You’re probably familiar with the Michelin Guide, but have you ever wondered why that famous series of guidebooks is named after a tire brand?
In 1900, Andre and Edouard Michelin of Michelin Company fame decided to complement their core products – automobile tires – by publishing a guidebook for tourists. Their Michelin Guide was extremely popular, providing information on gas stations and roadside attractions along with driving tips.
But how did it help the Michelin brothers to grow their business?
They realized a handy, problem-solving guide to driving would encourage more consumers to invest in automobiles. And part of that investment would be, of course, the purchase of reliable tires from the Michelin Company.
One of the brothers’ contemporaries was American industrialist Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. Among Ford’s many great quotes is one that seemed apropos to the Michelin Guide project: “Life, as I see it, is not a location, but a journey. Life flows.”
The Michelins were on both a symbolic journey with their business and taking literal journeys through automobile travel. And they were there for the genesis of a business concept that we still embrace more than a century later:
Automobile tires and tourist guides are what economic experts refer to as “complements.” One product encourages the use of another product and vice versa. The Michelin brothers leveraged this notion of “complements” by diversifying their products to boost revenues and engage with customers.
During the 20th Century, this concept extended to separate companies that manufactured and sold complementary products while not in direct competition. These companies would often partner up for mutual benefit.
As we progressed into the Internet Age and now Web 2.0, we saw complementary branding expand to include a new wave of complementary tools. Interoperability is a central principle of Web 2.0. As a result, a stream of new cloud-based software tools enhance, extend, and leverage existing platforms.
Examples of Complementary Branding
- Want your brownies to be extra ooey, gooey, and chocolaty? The Betty Crocker brownie mix box says you can add chocolate chips, fudge, or syrup. And they recommend Hershey’s as the go-to brand.
- Energy drinks and portable cameras might seem to have very little in common at first glance. But once Red Bull and GoPro realized they both market to young, high-energy adventure seekers, they capitalized on their combined marketing clout.
- Nike and Apple partnered to introduce Nike+, athletic shoes and clothing equipped with the latest apps and tracking technology from Apple to measure exercise performance. Nike enthusiasts were enticed to use apps from Apple, while Apple devotees became more interested in purchasing Nike apparel for its convenience
If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It
Like any joint business venture, the success of a complementary branding strategy relies on what both parties bring to the table. You can’t have success without mastering two key elements:
Commitment: Complementary branding relies on a lot of moving parts. It might take a while to figure out how to strike the right balance as you consider the needs of not one but two businesses.
Communication: Communicate your visions and goals. If you slack in this department when things are going well, you may find yourself struggling to develop productive communication strategies during more difficult times. The two companies should also outline communication protocols for dealing with whatever challenges arise during the branding partnership.
Because of the challenges and potential pitfalls, complementary branding is not for everyone. Traditional business folks who are risk-averse and aren’t quick to adapt to evolving processes and markets might find a complementary branding deal tough to manage.
Complementary Tools Emerge
Just as brands can complement one another, so can software. It’s referred to as software integration. Even if you don’t know that term, many of us became familiar with software integration thanks to the remote work brought on by COVID-19. Think about how Zoom integrates with Dropbox so employees can have virtual, real-time conversations about shared content.
In my world, Leasecake is an example of a complementary tool that’s a must-have for teams managing multiple physical locations. The software provides a simple, easy-to-use interface for lease administration and location management. And as a bonus, it integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks, which is the gold standard for most franchisees and other multi-location operators.
Even if you think you’re already on top of lease administration, you might not realize how many details slip through the cracks. Using Leasecake paired with your favorite accounting software will simplify operations while also minimizing business risk.
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