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What is Co-Branding and Is It Right for Your Business?

Nike and Apple. Doritos and Taco Bell. Starbucks and Spotify. These brands go together like peanut butter and jelly — and that’s no accident! It’s all thanks to the power of co-branding. In these collaborative partnerships, brands play off each other’s strengths and create exciting new products and experiences for consumers. And it’s not just mega-corporations who can do it: your small business can get in on the fun as well! Read our blog to learn how co-branding works and how to identify potential partners to grow your business. 

Co-branding is when two brands form a partnership. They play off each other and release joint advertising and marketing materials. Think Doritos and Taco Bell or Nike and Apple. It’s the perfect way to complement each other’s products and create a powerful double-brand experience for customers. 

But co-branding isn’t just for big brands. You may have already done something like it if you’ve used influencer marketing! Read on to learn all about co-branding and whether it’s right for your business. 

How Co-Branding Works

Lots of brands have collaborations or affiliate relationships. You’ve probably seen Starbucks or CVS inside Target or a Coca-Cola Freestyle inside an AMC theater. And of course, celebrities and athletes have long partnered with apparel brands to create awesome clothing and shoes (hello, Air Jordans!). But co-branding is unique in that the brands don’t just appear together: they feed off each other and lead to unique new products and experiences.

One excellent example is Starbucks’ co-branding partnership with Spotify. Starbucks has always embraced the coffee-shop stereotype of ambient pop and cool jazz, even selling CDs and handing out MP3 download cards at the register. But their Spotify partnership took Starbucks’ musicality to a new level. 

Starbucks added Spotify to its mobile app and tied it to its rewards program. Customers can listen to a curated playlist or create their own custom playlist for their Starbucks visit. Plus, they earn free beverages for their Spotify purchases. It’s a great way to encourage consumers to engage with both brands.

Is Co-Branding Right for You?

The best co-branding partnerships play off each other’s unique offerings. Notice how Starbucks and Spotify go well together because people often enjoy music and beverages at the same time. Another good example is Bonne Bell plus Dr. Pepper. The cosmetics brand was famous for making flavored lip balm a must-have; the soda brand was famous for its unique blend of 23 flavors. Naturally, they released a Dr. Pepper-flavored lip balm. (And it was delicious.)

So if you’re interested in co-branding, look for a company whose offerings complement yours. For example, many fitness brands find it useful to partner with protein powders, smoothie shops, or deodorant brands. A florist could partner with a print/design shop for custom cards. 

You can even partner with other brands in your niche if that suits your industry. For example, while microbreweries are technically competitors, they know that their beer-loving customers will often patronize multiple companies. So many of them will brew collaborative beers to whip up interest in both brands. 

What to Look for in a Co-Branding Partnership

When we look at the best co-branding efforts among big brands, we can see a clear formula for success.

First of all, at least one brand in the partnership has a passionate community — one might even say a cult following. For example, Pringles created a special limited-edition flavor based on the character Pickle Rick from “Rick and Morty.” The results? A massive buy-up of Pringles by the show’s many fans.

Second, each brand has a product that can be merged with their partner’s offering. This can be something literal, like the Doritos-enhanced tacos at Taco Bell, or virtual, such as the integration of Spotify into the Starbucks app. 

Third, the co-branding focuses on making customers feel like they can access exclusive perks and experiences. This is the secret sauce of any good branding effort, but it’s especially important here. Pickle Rick Pringles made “Rick and Morty” feel special. Anyone who buys Yeezy or Fenty sneakers feels like they’re getting a piece of Kanye or Rihanna. 

Also, look for ways that your most effective advertising strategies can boost each other’s campaigns. If you find most of your customers through your Instagram and your prospective partner gets a lot of walk-ins, offer an incentive for an Instagram check-in that tags you both.

Wrapping Up

Co-branding takes some planning and the right mix of creativity and convenience. Once you forge a strong partnership, though, it’s an excellent way to drive more customers to both your brands. The key thing to remember is that consumers want amazing experiences and high value for their money. The more you can cultivate in a co-branding partnership, the better results you will see!

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