Contemporary partnerships as a central generator of equity and business
What is the tension?
Historically, brands have been used to working and cooperating with influencers, celebrities and prescribers, mainly limited to communication and press releases.
However, in our time we have seen a new type of consumer, who is much more concerned about the messages they receive and who is demanding that brands and companies be more honest and transparent about what they create and communicate. It is therefore vital for them to adopt a different approach to the bonds they generate with their external partners and to understand such partnerships no longer as just a discursive tool but as a strategic opportunity to build value, to act and to commit to the future.
This new situation invites them to develop deeper, more honest and less transactional and cosmetic bonds so that the benefits are incorporated through strategy, equity and business. To achieve this, working with partners must be understood as a strategic tool that generates new avenues of business from transferring the values, personality and equity associated with creators and celebrities to brands and vice versa: basically, brand and partner should share and build the same essence that will be the basis of everything they say and do together.
Today it is no longer enough to “rent” a visible and aspirational face that generates traction and endorsement; values and a common approach to commitments and purposes need to be shared. Brands must be able to rethink the criteria with which they choose their partners and the approach and relationship they develop with them (and this is not only limited to the object of this article, which is cooperation between brands and people, but also applies to partnerships between different brands).
What do we need to know?
Before establishing a relationship with partners, we need to consider a number of key strategic aspects to ensure relevance to contemporary consumers and a connection with their demands:
- Scouting and choice: going from a “quantitative” outlook that prioritises criteria based on volume (followers, likes, etc.) to a “qualitative” approach based on the alignment of values and personality between the brand and the endorser: the brand and the partner share truths and objectives. This will make the brand credible for both creators and partners, as well as for the target.
- Link: from short-term relationships to long-term shared commitments and purposes that are driven both by the brand and by the partner. From discourse to action.
- Focus on contemporary themes: from treating them opportunistically (e.g. raising the profile of feminist messages and partners only during Women’s Day on 8 March, or LGTBI+ during Gay Pride week) to understanding partnerships as a “what for” to enable brands to play an active part in new contemporary narratives: building value and really doing something for it (diversity, inclusion, sustainability, etc.).
- Creation: from producing a script and defining a space for the partner towards much freer creation with more dialogue. The brand must generate spaces for involvement, dialogue and joint creation, so that the results really come from the beliefs of both parties.
- Future and innovation: from not being part of or intervening in brand innovation to being an essential part of the brand’s development, either as a technical partner (Coca-Cola Signature Mixers or Damm’s Inedit beer) or as a creative director (Rihanna with Puma or Lady Gaga with Polaroid, among others). The partner is involved and is part of the brand’s future business.
Who can we learn from?
- Casa Amigos: a brand created from scratch by George Clooney in 2013 and sold to Diageo in 2017. It was one of the first great examples of the development of the partnership model and celebrity endorsement of brands and it was even the driving force behind the new way of understanding royalties for launching products under the name of a celebrity (as is done in beauty & fragrance).
- OPI + Xbox: the partnership between the OPI nail polish brand and the video game giant blurs the boundaries between gaming and beauty and provides real solutions for consumers. The active role of influencers and partners made it possible to build a new online reality, where beauty and fashion are starting to turn away from gender stereotypes and incorporate new targets. The brands offer benefits within games and are introducing a male audience to the world of nail polish and makeup.
- Inedit (Damm + Ferrán Adriá): a partnership in which each side made a fundamental contribution: their expertise in creating a beer “tailored to the new gastronomy.”
- Ter and Ford: cooperation in creating content. Going beyond the use of an influencer to raise the profile of an egocentric and narcissistic message, the approach focuses on honest, contemporary cooperation through a rigorous narrative. (If you are interested in the subject, you can go further by reading the entry in The Catch on how to use and legitimise brand heritages today
- IKEA and its partnership with Virgil Abloh is a clear example of how a mainstream brand has been able to link up with an external partner to generate equity and new business and broaden its impact.