The Risks of Toxic Brand Partnerships

How do you weigh the benefits and risks for brand partnerships?

How can you avoid partnering with Harvey Weinstein or Uber?

Why would any brand want to be associated with The Weinstein Companies after the startling revelations of alleged sexual harassment by founder Harvey Weinstein? And yet, that’s exactly where Lexus finds itself. For the past four years Lexus has been partnering with The Weinstein Companies to produce short films. David Nordstrom, global branding department general manager for Lexus, told Fast Company that the brand embraces the idea of tying its product to world-class filmmaking. “As a luxury lifestyle brand, we consider our role in the lives of our consumers and how we enhance their story by providing amazing experiences that inspire them.” This brand partnership between two sophisticated brands — one an academy award-winning studio, the other a luxury carmaker — sounded like an ideal joint venture. But was this ever a good idea for a brand partnership?

Companies with shared values who make commitments that go beyond the mere convenience of a brand partnership are more likely to weather a storm of bad publicity.

There’s a test called “prepare” that you can take when you are planning to get married. It has questions about values, situations, ethics and delves into family and finances. When you’re done taking the test you have a scientific review that identifies areas of compatibility as well as highlights issues that may cause friction or hardship in your relationship. Brands should consider this type of analysis before joining forces in any public partnership. The bottom line is that a successful brand partnership is really based on a shared sense of values and a clear understanding of where you may not agree with your partner. Many brands consider “a marriage of convenience” and think in the short-term rather than investing in a long-term partnership.

Founder of New York branding design firm Langton Creative Group, co-author of Visual Marketing, and adjunct professor at Hostos College/CUNY.

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