swimwear company, a nutrition company, a member’s club, etc. The list goes on. Don’t try to barge into a cultural territory looking for partners when there’s already a dominant brand in your exact category. You might find some support, but also resistance.

 

Girlboss Culture: an example

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In 2013-2014, around the time Sophia Amoruso’s book ‘Girlboss’ was published, a new culture started to emerge. Defined by entrepreneurial Millennial women in America, it was a culture with a playful, unapologetically feminine, grown-up girl power aesthetic as evidenced by the emergence of ‘Millennial Pink’. It was a celebration of female founders, women supporting women, and brands who happily focused on female customers, recognising - above all else - that feminism could be fun - and it was serious business.

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At the helm of this culture was blogger-cum-founder Emily Weiss with her new brand of skincare and cosmetics: Glossier. Borrowing the playful aesthetic of Korean skincare, Glossier’s bubblegum pink and red modern packaging soon became the halo brand of Girlboss culture. But they weren’t alone.

Man RepellerOutdoor VoicesAWAYA-DAYRefinery29Milk BarCare/Of VitaminsThe WingMoon JuiceSoma WaterCherry Bombe Magazine and more soon became clear partners in this space. Mostly founded by Millennial women, they shared aesthetics and values. And customers.

That's it for today!

Thanks, again! 
—Collyn

P.S. If there's anyone you think who'd appreciate some help developing brand partnerships, please share this with them!