brand bedfellows

Much of the blame for John McCain’s loss in Tuesday’s election is being laid on the 2 people he was most closely associated with —  George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.  The impact of these associations — one he did not want but was nonetheless stuck with; the other he masterminded and milked in an attempt to improve his image — got me thinking about the importance of associations for brands.

Partnerships, sponsorships, affiliates, co-branding, co-marketing, co-ops…there are many ways two or more brands form an association.  In some cases the associations are unintended or undesirable, perhaps the consequence of an “hostile” M&A; in others, brands actively seek out other brands to associate themselves with in order to achieve a certain goal.

In all cases, it’s important to identify all the possible benefits that a brand association may yield, and pursue the ones that make the most sense for your particular situation — here are 10 possible benefits (organized into 5 categories):


1.  Strengthen your value proposition –- integrate with partners which provide complementary customer experiences to deliver a stronger value proposition


2.  Obtain “permission” from consumers to enter/play in new arenas or with new segments/audiences, particularly arenas well outside your core competence

3.  Access valuable prospects through partners’ databases/customer profile data


4.  Strengthen your core brand attributes by association with complementary brands

5.  Support a re-positioning through association with brands that have the desired attributes

6. Access an avenue through which to increase your cultural capital — e.g., partner with a brand representing the latest “in.”


7.  Extend your media dollars with co-op advertising money or bartering agreements.


8.  Develop new products/services/technologies by leveraging partners’ technical expertise and resources.

9.  Obtain business strategy and process expertise.

10.  Optimize corporate relationships – reinforce alliances with business partners and stakeholders (suppliers, customers, agencies, etc.)

By being clear about the benefit(s) you seek by associating your brand with another, you can better evaluate potential partners, shape the programs, and measure their effectiveness.  And while McCain might not have been able find the silver lining in the Bush cloud, if your brand is ever suffering from an unwanted association, perhaps you can make the best of it by exploring the full range of possible benefits.

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