Why a considered approach to partnerships maximises growth at every stage
BY BETH MCGUIRE
“Hope is not a strategy.” Vince Lombardi
In the modern business landscape, few objectives are more important than growth. Even established brands are assessed by quarterly growth rates, and a failure to grow can be disastrous.
For younger companies, though, there’s an even stronger fixation on scale. How can a business not just grow, but grow exponentially?
Partnerships are a proven mechanism for achieving this. As a result, start-ups are investing large budgets in major rights and assets as a way to reach mainstream audiences and build their brand quickly. In the arms race to be the next market leader, this strategy aims to increase awareness and establish legitimacy for a new product or service.
Yet, by taking a more considered approach, these brands can further maximise the value of their partnerships at every stage of their growth journey, whilst still maintaining a market leading position.
So, how can they best leverage their assets at each stage of the partnership lifecycle – from innovators to early adoption, and mass adoption on to maturity? The key lies in understanding the engagement levels of your target audience and adapting your objectives accordingly.
Let’s start at the beginning, with the challenger brands – Cazoo or Cinch perhaps – who are flirting with the idea of a partnership to capture the attention of the innovators out there; those who aren’t afraid to take a punt on a new product.
By working with rights holders with a strong first-party database who can equip them with the tools for hyper-targeted activations, these start-ups are able to develop and communicate a clear partnership proposition. This will likely result in a better understanding of your service, increased brand consideration and a group of consumers willing to advocate on your behalf. Choosing the appropriate rights holder to partner with, therefore, is imperative.
Bingo. More consumers are beginning to adopt your product and they like what they see. You’re on your way to the mainstream. Yet, competitors are cropping up and your objective is now shifting to driving mass awareness to ensure you stay ahead of the field. The focus now is on educating your audience and establishing legitimacy through product integration.
Now might be a good time to renegotiate your rights package. Be that increased partner IP, stadium naming rights or a front-of-shirt agreement, the key is for your brand to be visible.
Take Slync.io as a prime example. As a logistics technology start-up founded in 2017, they began using partnerships through golf ambassadors to target a specific c-suite audience. The brand was beginning to see positive ROI through its golf programme and took the decision to increase its investment further to include a five-year title partnership of the Dubai Desert Classic with the aim of maximising its brand awareness. By taking rights that increase their visibility, Slync.io have enabled their brand to be front of mind amongst their target audience.
You’ve made it. The majority of your target audience now trust your product or service, and engagement levels have peaked. Yet, as the popular phrase goes, standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards.
How can you utilise your assets to continue building awareness, trust and equity, whilst also showing up in a unique way that drives brand talkability? How can you stay relevant? Coca-Cola is a prime example of a brand who excels in this space, reinventing themselves and placing themselves at the heart of popular culture through unique partnerships and collaborations.
As the space race heats up, the brand released a new flavour Coca-Cola Starlight, the first from its new brand platform Coca-Cola Creations. As part of the launch, they teamed up with Private Policy, Staple and Bearbrick – brands at the cutting-edge of creativity and design – to create limited-edition collections that play into the modern, intersecting trend of merchandise and high-end fashion.
As consumer tastes change and new cultures emerge, so should your brand and the way in which you deploy your partnerships.
The end of the lifecycle? Not quite. Should your engagement levels mature and uptake of your product or service begin to plateau, thought needs to be given to repositioning your offering and update your messaging. Consider new assets, activations or partners that can allow you to do something you’ve not done before, re-engage consumers and maintain market share.
Toyota, for instance, one of the leading automotive manufacturers in the world. In 2017, there were major shifts in their category, with new players such as Tesla threatening their leadership position. Recognising this new reality, Toyota set out to shift brand perceptions from being a car company to a mobility company.
Toyota chose to sponsor the Olympic and Paralympic Movements as the first-ever mobility partner to share their brand message. The Start Your Impossible campaign increased Toyota’s share price by 11% from pre-campaign levels, with the partnership enabling Toyota to achieve its mobility leadership KPIs.
Partnerships can be a tricky world to navigate, but with a laser-like focus at each stage of the journey, they can unlock unparalleled growth and value right the way through the partnership cycle. Underpinning all this are three key considerations to have in mind:
- Get the right rights holder: find a partner that is collaborative, adaptable and creative, to help meet your evolving objectives at each stage of the lifecycle
- Know your audience: use best-in-class insights to build a profile of your audience and understand their passions and interests. This will allow for a targeted approach to your marketing efforts.
- A clear partnership proposition: achieve cut through with a key message that showcases your service and differentiates you from the competitive set.
If you are interested in entering into a partnership or would like to find out more about how to get the most from your current partnership, feel free reach out to Chris Beadle (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.