The Dovetail Agency Insight | Brand Bonds: The Power of Partnerships
It is a promising time for luxury British brands with the UK well-positioned to navigate the quagmire of Brexit. London remains the world’s capital for news, travel, design and lifestyle publications with content designed for the top one percent. Many publications boast a global readership, from PORTER to Harrods Magazine, with the luxury sector worldwide looking to London as the vanguard of influence, trend setting and expertise. The streets of London are paved with elite brands, global publications and London is the home of 94 five-star hotels, 60+ Michelin star restaurants and 45 private members club.
Images above: The Dovetail Cocktail Club styled by House of Hackney at the 2017 Walpole British Luxury Awards.
The city is a luxury stronghold and brands will continue to benefit from the UK’s renowned status as such. The key will be for brands to continue to develop this reputation for excellence and fine craftsmanship and to harness the power of British brands globally in order to maintain and grow retail activity and tourism in the UK.
A brand is so much more than simply a logo: it is the sum of experiences that the end-user enjoys. The Harvard Business Review claims that brand loyalty is built on shared values with consumers, the quality and relatability of the interaction. According to The Telegraph, more than a quarter of the value of small and mid-sized companies is tied to their reputation. BDO, an accountancy and business advisory firm, suggested the corporate reputation of all UK-listed companies could be worth as much as £1.7 trillion.
As the luxury industry in the UK prospers, brands should be mindful of opportunities to further strengthen their reputation, reach new audiences and demonstrate worth. Marketeer Pam Moore claims that it takes on average five to seven brand impressions before a company name becomes familiar to an individual. Companies should consider how they may increase the impact of these impressions.
Businesses that go it alone will find this is not the best strategy in today’s frenetic, always on society. Companies need to look for ways to innovate, meet challenges and safeguard their future. This is where strategic alignments with other brands can be significantly beneficial: two heads really are better than one. Successful, meaningful brand partnerships will generate editorial and increase brand value. Bill Gates once said of Microsoft that ‘our success has been built on partnerships from the very beginning’.
According to research, the significance of brand partnerships in the marketing mix is developing at speed. In 2016 marketing directors began to recognise the value of brand partnerships. In 2017 campaigns with partners began to evolve in a more strategic way. And now it is the time to harness their potential. With GDPR now firmly in play, brand partnerships are a valuable route to developing secure ways to extend a brand reach. Partnerships may take a number of forms: mutual promotion, affiliation, sponsorship and integrated campaigns. An entirely new product combining the talent of two designers is a very exciting proposition with Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaborating for one of the most influential partnerships in the fashion industry, with two companies divided in age and heritage by 140 years and as appealing as each other to a mass affluent audience.
Growing awareness and collaborating with aspirational luxury brands who enjoy a natural synergy will naturally generate positive press coverage, increase brand equity and present cross-marketing opportunities. Some of the most successful partnerships may appear to be a natural extension, others may challenge expectations to create a genuine talking point. Think beyond a shared domain to cross-industry opportunities, be it beauty and travel, design and retail or sports and dining for example. Brand partnerships may make headlines: think of the queues outside H&M for the Balmain collection, Victoria Beckham lending her design input for the interiors for the Range Rover Evoque, or Hermes designing a series of straps for the Apple watch. Other partnerships are more subtle including Citymapper presenting Uber as an option for transportation within the app, or St James’s Place Wealth Management taking over Harrods for a private shopping event for its high net-worth clients. By marrying brands, new doors open for both, word spreads and new audiences are created.
Take Adidas as a case study. According to the Kantar Millward Brown’s BrandZ ranking, Adidas was the fastest growing brand of 2017 after seeing a 57% boost in brand value. In a recent interview with Marketing Week, Adidas Originals’ global director of digital and retail marketing, Swave Szymczyk, said: “Partnerships are definitely very important. As long as they are not only strategic but also reflect who we are as a brand and what we believe in, it really drives authenticity. You can talk about who you are as a brand all day long but having those partnerships to authenticate that message is really critical for every brand.” The company has formed a number of strategic partnerships, joining forces with initiatives such as Parley for the Ocean and launching a range of trainers made from recycled plastic found in the sea. This taps into the current societal focus on disposable plastics and saving the planet.
Regardless of the industry, brands will go through high and low points throughout the year. In hospitality, seasonality can be key. Brand collaborations are an intelligent way in which to increase brand presence during the quieter times or shoulder seasons. The key is to ensure that this isn’t a flash in the pan, a one trick pony or solo event. Brand partnerships may fall short of their potential if they fail to be viewed as a lasting partnership, achieving traction and a certain level of momentum.
The emergence of the digital space also opens the door to new possibilities. Consumers are living in a connected society where information is at their fingertips. The rise of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks are changing how companies reach and interact with key stakeholders, both business to consumer and business to business. It is important to consider how brand partnerships may and will be presented or referred to across social platforms.
A philanthropic message is also important when targeting an audience which has achieved a certain level of affluence. To further a brand’s philanthropic reputation, a charitable partner may be considered and this weaved into a marketing strategy. Through a carefully considered programme of media outreach and events, the ultimate goal will be to raise funds for the charitable partner. Brand positioning is enhanced through connections with sponsors, celebrities and possibly royal patrons.
For brands, particularly start-ups, a relationship with a communications agency provides instant access to a black book of media, brand partners, potential clients and a world of networking opportunities.
High quality media coverage, both consumer, business and trade, builds a reputation with all stakeholders. Elegantes London partnered with Bentley for a successful media visit to their factory in France where they produce their crystal flacons.
Steps to consider when assessing a brand partnership concept
1. Identify the business objectives of a brand partnership: is it to access a new market, increase brand presence, build on a societal trend?
2. Identify a market gap: consider where there is the biggest opportunity to make your mark
3. Identify the right partner: this may be a more established brand, or an up-and-coming innovator
4. Work towards a common goal: consider from the outset what you hope to achieve from both short-term activations and a longer-term partnership. Strategising now will maintain momentum and add value in the future
5. Identify each other’s strengths and areas of opportunity: there is a lot to learn from each other. See how any weaknesses can be plugged and advantages built upon collaboratively to reinforce the entire exercise
6. Plan to maximise attention: working with a PR agency experienced in brand partnerships will allow the creation of a strategy with media and influencers which will further extend reach and reiterate the value of the brand campaign
7. Make it happen! There is the saying nothing ventured, nothing gained after all.
Collaborations may hold the key to future success for luxury British brands. Brand partnerships fuel innovation, drive, creativity and the power to go beyond an established customer base and image.