Chapter 4- Brand Expression

4.4 Brand Alliances

You can propagate your brand by increase the number of people - in particular, people likely to become your audience - that come into contact with a touchpoint as well as the number of touchpoints consumers have with your brand. This can be done through brand alliances. Brand alliances are partnerships that lead to shared value creation for both brands through association. You add value to someone else's brand, and they yours. Alliances help you gain access to new markets, raise brand awareness, and transfer perceptions of brand traits or brand image. But for them to be effective, there has to be audience alignment; the alliance has to appeal to both demographics for brands to benefit.
🤝 Are we Fit to be Allies?
A key criterion for forming an alliance is whether two brands have brand fit, or the extent to which the audience's brand associations share commonalities. How likely is it that the two brands would be friends due to their positioning and the functional, experiential, and symbolic benefits they deliver? Higher perceived brand fit leads to more positive attitudes about a brand alliance even for consumers who aren’t your core audience. For your core audience - and especially people who feel a strong connection to your brand - higher brand fit leads to increased sensitivity towards the justification for why that alliance is valuable. It’s hard to convince people to believe an alliance will deliver value when there’s a lack of brand fit, but high fit alone isn’t enough to convince involved customers that the brand alliance makes sense. Once you have consumers’ attention, you must clearly articulate how both brands contribute something meaningful to them.
Be wary of forming an alliance with another business solely because you have brand fit. Instead, ask yourself what the purpose of the alliance is and how a partnership adds value for each of the brands’ key audience groups. Both brand fit and persuasive arguments on why the partnership benefits consumers are necessary for a strong brand alliance.
You also can convince your audience that an alliance with a lower-fitting brand is worth investing in if the alliance is supported by strong enough arguments. But this is only possible if the alliance message is captivating enough to grab and hold their attention or if you can facilitate repeated exposure to the message.
Well-chosen alliances can produce "brand synergy," where customers perceive the allied brand as more desirable and credible than each individual brand. A few alliance strategies are value endorsement, bundling products and services together, ingredient branding, and joint promotions. To explain what these look like for food businesses:
👍🏼 Value endorsement - for example, sponsoring something - occurs when two businesses form a partnership because they want to achieve alignment of their brand values in consumers' minds.
📦 Bundling is offering products or services from multiple brands in one package.
🥣 Ingredient branding works by incorporating the other brand in your production process (for example, developing a recipe using another brand's ingredients). This benefits your brand in two ways: first, audiences familiar with the ingredient gain greater awareness of your brand; second, positive associations with the ingredient are transferred to your brand.
🤝 Joint promotions is a pretty self-explanatory term; the brands engage in mutually beneficial promotional activities.
While the synergy from alliances can enhance both profitability and brand image, partnerships that don't make sense to consumers will confuse them and seem inconsistent. Alliances should have brand fit as well as relevance to consumers; people should be able to easily understand why two businesses are forming a partnership.
👭 Common Alliances
You can find brands high in fit by going back to your positioning. For example, if your positioning falls into the "where" category, look for brands who share that location in their identity. If your positioning centers around the "why," look for businesses championing similar causes. For the "what" category, consider ingredient branding.
Alliances don't have to be with huge corporations. Small or mid-sized local businesses can partner with other such businesses, niche communities, and even relevant influencers. Here are two ways food businesses can create win-win situations through collaborations:
Co-create a product/service/experience
Alliance type(s): 👍🏼 Value endorsement | 📦 Bundling |🥣 Ingredient branding
Some food products naturally fit together - for example, coffee and chocolate, ice cream and candy, or small bites and wine. To extend beyond the food category alone, other offerings that share associative links are jewelry and dessert, yoga and lattes, and music and beer. Consider keeping a list businesses you see audience and brand alignment with, so you can easily ideate mutually beneficial projects.
Host events
Alliance type(s): 🤝 Joint promotions
If you have sufficient physical space, you offer the space to aligned brands, sharing your brand with potential fans. The brand organizing the event, be it business or community, introduce their audience to your business in exchange for the space, which comes at no additional cost for you since you're already paying rent. To minimize disruption to your business operations, you could do this during times your space is underutilized (eg. before dinner; after hours; at known slow times).
Hosting events can be a good audience-growing tactic even if you're not considering a brand alliance. You could reach out to groups on (for example, art classes, writing groups, language tutors).
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