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A handful of lenses: five ways to assess potential marketing partnerships

When I was 13, we got a class assignment to watch TV commercials and figure out what “tricks” advertisers used. I was hooked in a heartbeat. Notebook in hand, I watched hours of TV commercials – toys, cars, detergent, beer... In my memory, this assignment dwarfs all others. In fact, I don’t really remember any other one. How to persuade people you cannot see? It had me from the get-go. But persuasion requires trust. And consumer trust is in short supply these days. So, the question I’m asking myself now is: How do we build a trusting relationship with our audience that earns incremental results for our clients? And one powerful way is by using partnerships. Typically, partnering with complementary businesses or media outlets. To design the best programs for our clients, and to build the best partnerships, we evaluate each one through five different lenses. Today I’d like to share them.

Lens 1: The consumer insight

As with everything in marketing, we start with consumer insight. What is today’s revelatory consumer issue to address? Sometimes, partnerships are a great way to address that burning question. For example, our client .inc , which provides .inc domain extensions to businesses, came to us with a tough but basic problem: their advertising efforts weren’t clicking. We came to the insight quickly: businesses shy away from buying anything but a dotcom domain in fear that it will negatively impact their search ranking. But they’re wrong; it doesn’t. We had the insight; next was the execution. To counter the myth, we partnered with Entrepreneur magazine to create entrepreneur.inc, a hub dedicated to educating business professionals. The program included a website, newsletters, webinars, and several other content vehicles. Another example, this one outside of our work, is the partnering of restaurateurs and wine merchants through the pairing of meal kit deliveries with wine subscription. This solves the consumer issue of “what to pair with dinner” and builds on the increasing trend in direct-to-consumer wine sales and of course, builds sales for both partners.

Lens 2: The cost base

Some partnerships have a very robust business case. The success of the partnership can then be a function of its finances, especially as advertising production costs decrease and high-quality creative production becomes more accessible. As an example, when it comes to influencer partnerships, there is a clear case to be made for partnerships where clients can enjoy access to high-caliber talent on an as-needed basis

Lens 3: The creative output

Every great creative knows it: you produce the best creative output when you intimately know your audience. Yet in many instances, marketers struggle to build creative campaigns within the confines of available resources. Here’s where partnerships can help again.Our client Zirkova Vodka came to us with a challenge of producing authentic creative ... as the country was shutting down during COVID-19. We had a lot of fun building a partnership with local producers to re-imagine the creative process and output. Check out the beat here. Often taking a leap and trusting a partner with a creative output takes your brand to new heights. Surprisingly quickly, you can change and elevate the conversation with your audience.

Lens 4: Speaking your audience's language

Partnerships can help you to speak your customer’s language. When I worked on the Popeye’s chicken account, we invited our most active Facebook users for informal interviews. In the process, we learned that the most avid Popeye’s fans also love basketball. From there we successfully built a partnership between the franchise and the Toronto Raptors. Getting to the audience exactly where they were, watching or thinking about Raptors’ games. Speaking their language, intercepting them where they live.

Lens 5: Building authority

Sometimes a brand must have authority. It can be the only way to compete in a crowded market.And this was what our client Cresa tasked us with. A global real estate firm operating in a competitive market, Cresa needed to build authority to be competitive. Quickly! The ‘quickly’ requirement called out for a partnership. By partnering with the Globe and Mail, we created a program that put Cresa and its principals in front of business decision-makers through leading Canadian business publications. Content that highlighted our client’s subject matter expertise got to the eyes of the right audience. There you go – five lenses through which to assess potential partnerships. I hope I’ve given you new ideas that help you in your next partnership conversation with your executives.

Mo Dezyanian is president of Toronto media consulting group Empathy, a professor at Centennial College’s School of Business, and a course designer for the Chartered Marketer Designation.