If any one word could lay claim to the zeitgeist of the last decade, it’s “community”. Obviously “community” has been a core driver of human behavior for millennia, but the past ten years have championed the term as the essence of not only how we market ourselves, but how we operate our businesses. As of a few years ago, it stopped being enough to have a good product; you also had demonstrate how your product, or your profits, benefited the community at large.
This can be an overwhelming idea to startups or brands in crisis, who often suffer from a lack of exposure (or worse yet, an abundance of negative opinions). How are they supposed to break through the gut-wrenching, face-melting din of modern media and transform into an instinctual, essential part of customers’ daily lives?
I’ll tell you what: you’ll get there a lot faster if you stop thinking about “community” and start thinking about “collaboration”. Having a good product and community benefit at heart isn’t the secret anymore; you have to demonstrate how your brand fits alongside the brands that have already established themselves with your audience and can draw a clear line between the product they offer and the betterment of mankind. So how do you find them?
- Build a customer profile. Build several, for that matter. Marketing, advertising and PR agencies have been doing this for decades, and there’s a damn good reason for it. Building a profile for your ideal customer allows you to envision the nuances of their daily lives, including the types of brands that are so essential they’ve basically become thoughtless reflexes. Your goal is to be so well-known that no one thinks about you at all.
- Figure out why their chosen brands are essential. For many of them, the reasons may be far from practical. Dive deep into your lizard brain and analyze how the brands in your daily life deliver comfort and validation. Understanding your customers’ emotional needs will make it easier to see how your product, service or idea can double-down on the real, intangible benefits those other brands deliver.
- Realize that it’s 2016 and brands = media. That means thinking like a journalist. Brands used to live entirely at the mercy of the media and what it chose to expose, but now the relationship is different. Brands’ best shot for long-term exposure is collaboration with media to produce meaningful content, hence the meteoric rise of guest columns, sponsored posts, brand journalism and content marketing. While you’re thinking about the brands your customers consider essential to daily life, explore which media they consider essential too. Consider that media relationships are the brand relationships you covet, and thus, the onus is on you to create the informed, unbiased, interactive content – with input from independent influencers – that media will want to provide to readers.
- Read their quarterly and annual reports. I don’t care how you feel about 30 pages of pie charts and long-winded mission statements. These reports not only deliver much of the transparency that millennials and entrepreneurs crave, they give you an immediate idea about where the brand is expected to go, and how it plans to fit in customers’ ecosystems, now and in the future. You’re not looking for a firework. You’re looking for a satellite.
Successful brand partnerships are now a critical part of strategic exposure and long-term business growth. They don’t just burgeon one-off ideas – they establish positive associations, pool resources and allow brands to continuously learn from each other. If you’re looking to get your business off the ground, make sure at least one member of your team is dedicated to exploring partnerships, not just investors, with great potential. Too short on time? Here’s a partnership to kick things off.