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These days, there are so many opportunities for brands to engage in different kinds of partnerships to drive program growth. As you develop your strategies across the partner lifecycle, it’s important to take time to learn from other brands that are doing it right. These three powerful partnerships have made headlines through their innovative approaches—and provide plenty of lessons you can learn from too.  

1. GasBuddy and Audible

According to GasBuddy, a technology company and fuel savings program that crowdsources real-time gas prices across the United States, Canada, and Australia, buying gasoline is often a “grudge purchase” — one that is necessary but typically made unwillingly. In a recent session at the 2019 Retail Innovation Conference, Mark Coffey, EVP of strategic partnerships at GasBuddy, said its partnerships are designed to substitute that pain at the pump for pleasure. “Our partnerships . . . save you money on the things you need, so that you can spend on the things you like,” he says. 

That led to a successful partnership between GasBuddy and audiobooks leader Audible, which has awarded more than $100,000 in GasBack credits so far to GasBuddy users that sign up for Audible. Nitin Kartik, director of strategic partnerships at Audible, said that the company appreciates brands like GasBuddy that can scale and monetize a large number of users. 

> Lesson learned: Context is important. According to Coffey, an important reason the GasBuddy/Audible partnership works is that “context matters — audiobooks are consumed in cars, so there is nothing confusing for the customer.”  

2. Airbnb and 23andMe

As interest in heritage-based travel grows and consumer genetic tests enjoy super-trendy status, the partnership forged between vacation platform Airbnb and biotechnology/genealogy company 23andMe makes perfect sense. Each company promotes trips for those interested in traveling to study their family background. 

According to a recent announcement on Airbnb’s website, the company now has dedicated pages that correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations, so that travelers coming to Airbnb’s site will be able to easily plan an end-to-end heritage trip. In turn, 23andMe’s website will suggest trips and Airbnb homes/experiences based on users’ ancestry reports.  

> Lesson learned: Personalized experiences. The Airbnb and 23andMe partnership is all about offering personalized experiences to customers. There is no one-size-fits-all offer here. Can you think of a way to better target your partnership offers? 

3. Carnival Cruise Line and Michaels Crafts

According to a recent Chief Marketer article, Carnival Cruise Line uses partnerships in unusual distribution channels in order to stay connected to cruise-lovers during the typical two-year gap between cruises. One of its most recent partnerships is with Michaels, the largest arts and crafts chain in the United States. As Scott Becher, VP of partnerships at Michaels Crafts, put it, this partnership is all about reaching guests in an authentic way. 

Cruise guests can sign up for Carnival-themed in-store arts and craft classes at Michaels’ 1,200 stores nationwide, as well as participate in interactive “Make It with Michaels” experiences on board Carnival ships. Both adults and kids can create nostalgic, seasonal mementos and keepsakes such as keychains, bracelets, and picture frames. 

In Chief Marketer, Carnival’s VP of partnerships Scott Becher says the partnership is a way to stay top of mind with another like-minded brand. “This is about helping Michaels reach our guests in an authentic way and us helping to drive traffic to their stores with a great offer that we give our guests after they’ve finished cruising. We, on the other hand, get to introduce ourselves to their customers.”

> Lesson learned: Shared values. These are two brands that may not seem connected on the surface, but are both all about fun and families. Keep your partner’s values and your own authenticity in mind. 

Every brand looking to boost its partner program needs to dive into what strategies will help the organization meet its goals and take advantage of opportunities. These three are just a few examples of how top companies are upping their partnership game with unique, thoughtful connections that are a win-win for both companies. Challenge yourself to come up with your own criteria and out-of-the-box thinking for how your brand can go to the next level with partnerships this year. 

Want to explore unique partnership opportunities to grow your business? Talk to a partnership specialist by emailing

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