Negative Brand Association

Brands partner with other brands all the time for various reasons.  One motivator is to help improve your brand preference.  By associating with another brand that your customers view positively, you hope customers will, over time, associate the two brands together and thereby provide a halo benefit.  One example would be the NFL’s partnership with the Susan G Komen foundation.  Another motivator for partnership can be customer acquisition.  An example here would be AARP’s partnership with Consumer Cellular.  This partnership provides AARP with a selling point to prospective customers (join and gain access to these discounts) and it provides Consumer Cellular with a customer acquisition channel.

However, in all partnerships you need to be cognizant of the risk to your brand if your partner’s brand becomes tarnished in any way.  Recently that became an issue for a number of businesses that had a partnership/association with the National Rifle Association.  Companies like Bass Pro Shops, United Airlines, Delta, Cabelas, Hertz, and others have/had some form of partnership with the NRA that weren’t heavily marketed but the brand association was there.  Following the school shooting that took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, students and other activists brought visibility to those relationships.  Facing public scrutiny, some of those partners have chosen to end their association with the NRA while others have reaffirmed their support.  This article from Inc. talks about some of the companies that have severed ties and this article from Newsweek talks about those that have chosen to stand by the partnership.

While this particular topic may be politically charged, you can hold a discussion on the concept of partnerships and the risks and rewards of brand association.  How should companies make decisions about choosing the appropriate partner and how should they evaluate that relationship when the brand status of one partner changes?  How do corporate values factor into that decision?


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