Magazine article Marketing

Any Prospective Marriage Needs a Little Guidance

Magazine article Marketing

Any Prospective Marriage Needs a Little Guidance

Article excerpt

Alliances are all the rage. In marketing circles, the motives of the participants are dissected and pronounced to stem from pioneering, customer-led innovation, or from defensive desperation. Whatever the motive, what is certain is that we are living through a kind of debutante season: IBM flirting with Apple, BA dancing with American Airlines (with US Air in the role of corporate wallflower), Shell wooing Sainsbury's to make up for its own retail problems (a cross-cultural match) and BP getting into bed with Mobil (why should this prospect be music to our ears?)

Smart companies, smart moves, smart cards. But how smart are they? Because they do vary in nature so much, it's difficult to generalise, but they don't seem to be very smart at making something perceptually new and original out of an alliance, or especially at bestowing one with some sort of identity of its own. It's usually a case of one plus one equals just another service brand, not a rounded reality with its own driving forces, character and aims.

How can you relate to them? Alliances are often seen as having no substance, no culture, no tangible existence. 'Integrion', for example, (an alliance between IBM and 15 US banks) sounds like a character out of a back number of the Eagle. There's certainly no sense of the cultures of the 15 banks, nor of IBM.

Now let's consider the life expectancy of these mutants. An unacceptably high proportion of mergers and acquisitions fail because of 'soft' factors (which are in truth the hardest) such as culture. …

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