A strong alliance is the only thing that wins wars. Prove me wrong.
And I don’t just mean battles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—although that’s a pretty cool illustration, too. In real life, everything from curing diseases to winning World War II to the mid-century battle for Civil Rights to humankind’s ability to send people into outer space: in any case you can dream up, the end solution involved different groups working together toward one goal.
The same can be true in business and branding. As much as we all bicker—whether you’re Puma hating on Adidas or Coke body slamming Pepsi or Popeye’s declaring all-out war on pizza restaurants (wtf Popeye’s??)—the counterintuitive truth of the matter is that when the going gets tough, we actually need each other to succeed.
Think I’m basic, maybe a little naïve? Then you’re probably not thinking outside of the box enough. Don’t get me wrong, going it alone is productive when you’re capable and ready for the journey. But in a moment of crisis—say, a global pandemic or a spatter of international protests perhaps?—you’re going to need help.
But here’s the trick. The help you get? It will only go as far the help you offer.
Here are my ten critical areas that are improved with branding and business alliances.
A big benefit of partnerships is that, by and large, the various participants are very well vetted prior to planning and execution. Portfolios are reviewed and the level of commitment to the project is explicitly discussed. That means strategy is pre-calibrated for optimal effect, making it much less of a struggle to ensure simplicity, clarity, and alignment in all things branding.
This is the concept of branding partners attempting to resolve social issues through core business activities while also generating real economic value. Participants enhance the quality and competitiveness of the brand with well crafted policy, reconfiguring value chains and cluster development that help communities thrive and grow. This enhanced value is then shared up and down the chain, by the partnership as well as by the community—a big win-win all around.
People love a good story about an all-star team up. Alliances definitely have an edge when they join forces to defeat some nefarious foe. A good brand story always requires thoughtfulness and craft, but when done correctly can truly send all brands in the partnership into the brand-success stratosphere.
When it comes to who does what and when, clarity is key. Alliances will often require leadership to document, negotiate, and provide clear-as-a-bell performance standards: risk-allocation, responsibility, reward, and penalties. Transparency is of huge importance here, not to mention that when others are depending on you to do your part in a group effort, your performance quality naturally tends to be stepped up more than just a bit.
Leveraging resources through partnerships is incredibly useful, not just for the alliance but for the individual brands involved. Stakeholders gather around a set of goals, share knowledge and data, and determine where each participant will contribute in the best way toward accelerating and optimizing collective impact.
Partnership spend a lot of time on engagement—as they should. The response from the audience or community that is targeted should be a priority. Developing community ownership helps to sustain collective impact, and also furthers the identification of audience needs, questions, and criticisms. There is no business entity more dependent upon and beholden to their audience than a strong partnership.
Alliances and partnerships tend to be leaders in innovative approaches to bidding, design, execution, and all other operations for a project. This optimizes outcomes and also leaves out traditional, out-of-date methodologies regarding sponsorships and can even help with compliance issues and local regulations. In this case, too many cooks in the kitchen, all contributing to fresh methods of optimizing execution, is a very, very good thing.
All participants will have their own motivations for being involved in an alliance—and that’s a huge positive. It’s true that different actors can sometimes work at cross-purposes, but if each brand maintains discipline and communication they most often end up gaining much more by helping each other than they would on their own.
Big projects are unwieldy. Regulations can be tough. Partnerships achieve clarity and accountability by aligning project obligations and integrating things like procurement or supply-chain management. If you’ve ever tried to do all that on your own, you don’t know how much more you can really achieve by having a partner do it with or for you.
Working closely with others genuinely helps brands discover more about who they really are. Because of this, participants come away with a fresh perspective on everything from brand identity to audience to their capacity for real impact in different corners of the market. And that’s truly invaluable.
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