How publishers can avoid the pitfalls of brand partnerships

Nick Howse, managing director of Howse Jackson Marketing, is a brand partnership specialist who has worked and consulted for some of the UK’s major publishing groups including Bauer, Haymarket and IPC Media. 
Brand partnerships within publishing are on the rise, even more so as traditional business models go into decline and publishers search for new revenue streams.  Some of these partnerships are on the very edge of core competencies, and require publishers to drop their comfort zones and put 100 per cent trust into their new brand partners.
I’m referring to recent examples such as Condé Nast’s Self magazine which partnered with Benevida Foods in the States to launch the Self Healthy Kitchen Line of frozen food ready meals;  IPC’s Look magazine partnering with the online retailer Simply Be to launch its own fashion collection; and The Telegraph’s new polo channel launched in partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre…
Many publishing partnerships like these are doing very well.  Indeed, earlier this month The Times came out on record to state that its exclusive partnership with Spotify has been a major triumph. Since February this year, Spotify has been offered with two Times “packs”: The Digital Pack, which costs £6 per week, and The Ultimate Pack, which costs £8 per week. Claire Gribben, head of Times+, the company’s loyalty program, says the offer is having “a really positive impact on current subscribers” as well as attracting new ones.
But what happens when things don’t go quite so well?  Normally, both parties slink off into the sunset with barely a murmur.  Social media goes quiet and it’s often a few months before anyone realises the partnership has finished.  Indeed, the only time that any noise is heard is usually when two parties end up in court. 
A case in point is Swatch and Tiffany Jewellers, admittedly not publishers, who earlier this year slugged it out in court resulting in a $450M fine for Tiffany’s.  To put that figure into context, it amounts to Tiffany’s entire profit for 2012, and then some.  At the initial hearing, both parties accused each other of failing to honour the terms of their initial partnership.  And therein lies an essential rule of brand partnerships: ensure your brand partnership is legally watertight.

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