Across industries – from food and fashion to cars and technology – co-branding partnerships have been an effective tool to position a brand, create buzz, drive business or break into new markets. At the same time, it can be a challenge to find the right brand to partner with. So let’s look at what co-branding is all about, whether it should be your next move and what pitfalls it might entail.
Co-branding is a broad term, however, the short definition is when two or more brands collaborate and develop a new product or/and a combined marketing effort to create mutual synergy and value. There are different types of co-branding and no clear lines between them. Sometimes a sponsorship transforms into a form of a co-branding exercise (e.g. when Tuborg sponsors music festival “Roskilde Festival”) and others it is a clearly branded co-lab (e.g. when Marabou and Oreo team up for a chocolate bar).
Below is our take on how co-branding might help elevate your brand.
1 – Cement a position
As the world’s best-known energy drink, Red Bull has positioned the brand in relation to extreme sports. In a completely different category, GoPro, an American camera brand, has chosen to be an active player at almost any event involving adrenaline rushes.
In their latest collaboration, GoPro and Red Bull doesn’t merely sell cameras and energy drinks. Through their shared values, they sell an action-packed, fearless, and extreme lifestyle filled with adventures. This makes them a perfect match for a co-branding campaign without competing against each other. Rather, they support each other in their quest to redefine what is humanly possible and thereby the essence of adventure.
2 – Increase relevance
Co-branding can increase a brands relevance with a lost segment. Smirnoff’s collaboration with Vice is one example of this.
Smirnoff is already one of the largest vodka brands in the world. Yet, in a quest to become a greater part of the youth culture, Smirnoff partnered with youth media brand Vice to create the campaign “Equalising Music”. An initiative focusing on female artists and empowerment in the electronic music scene.
With a shared target audience – conscious urban millennials – the “Equalising Music” initiative increased Smirnoff’s relevance with the politically engaged Vice readers and Vice became a greater part of the clubbing and party scene associated with Smirnoff.
3 – Move your brand
Louis Vuitton and Supreme. Luxurious high fashion and cult streetwear. No one expected a collaboration between two iconic fashion brands that far away from each other. Yet, due to the differences, the initiative quickly became one of the most important collaborations in fashion history.
Supreme’s co-branding tactic is not a rare phenomenon. Since the early 90’s, Supreme has been one step ahead of all other streetwear brands by creating collaborations with the likes of Vans, Timberlands, Playboy, Brooks Brothers. And now Louis Vuitton. Supreme’s co-branding strategy has helped the brand remain one step ahead of the game and move the brand into contexts that few other streetwear brands have managed to enter.
4 – Create synergy
Earlier this year, we worked with new progressive Danish soft drinks brand Læsk. But how does a small brand break through in a crowded market? In Læsk’s case, one of the ways to gain access was by teaming up with the iconic coffee brand, Coffee Collective. Their joint effort helps position Coffee Collective as the progressive coffee company while allowing Læsk to be associated with some of the best craftsmen in the international beverage scene.
Today, Læsk got their own ingredient brand on their Swizzle. Working with Claus Meyer’s Nordhavn Vinegar Manufactory, the relationship between the two culinary experts make them stand out from the crowd and underline their passion for perfection.
5 – Enter new markets
In 2016, Chinese smartphone brand Huawei released in the Huawei P9 using Leica lenses in the camera. Besides from pioneering the camera function within the smartphone category, the partnership helps Huawei draw on Leica’s equity as a German quality lens manufacturer – a valuable association for a Chinese tech manufacturer.
However, the partnership doesn’t just add value to the Huawei brand. In return, the co-branding initiative helped Leica enter the Chinese market and become an established name with the discerning Asian consumers and China’s growing upper class. A win-win for both brands.
When you enter a collaboration with another brand, it is important to remember that you hand over some of the control of your brand. Versace’s partnership with H&M was a success until H&M became the scapegoat for the unsustainability of the fashion industry. We always advise brands to clearly align actions in order to create a better synergy. Although it might not be relevant at first, you might want to ask yourself: What if the brand I am working with ends up in a shitstorm?
Before entering such kinds of partnerships as above, we suggest any co-branding exercise is part of a larger strategy and not necessarily just a fun engagement. Therefore ask yourself:
- Is there any hidden agenda that might damage your brands?
- Does the other brand share your values?
- What is the purpose and aim of the collaboration?
- How will you measure the co-lab and follow up afterwards?
- Is it a win-win proposition?
Once having gone through the above checklist, hopefully, you will see how co-branding can make 1 + 1 equal 3.
Curious about how co-branding can boost your brand? Reach out to Strategy Director Christian Halsted at firstname.lastname@example.org and lets talk about your possibilities.
Photo credits: Redbull, GoPro, Læsk, Coffee Collective, ePHOTOzine