Affiliates and Brand Building

Published by Chris Tradgett 27 August, 2020

Recently Chris Tradgett was in conversation with Simon Akers of Archmon in a webinar. We’d previously discussed how affiliates can be a key component in building a brand – and thought it would be the perfect subject for an online session.

The Webinar was streamed live and recorded on 25 August 2020. Here’s a few of the key points covered in the session.

Brand Building Through Partnerships

The art of ‘Brand Building’ has traditionally been the preserve of ‘above the line’ advertising in TV and print. Increasingly, in the inexorable move to digital, Simon shows how affiliates can contribute to building the brand.

The Context

Since the turn of this century, there has been a shift change in technologies – and with it, new channels to market. Traditional ads were always gauged on opportunities to view, something that has persisted with online display. There has been a move toward ‘performance’ modelling, though not in all areas.

Brand vs Affiliate

Affiliate marketing has always been a driver of innovation. First appearing only just over a year after the World Wide Web was invented, the model has stayed agile and innovative. During the CV-19 crisis it was about the only sector that was thriving.

So a divide has developed between the old world and new. In recent years the old guard have moved towards performance, using econometric data to prove the value. Several of the more traditional agencies are also moving into ‘affiliate’, as they grow their digital divisions, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Field & Binet

The Field & Binet study for the IPA, on marketing effectiveness, argued that Brand and Activation are both needed. And in fact, both aid each other. Each branding exercise was reflected in a short term sales activation as shown in the graph – the fuller report can be dowloaded below.

The last few months has changed everything, particularly in the retail sector. Footfall in the malls dropped to near zero and retail has moved online in almost all markets.

Ecommerce was already moving to become the lead channel. We see that in the fact leading retailers are laying off staff and closing outlets already, even before the end of the pandemic. There is much debate as to whether that trend will ever reverse.

Sponsored social media posts from leading brands also shows how much of their attention has moved to ‘pureplay’ online, as it was once known. Affiliate revenues have been growing significantly every year, despite the issues they face from ITP, 3rd party cookies and competition from other publishers. The pressure on commissions has been a factor, though steadily increasing traffic has meant that it’s still profitable.

The Opportunity

So with the further move towards performance, how can affiliates become an engine for brand-building? One of the main drivers for this lies in the core of ‘affiliate’ – relationships. It should also be noted that ‘affiliate’ as a model covers a much broader selection of partners than old-school techies and search affiliates.

The types of publishers monetizing their sites using the affiliate model has broadened hugely. Fashion bloggers first started to use affiliate links over 4 years ago as Google’s attitude to affiliate softened. Google had stopped penalizing publishers for using affiliate network links (we’ll explore this more in an upcoming Webinar) so it was a practical move enabling them to broaden monetization sources.

That has grown so that major publishing houses such as Hearst, Futura and News International are all using affiliate linking within their content. Sometimes that is via secondary systems like Viglink and Skimlinks, via major networks or even direct linking relationships. ‘Affiliate’ as a discipline has definitely grown up.

It’s the ‘relationship’ element in affiliate that is the key factor that makes this whole concept workable. It’s a core strength of the affiliate model and brands can educate affiliate partners to ensure they always remain on brand. It’s particularly important that affiliate types are managed effectively to avoid premium pricing being eroded.

Brand Awareness

While for some a CPA could be seen as a high cost, don’t forget that advertisers get free brand awareness. Publishers feature their brand – and are only paid for an actual sale. To take this further, extending your affiliate portfolio outside your immediate vertical (such as Louis Vuitton in Travel blogs), you extend your brand reach into sometimes entirely new audiences.

agency dynamics

You need to navigate agency dynamics to unlock these opportunities. Encourage transparency and open communication between all parties to make sure all parties’ objectives are aligned to support the brand.

Advertisers should use tools the find partnerships and inspire those partners to support the brand objectives. The Agencies should build relationships with these key partners – and publishers also need to make the agency and advertiser teams close contacts.

The Bottom Line

To summarise, affiliates are central to the digital channel. Despite the branding / performance dichotomy, research shows that they should and can work together. Where brands are working with affiliates, recent months have also proved ‘affiliate’ to have been inherently resilient over H1 2020.

Brands and advertisers have flooded paid social channels, so much that there’s almost too much noise. So diversifying branding messaging through the affiliate channel can help the brand regain share of voice. Here’s the opportunity that brand advertisers need to grasp:

branding opportunity

You can see the recording of the full session below. You can also check for other upcoming webinars and Events page.

If you’ve not tried out our platform to find new affiliates, you can take a 7 day Free Trial:

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View the Webinar Recording

About Simon and Archmon

Simon Akers is a performance marketer at heart. He founded the growth marketing consultancy, Archmon, delivering strategies for clients and partnerships that yield greater performance from media spend.

He is widely experienced in customer acquisition, client development, commercial strategy and media partnerships. He brings his knowledge of the direct response, digital, data-driven and performance focussed advertising to this event.

Archmon is a new performance media consultancy and model for the advertisers who are looking to the future of media investment.

Resource: Download the Field & Binet study for the IPA


Chris Tradgett

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