When you think about coffee shops, Starbucks likely comes to mind. Similarly, spend too much time thinking about doughnuts and you'll be searching for the closest Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts. Why? These companies have built up enough brand equity to be known and immediately recognized for a specific product or service. However, building brand equity takes much more than just good coffee or tasty doughnuts.
Instead, it's all about the customer's perception of your brand. Customers have to know your brand, and at least some of them have to love it. In order to establish a positive customer perception, brands are starting to focus more and more on creating one-of-a-kind customer experiences to set them apart. For distributed brands, these experiences not only need to be unique, they also need to be delivered consistently across the network of locations through brand compliance.
But sometimes you can't create that awesome, unforgettable experience for the customer all on your own. And that's when developing a great brand partnership at the local level can give a real boost to brand equity.
What Are Brand Partnerships?
Brand partnerships are when two or more organizations decide to market or advertise together for mutually beneficial reasons. Through these partnerships, companies help each other increase brand exposure, break into new markets, and overall, add extra value to their products and services.
A traditional brand partnership strategy might include all sorts of elements of the marketing mix such as advertising, merchandising and more than the corporate team typically handles. Meanwhile, local affiliates need to activate these national partnerships to maximize their impact on local recognition and engagement.
Successful Brand Partnerships
It's important to know that not all national brand partnerships are created equal. For a brand partnership to make sense, the companies must both gain something from it. The brands must also formulate a cohesive marketing campaign that makes sense to the consumer.
When it comes to top companies, everyone can think of some kind of partnership that's done very well. For example, Balmain and H&M, or Spotify and Starbucks are partnerships that not only helped reach new markets, they contributed to establishing the brand equity of all companies involved.
For Balmain, the French couture clothing line, working with H&M made sense because it increased their brand recognition with younger customers. For H&M, the partnership added to their high-fashion credibility. Spotify and Starbucks were a perfect match because it capitalized on the young, tech-savvy, coffee-chugging Starbucks consumer who very likely, loves to use streaming music services.
But what about distributed brands which have lots of locations? With so many moving pieces, deploying a partnership campaign can be especially challenging, even for the most recognizable franchise or retailer. We all know the payoff is big, though, so how do they actually get it done?
Here are three examples of national partnerships that were rolled out with great success:
7-Eleven and DoorDash
By 2020, online grocery and convenience goods sales in the United States are expected to be about 18 billion dollars. But not many brands are capitalizing on this clear opportunity today because of extra costs in technology, delivery process and training.
Cue the inspirational music, because in 2015 7-Eleven partnered with DoorDash to experiment with adding new shopping and delivery methods at the local level. DoorDash, a savvy, on-demand restaurant delivery service, has also offered promotions with Coca-Cola and Jack-In-The-Box to help expand their reach.
In their partnership with 7-Eleven, DoorDash delivered items from 7-Eleven stores to customers for a $2.99 delivery fee. The convenience store provided the option for customers to buy online, expanded the product line available at the participating stores to facilitate larger orders and offered new services such as “Convenience Packs,” consisting of commonly purchased household products.
Although the service was only available within five metropolitan markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, the impact at the local level was significant. By focusing the partnership's marketing campaigns exclusively in these areas, 7-Eleven increased brand exposure in those markets while also piloting a new operating model for their store owners. To bolster the strategy, the franchisees at participating stores were provided with in-store promotions and marketing collateral to promote this new service.
Dunkin' Donuts and Waze
Just to prove that food and tech make great bedfellows, the partnership between Dunkin’ Donuts and Waze is another great example of how brand partnerships can have local impact. Bringing these brands together gave the 86% of commuters who drive to work each day the option to place their Dunkin' order ahead.
At the brand level, the partnership has been effective for both companies because the program stipulates that customers have to be Dunkin' rewards members and also download the Waze app. Getting new signups and app downloads means more loyal customers who can be engaged more often by the brand.
But it's not all open roads and doughnuts – this kind of partnership requires full buy-in from all of Dunkin' Donuts' franchise owners. They have to monitor and execute incoming online orders on top of their usual morning rush. They also have to promote the service, and use any kind of marketing collateral sent from corporate. When promoted and executed well at the local level, consumers get what they want and sales increase across the network. When executed poorly, the marketing team at Waze will ask why the customer experience for this dough-nutty partnership isn't being delivered by Dunkin' the way they promised, and the franchisees will wonder what their ad funds are really buying.
