I'm often asked about which brands a given company should affiliate with? Not that mass 'affiliate marketing' play, but a more strategic play where one brand gets together with another brand and really does something exciting. They leverage their marketing communications, customers, social media groups, email lists, websites, products and services to generate some new added value activities for their business – that is what I am speaking of. Like how Dell is now selling in Wal-Mart, how iTunes music downloads are now made available in Starbucks and how members of the AARP benefit from unique and special offers from America's leading consumer brands because they pay a yearly membership to them.
You don't need to do it on your own – if you have something unique to leverage then chances are that you will be able to use it to form a partnership with another brand where you could add value to their proposition or have the partner-brand support and supplement your brand in some way, shape or form. With budgets, jobs and resources being slashed by the day, everyone has less to work with as a result. The key then, is to leverage what you do have available and work with other brands who target and speak to the same customers to offer them more.
Still, Who do we partner with and how do we identify those opportunities? That is typically the next question I get. Well, in these times – I would say "be more careful than ever". Yes – "be more careful than ever". There are some great opportunities out there with some great brands doing some great things, just be careful as to who you hop in to bed with. The expression 'sheep in wolves clothing' definitely applies.
Banks were once on top of the world – where are they now? Can they support your efforts like they once have? Likely not the place to go for a Marketing Partnership right now- they are likely too busy focusing on their core business or whatever is left of it. Travel is another traditionally hot sector to form Affiliations within, yet with the Travel and Tourism industry expected to be hit hard this year – likely not the best best.
What's hot? Quick Service Restaurants are hot. McDonald's is having one of it's best years ever. Subway continues to grow their franchise locations and Coffee Shops like Tim Horton's in Canada are flying off the handle. Those small, simple pleasures are what people look to in down-times. They are affordable and rewarding and let's face it – not everyone can afford the 'big steak dinner' in these times.
Aside, focus on the basic needs which is what people will stick to. They might cut out cable TV, a summer holiday and a the purchase of a new car, yet they will still be going grocery shopping. Food is a staple and the Grocers, now more than ever, have an advantage over others to monetize customers in this economy. If you are targeting online partner offers, think about what people really need; gas for the car, food for the fridge, heat for the furnace and clothes to send the kids to school in. Basic needs are in and luxuries are out.
As for the Retail sector, brands like Wal-Mart, Costco, TJ Maxx, Price Chopper and Walgreen's should be able to stand the test of time and will whether this storm and are prime for partnership. Other brands like Macy's and Circuit City in the USA should be avoided. Apple stores are jamming – yet Apple is traditionally not all that partner-friendly, yet if you have something special and can offer it up and truly impact their business, then I am sure they would want to hear from you.
Think about your business; your offering and how you can adapt it to partner with other brands and generate something exciting around what you are doing. I read last week about a leading NYC based butcher who is partnered with all of the leading NYC steak-houses and supplies quality steak product to them. With steak heading out, he is now providing 'steak quality' ground beef to those same restaurants and has encouraged them to put a 'AAA Burger' on their menus. Just another example of how partnerships are more important than ever, yet what the customer may be looking for, is now different, so you need to partner with those that will win in this down-turn economy. If the butcher doesn't take that innovative step forward – he is likely to go out of business, given that he is no longer an attractive partner to those traditionally high-end restaurants. Keep partnering with those who adapt and can still support your market and if they can't look for new partnerships and affiliations.