Partner Marketing vs. Affiliate Marketing: Setting the Record Straight

Jan 27, 2020
Written by Kelly Merkel

Partner marketing is affiliate marketing. Playful semantics do not change what is true and what has been true for the last 20+ years—this industry is alive and thriving. Kelly Merkel, VP of Publisher Development, is here to set the record straight once and for all.

Our publisher partners and the value they provide in reaching consumers continues to be essential to our advertisers’ business. While sensationalist marketing may attempt to tarnish the reputation of a highly valuable, consumer-centric marketing channel, we’re strong believers in the value that our publisher partners bring to the table.

Affiliates = The Value of Affiliate

Consumers expect value. They look to trusted third parties to inform and validate their shopping and purchasing decisions—what to buy, where to buy, and when to buy. If a trusted friend tells you that the new espresso machine they purchased from their favorite coffee store is life changing, you’ll take it much more seriously than if that coffee store tells you the same thing. From new and emerging affiliate partnership opportunities, to our tried-and-true consumer value-drivers, affiliates—and therefore affiliate marketing—provide immense value to your shared consumers like no other channel can.

We’ve made a lot of big statements around the value publishers bring to the table. We’re not just talking a big game. Check out the impressive results of our Affiliate Incrementality Study, the largest ever conducted. In a study of over 21M consumers and 5.5M transactions, we uncovered that affiliate shoppers drive 88% more revenue than non-affiliate shoppers. They spend more and purchase more frequently which delivers long-term, sustainable, growth. Affiliates are sophisticated, consumer-centric, and continuously pushing the envelope. Highly sought-after consumers recognize this fact, and so do we.

Network Recruitment Drives Growth

While brands recognize the consumer reach publisher provide through their unique business models, less thought may be given to introducing new partners. What advertisers may not realize is just how valuable publisher recruitment is. Recruiting new partnerships is the lifeblood of growth. In fact, 60% of program revenue over a 5-year period comes from publishers recruited into Advertiser programs after the first year.

CJ’s Publisher Development team is uniquely set up to identify and nurture new partners and business models through our onboarding process. We're constantly evaluating new publishers, helping to grow their overall business, and introducing them into our network. Through 2019, we created over $200M in revenue for our advertisers with publishers that were cultivated through our onboarding efforts.


But I want to make a critical distinction—recruitment is not a replacement for longstanding and fruitful partnerships. Both new and existing partnerships are needed for success. We do not believe in a set-it-and-forget it approach to any partnership.

Relationships Matter

You’d never use a cookie cutter campaign to reach new consumers, so why would this sound like your best bet for developing new partnerships? Publishers are bombarded with messages by all networks and platforms they work with, which can be overwhelming. For true partner-friendly recruitment, you must take a more personal approach.

CJ’s Publisher Development team works hard to set up publishers for success and devotes time to cultivate relationships. We believe in aligning business needs and creating truly beneficial strategic partnerships. We are the leader in affiliate marketing and part of leading our clients (vs. just pleasing them) is developing business strategies that strengthen all involved in the affiliate relationship: advertisers, publishers, and the consumer. This is true partner marketing and has been core to affiliate marketing since the beginning.

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