In a Crisis, Brand Partnerships Benefit Marketers and Their Customers
An extraordinary crisis requires an extraordinary response. Business consultant and author Luigina Sgarro wrote this about crises: “We discover our greatness when we find ourselves in a situation bigger than we are, and we manage to grow and become bigger than the situation.” Those are wise words these days, and one way to grow bigger than the situation your brand faces is finding a brand partner. Moreover, brand partnerships — when well-planned and executed — enable your brand to better connect with your customers, and you might be able to do the same for your new partner.
Here’s a great recent example: Athleta understands its customers, “real women,” ages 35 to 55, who believe in the power of being active and share the brand’s mission to empower women and girls. Yet, fitness activities can be challenging to accomplish in a time of social distancing and sheltering in place.
No wonder then that the San Francisco-based retailer has partnered with obé fitness to offer its customers a month of free live and on-demand classes, including Pilates, HIIT, and guided meditation. No doubt obé, too, is glad to get all of those new eyes on its classes. Win-win-win (including the customer)!
Another partnership sparked by the current crisis is that of Ford and GE Healthcare. The companies are teaming up to produce 50,000 simplified ventilators by early July, plus 30,000 more per month after that as needed.
Meanwhile, the meditation app Headspace is offering free subscriptions to 1.2 million healthcare providers and employees of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Obviously, they’re under incredible stress these days and could use some guidance on mindfulness. To determine whether your brand might consider a new brand partner in this time of crisis, ask yourself these questions:
What Are Your Customers’ Current Journeys During This Pandemic?
In other words, how have your customers’ lives been impacted personally, professionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually? What do your customers need from you now in terms of service or value?
Remember these are not just your customers, but people with full lives and huge responsibilities. They may be working full-time from home or away from home; caring for children, spouses, and parents; and also have to be strong for their families, coworkers, friends, etc. Some are caring for loved ones who are ill; others are forced to stay away from loved ones due to a coronavirus diagnosis. All situations can be hugely stressful.
What Do Your Customers Need From You?
Are your customers counting on you to provide a service or a value in this challenging time? Has your ability to deliver these services or values been impacted? In addition, how can you now thoughtfully communicate your ongoing brand decisions, offers, etc. while ensuring your messages are sensitive to the current situation?
What Can You Do Right Now to Help Your Customers?
Delivering on your brand mission might look slightly or hugely different from what it looked like just weeks ago. Now’s the time to think outside the box. What does your company do really well?
How can your leaders collaborate with one another to help your customers and/or your community? What do your customers count on your brand for? Do you need help from partners to deliver on an old brand promise or a new one?
Rethinking Plans With Brand Partnerships in Mind
The answers to these questions should lead you to your next step: potentially rethinking your 2020 marketing plans (and budgets) in favor of new and meaningful partnerships.
Doing so can introduce authentic threads of connection with customers to create positive and memorable brand experiences. Again, ask yourself questions:
- Does your existing 2020 plan still make sense for the current environment?
- Where can you offer support to your most loyal members through meaningful brand partnerships?
- Can you divert funding from a launch that's now pushed out until 2021 to support a new, important brand partnership?
- How can you support members virtually?
Let’s consider a couple of examples: We all know that spring breaks have been canceled across the country. Maybe that’s affecting your bottom line. Perhaps you need to develop a brand partnership that delivers a little bit of happiness related to your business — say, provide customers with access to a great new beach read or send out boxes curated with highly desirable partner items for highly valued guests.
Or perhaps your amazing annual event has been canceled. Now what? Maybe partner with an online service to deliver that content virtually. Challenge members to compete for the best photo op, complete with homemade costumes and props with fun digital backdrops (provided by your company). Forced hibernation feeds creativity! Regardless of your brand situation, perhaps you can continue to deliver great experiences virtually with the help of partners.
During this time of alarming predictions, forced hibernation, and numerous unknowns, your customers are, no doubt, feeling anxious over their extreme lack of control. They’re also yearning for emotional connection, mental stimulation, and a sense of community. Your partnership with another trusted brand might just provide that welcome calm in this storm.