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Branding a joint venture should be more than just slamming two or three company names together. A strong brand demonstrates the team’s strength and unity—better positioning the partnership to selection committees. A disjointed brand demonstrates potential problems that could occur down the road.

To start, decide if this effort is an even 50/50 joint venture. Most pursuits are not split evenly. Joint ventures usually have a prime vendor. However, there are different types of prime vendors, including:

  • a contractor on a design-build project working with an architect;
  • a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) firm with a larger company serving as a mentor; and
  • a mega company with industry expertise partnering with a smaller, local contractor with a local presence and subcontractors. This is the most common type of joint venture.
With each of these examples, the joint venture’s brand takes on the look and feel of the prime company. This decision is normally out of marketing team's hands and is spelled out in the joint venture agreement.

However, if it is a 50/50 joint venture, the following tips can help the team develop a brand that successfully represents both parties.

Benefits of a Strong Brand

Although time is short, unifying the joint venture team through a solidified, cohesive brand is vital to show the selection committee the team's unity and combined strength. If the joint venture’s brand appears disjointed, it confuses the selection committee and can sway their decision because they become concerned with a perceived lack of teamwork and unity. According to research from Hinge, "Inside the Buyer's Brain," the No. 1 thing B2B buyers, including selection committees, are trying to avoid are broken promises. This worry supersedes their concern over cost.

A fractured brand suggests potential internal conflict with the joint venture team, causing the selection committees to be leery and cautious. Miscommunication costs time and money, and no one wants to experience a project full of finger pointing, cost overruns and delays.

Challenges to Branding Joint Ventures

When a joint venture is an even split, there must be a unified brand to tie together the different entities. Unfortunately, joint ventures tend to take a while to form and are usually made official while the clock is already running. This delay puts the proposal team under the gun from the start because its regular proposal template and processes will not work for the joint venture. It needs to collect data from numerous people from different companies, many of whom have never interacted and are in different states.

However, there are ways the proposal team can create a strong brand for a joint venture when the clock is ticking away.

Path to a Well-Branded Joint Venture

Identify common elements of each company's culture, messaging and visual identity, such as colors used in their respective brands. If each company uses different colors, then pick a color not representative of a single company to show a unified front. A separate, project-specific name that is more than an acronym of the companies' names for the joint venture is also more appealing to the selection committee. Keep in mind, clients are looking for a single source to complete their project with as few problems and conflicts as possible. Your proposal and associated materials need to appear to be from a sole entity.

A strong brand is clear, well-positioned in the marketplace and differentiates itself from the competition—instead of mirroring the competition. The biggest value and differentiator for a joint venture is combined strength and expertise. A joint venture must be seen as an asset, not a liability.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula or silver bullet to unifying multiple companies’ brands. Companies must determine the joint venture's unified brand on a case-by-case basis. However, if the associated companies are genuine in doing a joint venture, then usually the companies involved have similar cultures, methodologies and processes, which makes developing a unified brand easier.

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