Ace Hardware and PGA TOUR
The partnership between Ace Hardware and the PGA TOUR golfer, Jim Furyk was a bit different from these high-tech food programs. While both "brands" have a similar target audience, putting the two together for a marketing campaign could be tricky. Jim, while the face of the PGA TOUR, isn't so much of a brand as he is a sports celebrity.
To leverage the most out of the partnership, which Ace Hardware considered a sponsorship, they launched a campaign that included digital, social content and more traditional advertising. Jim's endorsement of Ace Hardware tied his good values, hard work ethic and positive public image with the company. This played off their brand equity, but also helped to bolster their image as a brand that is down-to-earth, hands-on and always helpful.
Ace Hardware, whose store owners regularly compete with hardware juggernauts Home Depot and Lowes, uses these brand characteristics as it's differentiator. To stand out, Ace has cultivated an attitude that is personable and helpful. Like Jim Furyk, Ace Hardware is an All-American, trustworthy and strong brand with good values. At the local level, employees of Ace Hardware have to live up to their tagline, "Ace, the helpful place," to make the most of the sponsorship. Not only do they need to successfully implement the campaigns that go with the TOUR's season, they also need to keep the core identity of the brand alive.
How Do National Partnerships Influence Brand Equity?
Given all of these brand partnership examples, how do they actually lead to increased brand equity? Although some brands won't have the reach to immediately partner with a highly recognized brand such as the PGA TOUR or Waze, there are still opportunities to take findings from successful distributed brands partnerships, and build meaningful connections and collaborations of their own.
When brand partnerships are developed and utilized effectively across the whole company, distributed brands can:
- Build Trust: When two or more reputable brands partner with one another, that's showing the consumer that you can be trusted. If a consumer trusts the brand that you partner with, and has had good experiences with their company, they figure they'll have a good experience with you too.
- Add Value: When brands develop a well-integrated partnership, it adds intrinsic value to the product or service that each of those companies offers natively. Now that there are two or more stakeholders involved, each bringing something unique to the table, consumers find extra value in the product or service.
- Generates Buzz: When reputable brands partner, there's usually some buzz that surrounds the partnership in the form of media activity. Consumers are excited about the product or service. It provides PR opportunities or opens up new media exposure.
When distributed brands look to build partnerships, they should focus on selecting companies their customers will be excited about. Focus on the benefits your brand can give to the other, and set terms that make sense for everyone.
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What Do Partnerships Mean for Local Affiliates?
For local affiliates, there are many benefits of brand partnerships. Not only do they get all the assets of a brand-to-brand partnership that come with media exposure and awareness, they can actually use some of these assets in their own local advertising. Things like new partnership logos or exclusive photography are a real advantage here. It means franchisees or other affiliates can basically piggyback on the brand's goodwill and collaboration.
However, it means that local affiliates must launch and manage these campaigns very well. When another partner is involved, there's no room for compliance or customer experience issues. A brand partnership will require the following from local affiliates:
- Participation: Make expectations and guidelines clear for franchise employees when it comes to their participation in the brand partnership. What special offers or promotions should they be aware of and honor in-store? What types of marketing collateral are they responsible for creating to effectively market the sponsorship campaign? How long will the partnership campaign run?
- Ongoing Feedback: Local affiliates should use their local expertise to recommend marketable opportunities to expand the partnership's impact. Is there a particular way to use the partnership that they feel would be most effective? How can the brand improve upon previous partnership campaigns in the new one?
Without the support they need, a partnership could have an opposite impact on local affiliates. Due to either poor design or promotional assets, or a lack of understanding about the partnership, an ineffective campaign could actually hurt brand equity. By outlining the benefits, as well as how the corporate brands need franchises to participate, local affiliates are equipped with what they need to be successful.
Activate Partnerships to Achieve Brand Growth
Many distributed brands seek reliable, collaborative partners to maximize brand awareness and grow their franchised networks. In order to achieve accelerated results through the partnership campaign, corporate teams and local affiliates must be aligned on campaign responsibilities and goals.
Ready to launch a national partnership of your own? Build an awesome partnership with another high-performing corporate partner and give your local affiliates the tools and resources needed to deliver on the unique promises of that campaign.