Originally published on the Health Brand Group blog.
A trend I’ve been watching emerge is that of true brand partnerships.
I know, brand licensing and partnerships have been around for a long time. You’ve probably enjoyed ice cream made with Reese’s peanut butter cups or Girl Scouts Samoas cookies inside. And your Cole Haan shoes might have Nike Air soles.
Traditionally, this type of arrangement has been used to solidify positioning with a focus on strengthening a brand’s value proposition. And, at times, brand partnerships of this type can be used to influence consumers when making commodity purchase decisions for items like ice cream or toothpaste.
Emerging today, I see a new type of brand partnership–one that improves brand value while also adding strength to the brand’s values.
Values are fundamental beliefs that individuals, groups of people, companies and even brands hold steadfast. Values provide guidance as we make decisions and evolve, as people and as brands. Values are our standards, and values are inherently human.
The adage is true: “You’re known by the company you keep.” And for brands, there is no exception.
Where before brands would partner on specific products, now they are partnering on a business level. A perfect case study is Starbucks. In recent years, Starbucks has established several partnerships with other brands, such as Square and Google.
Starbucks partnered with Square to revolutionize the payment processing aspect of its business, allowing customers to pay with their mobile phones. In this case, it is important to note that the partnership equally benefited Square by expanding its business to an entirely new level, obtaining access to Starbucks’ freelance customers (ready-made users for Square’s mobile payment application), and allowing the company to rapidly scale its business to reach local and small businesses across the country.
Starbucks’ partnership with Google will upgrade its free Wi-Fi for customers in stores across the country. In addition, the company will work with Google to co-develop the next generation of the Starbucks Digital Network, an in-store content platform serving up uniquely branded experiences for Starbucks customers.
These brand partnerships do what brand partnerships have always done. They work to increase the value proposition of Starbucks’ offerings to its customers. But they also go a step further.
They create an interconnected “lifestyle web” of affiliated brands.
Each of these brands own similar core attributes: innovation, unique experiences, disruption of typical models, etc. They also recognize that Google, Starbucks and Square share similar core customers and brand ambassadors.
If you take a moment to think about the implications of this last statement, you see that this type of brand partnership is an evolution from the former model.
While these partnerships do increase the value of all parties involved, they also bring together a vast group of customers and users who share the same human values that these brands embody: quality, speed, ingenuity, simplicity and passion, to name a few.
This allows consumers to begin to view these companies or brands as something much larger than a product, service or purchase. Instead, they add a new level of value to a distinct lifestyle and experience, creating an interwoven, overlapping community of advocates.
This is something much bigger than Girl Scouts cookies in ice cream.