A guide to developing brand partnerships 

Tamara Gillan discusses how certain brands have engendered loyalty in their customers with brand partnering.

In the UK, a shocking 42 per cent of marriages are now said to end in divorce; that’s 13 every hour. When one considers just how much time, energy and money people have invested in their marriages, it’s a sad state of affairs. When it comes to brands however, the outlook is even worse, as figures reveal that in highly competitive markets such as utilities, a whopping 100,000 customers leave their supplier each month. That’s 1,300 an hour. In telecoms, this number is actually double. It’s a wonder some of these companies can manage to stay in business!

The thing is, it’s actually easy for customers to go elsewhere, simply because too many brands fail to pay sufficient attention to their needs. They don’t understand what their customers really want, nor do they realise that they expect more than an annual birthday message in return for their loyalty. Just as with any relationship, people want to feel genuinely valued and rewarded for what they put in, and in the modern corporate landscape they don’t.

However, it is possible for brands to develop ‘happy ever after’ relationships. We’ve also proved that it’s definitely worth the investment. All that needs to happen is for the right brand partnerships to be created, giving customers access to things they need and desire, which in turn makes the grass on the other side so much less greener an alternative.

1. Understand what your customers want and own it

Understand what it is that has deep emotional meaning for your customers, then own it. O2 Priority was founded on the simple insight that customers want to feel important; to be a priority. O2 Priority works with its brand partners to give customers unique access and rewards linked to the things they love, but which it previously wasn’t able to offer on its own. It understands its customers’ passions – music, sport, fashion, film, eating out, shopping – and then liaises closely with partners to offer rewards and experiences which fulfil these passions. As if this wasn’t enough of a game changer, it crucially uses technology and targeting to deliver these rewards when it matters most in its customers’ lives.

2. Be unique

Many brands fall into the trap of assuming that loyalty can be won by offering deals readily available in the market. It can’t. This might be a service, even a useful one, but it isn’t the reason that customers stay with them. The key to success is different from convenience and familiarity; it’s distinction and exclusivity.

Vitality, offering free Virgin Active fitness assessment, is a great example of a brand providing a good reason for customers to stay. On the other hand Barclaycard Bespoke’s platform of predominantly market offers is not. It does of course create a useful revenue stream for their business via B2B monetisation, but that’s a very different objective, and doesn’t address the core issue of lack of customer retention. Offering a unique proposition, with unique offering, would help greatly in keeping their customers happy and loyal.

3. Create a big, stand-out idea

CleanSpace is a new app that connects individuals and organisations to improve the quality of the air that we breathe. Empowering individuals to make small changes which collectively make a big difference, the app also informs and incentivises, providing localised air pollution levels, cleaner route information, and whenever a member walks, runs, or cycles, awards them CleanMiles, which can be redeemed for rewards with partner brands.

4. Find your perfect moment

Our ever-growing dependence on technology means that modern consumers demand and expect contact that is relevant and appropriate to them. Aviva Drive utilises the power of the smartphone to reward people for the way they drive their cars during a 200-mile test, tracked via GPRS, with exclusive benefits tailored to them.

For BloominGirls we created a lifestyle campaign which presented sport in a new way; outside of the school environment and linked with three of their top key passions; music, beauty and fashion. We held a free one-day festival in Manchester. Participants had the opportunity to trial non- traditional sports set to music with hot UK girl band, Neon Jungle. We also collaborated with fashion and beauty brands young women trust and love like Boohoo, Make Up Academy, Batiste and Babyliss and rewarded them with free pampering sessions. In a consumer market which is increasingly demanding, disloyal and overcrowded, the right brand partnerships aren’t merely useful in attracting and retaining customers; they’re absolutely critical. We’ve proved that brands occupying even the most competitive markets can make customers wish to stay with them, in the face of even the most aggressive switching deals from hungry rivals.

To achieve those ‘happy ever afters’, it’s important to first understand what your customers really desire, as well as what they need. By unearthing their emotional pulse, then bringing them something relevant and unique that appeals, you’ll strike gold.

If brands today are going to stand a chance of being noticed and finding connections amid all the noise and crowds, they have to be bold and brave. Turning failing fortunes around, or being a game changer, means creating a new, big idea you can deliver meaningfully and personally to your customers in the right place, at the right time and in the right way.

Developing brand partnerships isn’t a lazy, casual affair. It’s about carefully bringing brands together to complement and act as catalysts for each other. Through Cherry London, brands can work together for their customers’, harness their mutually beneficial strengths and enable each other to think bigger, be bigger and achieve greater.

Tamara Gillan is CEO and founder of marketing agency Cherry London.

Further reading on branding

Tamara Gillan

Tamara Gillan is an entrepreneur and founder of Cherry London, a marketing and brand relationship building company.

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Brands & Branding

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