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Affinity Marketing - Definitions and Benefits

What is affinity / partnership marketing?

What benefits does affinity marketing offer as an element of marketing strategy?


Definitions - What Is Affinity or Partnership Marketing?

affinity n. - a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy. > a close relationship based on a common origin or structure.  

partner n. - a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business or firm with shared risks and profits.

partnership n. - the state of being a partner or partners.  

As the above definitions suggest, affinity or partnership marketing involves co-operative and mutually beneficial marketing initiatives between one or more product or service suppliers and affinity groups.  An affinity group is an organisation that already has a positive or influential relationship with a group of consumers and/or that has better access to them than can be achieved through normal marketing channels.  Affinity as a strategic marketing tool is therefore certainly not restricted to charities and can be applied in almost any sector.

 

End-consumers in affinity marketing partnerships may be individuals or organisational entities (businesses, clubs, etc).  The affinity group to which they belong or with which they otherwise identify may be:

 

  • A charity / other not-for-profit organisation.

  • Their employer.

  • One of their suppliers (and therefore any type of commercial organisation).

  • A membership organisation

  • A sports club, etc.

Affinity group members may therefore be customers, supporters, members, shareholders, employees or any other word that reflects an existing relationship or other affinity.  In order to appreciate the broad relevance of affinity marketing as a discipline, it is also useful to remember that affinity comes in different guises, including:

 

  • Cause-related:  Based on sympathy or support for a deserving cause.

  • Relational:  Draws on a consumer's sense of identity with something, somewhere or someone and their desire to demonstrate or enhance that affiliation or bond (eg nationality, family, pet, etc).  Affinity marketing in this context need not necessarily involve an existing organisation.

  • Aspirational:  Based on a consumer's sense of wanting to belong to a group of different social standing / status (perhaps ego-driven).

  • Self-interest:  Based on a desire to benefit personally from buying a product or service from a particular organisation.  Benefits usually take the form of loyalty points or perks / privileges associated with use of the product (eg free first class upgrades).

Some types of affinity group are able to draw upon more than one of these motivations in employing an affinity marketing strategy.  For example, ardent football fans may consider their club to be i) a deserving cause, ii) an object of relational affinity and iii) a source of personal benefit (eg via privilege benefits or discounts earned by purchasing affinity products and services).  

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What Are The Benefits of Affinity Marketing?

Effective affinity marketing delivers significant and tangible benefits for all parties - suppliers, affinity groups and end-consumers.

Suppliers

By marketing via an affinity group (commercial or not-for-profit), supplier benefits can include:

- A lower cost of sales (eg via lower marketing expenses).

- Higher customer lifetime value (eg achieved via better retention rates and/or higher purchase levels or values from affinity-based customers).

- Image/brand enhancement, from association with the affinity partner (whether by virtue of being seen to deliver benefits to a deserving cause or from alignment with an exclusive affinity group and/or premium quality brand).

- Operational efficiencies and benefits, including more accurate targeting of marketing communications (facilitated by the affinity group's data) and a deeper understanding of the target audience (facilitated by the affinity group's existing knowledge and the ability to conduct research with its members).

Affinity Groups

Different types of affinity groups will be looking for different things.  However, in general terms, benefits on offer include the following:

- Income, for example in the form of commission or profit share.

- More communication opportunities with members.

- Stronger affinity with members, particularly where the product or service is perceived as a relevant and added value proposition.

- Brand enhancement / extension on a lower cost and lower risk basis than becoming a true direct supplier of the product or service involved (perhaps as part of a phased market entry strategy).

End-consumers

Last, but no means least, the end-consumer benefits in one or more of a variety of ways.  Again, benefits will differ depending upon the type of affinity partner (charity or not-for-profit) and the type of product or service involved, but may include:

- Personal satisfaction, from knowing that they have triggered an indirect payment to their cause-related affinity group by virtue of their purchase.

- Confidence in their choice of product / service, due to the affinity group's endorsement or commercial association with the supplier.

- Direct benefit in terms of enhanced features and benefits of the product or service, perhaps tailored to reflect the nature of their affinity.

- Direct benefit in terms of preferential price and/or loyalty rewards.

- Convenience of the offer, through having the offer brought to their attention by the affinity group.

- Relevance, through better targeted marketing than the supplier's open market activities.

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