socializing with other brands

June 9, 2009 ·

your website is its own little plot of turf, your own little slice of the internet pie. it's relatively small compared to a content site, or a social media site, and only a small portion of your total market. but it's yours. you worked hard to get it. every other brand has theirs too, of course. sure there's some overlap, that's bound to happen. for the most part, each brand dots the webisphere with their own ecosystem.

we message our communities, draw them back in with the latest marketing push. each push nets us a few converts from casuals and we hope they become loyalists. still, though, our galaxy remains small.

we use our media to expand our presence in the market and reach new prospects. most of these are impressions to an audience who largely ignore our efforts (any debaters can read anything on industry CTRs). this gets us attention and is responsible for that bump in visitors we get during active times.

those are the channels we have been using in our marketing so far. i think there is another untapped world for us to amass new customers. recall the graphic above, there's a whole galaxy of brand websites in this universe that sit in isolation with communities ripe for accessing.

we (and i mean the industry) talk about being social with our consumers and building relationships with them. what about socializing with other brands?

let me explain.

your communities, like any other, are comprised of a group of like-minded, highly engaged consumers, who have a certain degree of affinity for the brand to the point of wanting a deeper, ongoing relationship with it. just like the types of consumers we all want, right? well, if every other community is like that, don't we want to be there? aren't those more qualified prospects given the level of engagement they've already exhibited for another brand?

in overly simplistic terms, i'm talking about corporate alliances, though its much more than that or a web 2.0 version of it. the widely known incarnation of this partnership is mostly product related. ford with microsoft sync technology or intel with any number of computer makers. there's also the media partnerships that are commonplace. this could be in the form of a sponsorship, content syndication, advertorials, intellectual property sharing (think free downloads on a site with a record label deal) and most recently, application/widget embedding.

the situation i'm talking about here is, in effect, brand sites becoming a media vehicle for other brands.

before i venture into why this could be good practice, let's establish why it isn't practised currently. traditional marketing of brands has been fiercely protected. anything resembling a branded message is hallowed ground. every inch of a print ad, every second of a tv spot, every pixel of a website has to be dedicated solely toward delivering the brand. i think that's a somewhat outmoded notion in an open-source, sharable, digital world.

at least for a website, this is absolutely true, and that's the application i'm interested in here. the interconnected and limitless web leads to plenty of room on a brand website to be just that way with other brands.

to be clear, you're not saddling-up with your competition, but rather with a like-minded brand, in a different but complimentary category. i guess you're competitors for a person's time and attention, which is the new economy of marketing, but done right, the consumer is rewarded and doesn't object (or object as much). it ceases being competition for attention and becomes cooping attention.

so why consider this?
  1. well, there's the aforementioned access to a qualified and responsive group, predisposed to being in a brand's community and open to it.
  2. there's a value proposition to your own audience in having another like brand with something to say and offer your community and theirs.
  3. corporate goodwill is going to spring up.
  4. the companies can share and collaborate on getting the most from the relationship. this is in sharing data on marketing in general, but also specifics on performance of the co-venture.
  5. new ventures between the two brands/companies can arise that are mutually beneficial and valuable to the consumers.

how might this look?
  1. for starters, i don’t think this is an instance where you have more than a few partnerships going at any one time. you don’t want to whore your brand out and have your site look like the worst of cluttered content sites. i say focus on 1-3 really strong connections and building these up.
  2. this isn’t an ad or a banner on a brand site. it needs to have purpose, it needs to have value, and it needs to be strategic. think about the connection and how best to work it.
  3. it’s not just your website, but your other brand outposts as well. fan the brand on facebook and share that way. follow the other brand on twitter and have dialogue there. this has the added side-effect of humanizing the brands as they are doing human things.
  4. perhaps go so far as to extend this to your media units. if it’s a good partnership, it might be a good idea to exploit it through media.
  5. it should be reciprocal in some way.
  6. the partnership isn’t with just any brand, but with one that shares many common traits and target make-up.
  7. doesn't have to be incredibly long-term. maybe the partnerships rotate with some frequency, which just opens up more connections.
that’s my take on the matter. i think there’s room to do this and tremendous opportunity in doing so. brands are set to open-up in this new age of digital and this is another step towards that. if it's being done, it's not being done as cencertedly as i'm talking here. maybe it's a logo, but there's lots more valuable things to do than that.

what do you think? is this good territory for brands to dabble in?




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