It has often been said that changing the way a brand is perceived is one of the toughest challenges for any marketeer to undertake. In many cases, what a brand stands for is something that has been developed over many years, with the resulting brand image re-enforcing the understanding and feelings that an audience holds over time.
But every now and then, an element of change may be required. This could be a new product being launched for a different audience, or the likes of cultural and environmental trends forcing a change of direction. What for so long has become a virtue or position of strength can quickly become a barrier to change.
Whatever the reason, marketing teams will be searching for ways to achieve this brand shift as effectively and efficiently as possible.
It’s at this point that partnership marketing can really flex its muscles and demonstrate why it plays such an important role as a marketing channel.
From the perspective of the brand, it is the power of association that is so valuable. The act of sponsoring another entity, in order to borrow valuable equity, is what makes it such a powerful marketing channel to aid re-appraisal or drive positional change.
In time, a clearly defined partnership strategy will fuel purposeful and powerful activations, from which a brand can begin to move in the direction they so desire over a sustained period.
Recently, we have seen examples of brands entering long-term partnerships with the aim of redefining a whole category.
Formula E, the fully electric single-seater racing championship, has become a powerful platform for brands within the petroleum and oils space to drive their re-appraisal and perception as more holistic ‘energy’ companies. A position that naturally fits far better alongside the wider sustainability agenda that is so prominent across the electric mobility and engineering landscape.
There are multiple examples of global petroleum brands expanding their motorsport presence into this space – with the subsequent partnership equity powering a new brand narrative suitable for sustainable and future-thinking energy brands.
Indeed, the power of Formula E to lend its credibility around sustainability goes far beyond the petroleum and oil industry. SAP’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team allows them to reach their B2B and B2C audiences via the unique filter that the sport provides, differentiating their partnership activation compared to anything else within their marketing mix.
Let’s take a second to consider the task of repositioning a brand in the eyes of one audience, without diluting the core message that is so important to another.
For so long, Dove have spoken to their female heartland in an honest and real way that drew much admiration. Their Real Beauty campaign changed the conversation around female beauty and empowered a whole generation of women to have the confidence to embrace themselves in a way that was unique in the category.
It is a hugely powerful and effective campaign and one that had to be considered when speaking to a male audience on behalf of their Men Care range.
Over time, they have utilised the power of their partnerships within rugby union to speak to a male audience in a way that works for them. Crucially, this has involved exploring the emotive side of sportsmen who, on the surface, have traditionally displayed a tough exterior shell. Not only have they supported their male product range when so much of their brand has been female focused, but they have successfully broken-down barriers within how the sport of rugby is perceived – thus allowing the fanbase to more openly discuss, embrace and purchase their product category – skin care.
Brand re-appraisal and successfully driving a brand narrative in a new direction is no easy feat.
To begin, we require a complete understanding of how the brand is perceived in the market, an oversight of the business challenges to be overcome, along with the desired end-goal or direction of travel.
Once this is clear, we turn our attention to sourcing the right partner that not only allows the brand to engage with their target audience, but also provides authenticity and credibility to help fuel the desired change of direction and narrative. For those brands that have already secured these partnerships, the focus is on leveraging the rights acquired in the most effective and efficient way, across the entire marketing mix, to re-shape brand perception, build a new story and positively engage with audiences both new and old.
Partnership marketing is a channel that offers up huge value, and brand re-appraisal is just one area that can benefit when it is executed successfully. It is never too late to change or be seen in a different way.
But it doesn’t need to be done alone. Finding the right partner to work alongside makes a tricky task a whole lot easier.
For more information, contact Right Formula Brands Director Damien Gillman here.