How Brand-to-Brand Connections Are Transforming Partnership Marketing

people taking their parts of an unevenly divided pie chart

By Maura Smith, CMO, Partnerize

Marketers are familiar with conventional affiliate marketing models. Brands have long partnered with deals sites and publishers that promote them in exchange for a commission. But partnership marketing is increasingly expanding to brand-to-brand partnerships, which can drive transformational, long-term growth.

Brand-to-brand partnerships allow marketers to capitalize on affinities between their brands and others, benefiting from the partner’s trust with similar audiences searching for complementary products. This combined brand equity allows sellers to boost sales and share highly granular, conversion-level data points, verifying efficacy at a time when measurement on other marketing channels is getting harder due to privacy changes.

Let’s explore the benefits of brand-to-brand partnerships, how brands can identify ideal partners and set up their relationships for success and what brand-to-brand partnerships portend for the future of partnership marketing in today’s media mix.

Synergistic Brand-to-Brand Partnerships

Traditional affiliate marketing, while not limited to this value proposition, is often thought of as a last-resort effort to drive short-term results. For example, an apparel brand struggling to sell a product that will soon be out of season might partner with a deals site to move product fast at a discount. By contrast, brand-to-brand partnerships are focused on long-term results, introducing brands to new audiences with high potential lifetime value.

Consider a partnership between a travel company and an apparel retailer. The travel company might introduce ads for swimwear to its customers who book flights to balmy locations like Hawaii or winter wear for those traveling to prime skiing destinations. When travelers buy the advertised apparel, the retailer does not just get a short-term customer; they get past the crucial first-purchase hurdle and begin to build trust with a potential lifetime customer. Granular data allows both companies to not only take stock of the partnership’s success but also identify what kind of customers are responding to cross-brand campaigns, enhancing future efforts.

The partnership between the travel company and the retailer may continue after the first successful conversion. For example, after the retailer has earned a sale thanks to the travel company, the retailer can allow the travel company to reach customers browsing seasonal products with contextually relevant destination advertising. All along this new cross-brand customer journey, technology can track the influence of the partnership on the consumer, driving fair compensation and allowing each partner to optimize for continued success.

Making Partnerships Work

What is leading brands to embrace brand-to-brand partnerships? In part, this is a cultural shift, as brands are learning not to view affiliate as a short-term channel, nor complementary brands as rivals. But the shift is also happening because marketers can access better tools to orchestrate partnerships.

Staking out a successful partnership begins with identifying the right brand partner. Brands should seek out companies with the same target audience but different products or services. Next comes agreeing on objectives and KPIs that will determine strategy and allow each partner to measure success. Then, brands should outline the terms of their partnership, identifying such logistics as the length of the campaign, products included, messaging, and the technology required. Finally, brands need to agree on payment terms or the value exchange for the partnership.

All of the logistics of driving a successful partnership are becoming easier as tools evolve to enable partner identification, campaign optimization, measurement and communication. As in traditional partnerships, clarity on goals and ongoing communication are essential to making brand-to-brand partnerships a success.

The Future of Affiliate and Partnership Marketing

Traditional affiliate marketing still has a place in the media mix. Like brand partners, publishers and deals sites can introduce brands to relevant audiences and boost sales at crucial moments in the product life cycle. But brand-to-brand partnerships will play a larger role in the space going forward as affiliate marketing evolves into what we can truly call partnership marketing: working with partners not just to drive short-term sales but to forge lifetime customer relationships through shared trust.

The trust and transparency that brand-to-brand partnerships deliver has never been more important than at the current time of rampant digital misinformation, ad fraud and measurement difficulties. Consumers want to buy from trustworthy brands that share their values. Marketers want transparency into the effectiveness of their marketing. With partnerships, they can get both and both brands and consumers will be better off for it.