Affiliate Marketing: Big Brands Weigh In On What's Next

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“Affiliate marketing is dead.”

Well, not completely dead, Brad Clendenen, sr. technical product manager, Impact, explained at his afternoon session at Impact Growth in NYC this week.

It's just, different, Clendenen continued. Affiliate is growing into a system of high-value partnerships, rather than just “add-on value” for marketing organizations. Traditional relationships are giving way to more nuanced endeavors, as influencer marketing emerges as a new potential revenue stream. Attribution is also more accountable, as data becomes more connected and accessible across teams.

“When you expand your idea of what affiliate marketing is, the sky's the limit,” Clendenen said.

At Impact Growth, we got to hear from several prominent brands on how they're innovating their affiliate marketing programs. Here's some of the biggest takeaways:

Redefining the ‘affiliate'

Affiliates now come in all shapes and sizes, and brands are experimenting with different channels to find new revenue.

Coady Demuri, of Levi Strauss & Co., works with hundreds of influencer partners to secure both paid and earned media opportunities on social media.

“It's not surprising that people want to work with Levi,” she said, noting the need for influencers to have some freedom with when and how they promote a brand.  “If they want to promote us the way they want to, they could.”

BarkBox took a different approach. The subscription service partners with local animal shelters, veterinarians, and dog walkers, for more visually immersive campaigns.

“It's a whole experience, and you can't really show that in a banner ad,” Kirk Hausman, BarkBox, said.

Uber, a ride-sharing platform, built its entire business on strong partner relationships. Head of performance partnerships Keith Posehn says affiliate recruitment and management behaves the same way as a “sales funnel” does, and should be nurtured the same way,

“You should be looking at the number of new partners you get...and how many of those turn into conversions, and ultimately, into commissions,” Posehn said.

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