Matchmaking skills can be a firm's best friend

In M. Night Shyamalan's recent film, The Village, an insular community is demonized by specters that mark peoples' front doors with stripes of red paint.

In M. Night Shyamalan's recent film, The Village, an insular community is demonized by specters that mark peoples' front doors with stripes of red paint.

To viewers, that stripe was frighteningly evocative. To Cornerstone Promotion, it symbolized synergy. Cornerstone was providing marketing services to Buena Vista for the film's release. Marketers often seek alcohol brand partners to underwrite refreshment costs for events. The firm's cross-promotional beer partner choice was obvious: Red Stripe.

"Bringing together noncompetitive brands that are going after the same target [demographic] has a real upside," says Cornerstone co-president Jon Cohen.

"I've noticed a significant increase in companies' [desire] to find co-marketing partners in the past two years," says Tom Freydl, co-MD of Ketchum's entertainment marketing (KEM) practice.

KEM reps diamond manufacturer Kwiat and Kodak, which, in August, announced its largest-ever integrated marketing campaign to unveil its switch from a traditional film company to a complete digital entity.

Kwiat, which Ketchum signed in January, sought a brand partner for the celebrity suite it hosted during Oscar weekend. Kodak, which had sponsorship naming rights to the theater hosting the Oscars, was seeking to add prestige to its rebranding push.

"It was an excellent opportunity to get [Kodak's] voice out there in pop culture and among the who's who," Freydl says. "The Kwiat brand helped Kodak [do that]."

When Cornerstone worked on Microsoft's 2002 Xbox launch, the agency realized that it could also help another client, Urban Outfitters. The firm developed an idea to involve both clients in an event-marketing push. Cornerstone set up a lounge environment in various Urban Outfitters shops where people could demo the Xbox. It also brought in client Phillips Electronics to provide flat-screen TVs and its new portable music player to the stores.

"It captured the consumer," says Cohen. "They could lounge and check out Xbox, and [Urban Outfitters] could bring a new experience to its consumers."

Both Freydl and Cohen say there are concrete benefits to uniting clients on events or campaigns.

"We make their job easier by taking care of something on their list, so they avoid [having to find] another brand manager," Cohen says.

Cohen stresses that the agency must make sure the partnership serves all parties tying the cross-promotional knot and must educate each client about the other's peculiarities and preferences.

He also says brands are sometimes not disposed to work on a parallel level with a partner.

Freydl agrees. "You have to be careful on how you position the initial introduction and [ensure you] balance the attention on both clients," he says. "If something goes wrong, you have a vested interest in both entities."

Cohen says that the agency also sees residual benefits.

"Brands can always benefit from leveraging other brands' attributes," he says. "[They] can learn from each other. Plus, it increases our clients' confidence in us."

Key points:

Make sure both clients share the same goals

Any attempt to force-fit clients into a campaign will reflect poorly on the firm

Realize that each client will demand equal attention and time

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