The 7 R's of Successful Brand Partnerships
In most industries today that are consumer facing such as consumer packaged goods, media and entertainment, beverage, sports, electronics, insurance, and even health and wellness, it would be difficult to not have at least a slight familiarity with the term influencer, ambassador, brand partnerships. As social media and peer to peer influence continues to shape marketing plans of multinational corporations and small businesses, having an acute understanding of how to properly leverage these nontraditional methods of advertising, marketing and PR is essential. Additionally, as a prospective Brand Ambassador, Micro Influencer or Celebrity Partner, one must understand the value of their social currency, the size of the partnership opportunity, and how to clearly communicate how their capabilities offers a greater ROI (return on investment) than all other options to achieve the desirable business objectives.
Before we go further let me break down the term social currency as it will be used regularly throughout the article and provides the necessary framework to understand what makes one potential brand partnership more valuable than alternatives. Social currency is the extent to which a person has developed a sense of community or strong affiliation between their peers, customers, consumers, and users of a brand. Social currency allows brands to evaluate the impact of a person’s influence on three outcomes of the consumer’s decision journey – Consideration, Purchase, and Brand Loyalty. So in a nutshell, the right influencer partnership lends a brand the credentials and necessary access to engage with a particular network of people and work in unison with that Influencer Partner to drive one of the above desirable outcomes.
The end goal of brand partnerships is mutual success, so how does a partnership start and what are the best ways to sustain these relationships? As a potential Partner, one approach is to adopt and put into practice a process I’ve coined as the 7 R’s.
- RESEARCH. This step is arguably the most underrated yet necessary step for building a solid foundation between the brand and influencer partner. Many brand partnerships end because there was a misalignment in brand identities, not because the product was a flop or the brand ambassador was ineffective. So it’s critical that brand managers are crystal clear on their brand’s vision and strategy and not eager to check the box, as well as the prospective influencer being clear on their own identity and social currency and not too eager to “secure a bag”. The goal should not just be to secure a bag or access, instead should be to get the bag in many sizes over time with that same partner. It’s also important to note that the “bag” doesn’t always have to be money, there are other perks to partnerships like access, knowledge, equity, etc. Lastly, it’s critical that each Partner does the proper research to acquire mutual level of brand knowledge and ensure that identities and brand philosophies are aligned before entering an agreement.
- RAPPORT. Similarly to dating, never underestimate the art of courting or in other words paying special attention to a potential Partner over time in an attempt to win their support or favor. One can build rapport from simple interactions such as professional coffee meet ups, lunch conversations, and happy hours, Many potential partnerships fail or never happen because either the marketing professional or prospective Influencer Partner attempted to rush a relationship without establishing rapport or demonstrating why further conversations and richer interactions makes sense.
- RELATIONSHIP. Once a mutual interest has been established, and partnership is on the horizon both parties must understand that this fledgling relationship requires continuous nurturing, follow through on commitments and objectives, transparency and a shared vision of what success looks like.
- REPRESENT. This step is critical because once the relationship has been entered between both parties, each must move with a sense of purpose, commitment, and with each other’s best interest in mind. If both parties have done their due diligence of research on brand identities and motivations this step should come naturally. One example of foul play, would be an Influencer that has entered into partnership with Ford Motor Company posting a competing Nissan automobile organically on Instagram without paid promotion. The expectation is that there is always a shared vision of success that drives decision making at all times both digitally and offline for the duration of the relationship.
- RECRUITMENT/REACH. In a nutshell, if you are a Brand Influencer Partner and has effectively communicated the power of your social currency, entered into a brand partnership based on your capabilities and reach, then it’s time to DELIVER on that commitment. Most branding objectives with regards to consumer behavior will fall under the three aforementioned outcome categories- INCREASE CONSIDERATION OF THE BRAND, DRIVE PURCHASE OF THE BRAND, OR ENCOURAGE BRAND LOYALTY FROM EXISTING CUSTOMERS. Your ability to recruit and introduce your network to your brand partner’s world and deliver on whichever outcome is desired by the brand through consistent engagement determines the true value of your social currency.
- RECAP. As a Brand Influencer or Partner always communicate your short term wins with the Marketers. These quick success stories reinforce the trust and value of the relationship and allows the professionals to share soundbites within their corporate network to drive additional internal support and potential resources.
- REPEAT OR REVISE. Once the relationship or contract is approaching the end of its term, a clear understanding and communication of data derived from analytics, key observations, and competitive intelligence will allow both parties to repeat actions that were effective and revise in areas that were a miss. Successful brand partnerships tend to be crystal clear on strategy but flexible on methods and actions to get there usually uncovered and modified over time.
To learn more follow Karim Lateef on Twitter and Instagram at @KarimLateef and stay tuned for more articles and a forthcoming book on this topic.