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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

Co-Branding is on The Rise (And For Good Reason)

Updated: May 13

Imagine if your two favorite musical artists of all time announced that they’ve gotten together to form a supergroup; and that they’ll soon be releasing an album together. I’m sure you’d probably feel like a kid on Christmas Eve awaiting the release of their joint album (which has already happened if your two favorite music artists are Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak aka Silk Sonic).

When an act like that takes place, it’s called co-branding. Co-branding is a strategic partnership between multiple brands—often in a collaborative effort to provide a service or sell a product to a joint audience.

Due to so much noise in the market at the moment demanding the attention of consumers, brands are co-branding now more so than ever in an effort to generate interest and intrigue towards their offerings.

If you’ve never thought about co-branding before—here's why you should now strongly consider doing so.

There’s strength in size

Every year, some of the biggest musical acts in the world go on tour with other acts that are just as popular as they are—or, have an adequate following in regards to their fanbase. But have you ever wondered why huge artists like Lady Gaga still take other acts on tour with her even though she’s a megastar in her own right?

The reason why is because although she’s a major act that could probably draw a crowd large enough to fill a major arena on her own, by bringing other artists with her on tour—together, they could fill up stadiums by combining their fanbases, while also giving their audience more bang for their bucks.

Well, the rationale for brands that engage in co-branding—whether it’s for a product or a service, is that by co-branding, they’ll have a much better chance at generating more revenue or publicity by combining their audiences.

Make no mistake, at its core, co-branding has nothing to do with one brand necessarily depending on another brand. Co-branding is sort of like influencer marketing. Two brands bring their fan bases and resources together to accomplish a common goal.

Some of the most popular and independent brands in the world often utilize co-branding for that same very reason. For example, Nike and Louis Vuitton recently combined their forces when they collaborated for the launch of the “Air Force 1” by Louis Vuitton and by Virgin Abloh—which is the first Air Force 1 shoe crafted outside of a Nike factory.

Obviously, both Nike and Louis Vuitton are extremely strong brands in their own right.

However, the partnership works exceptionally well for both brands. When news of this collaboration leaked online—it drove fans of both brands into a frenzy. Which led to immense anticipation for the release of the sneaker—exemplar of the power of sensical co-branding.

Commonality saves calories

Here's a fun fact, believe it or not—when humans spend time evaluative thinking—it actually burns calories! Which is good news…right? However, the bad news is that the human body naturally doesn’t want to burn calories unnecessarily. Therefore, the mind constantly looks for shortcuts to avoid evaluative thinking in order to save those precious calories.

Another benefit of co-branding is that it could help the your audience save calories in their brain by creating mental shortcuts that'll help them derive a positive perception about your brand—simply by its association with another brand.

For example, American football is the #1 sport in North America. And the NFL is the premiere league for American football. Many adult football fans like to enjoy a beer or two while they watch an NFL game. Bud Light is an NFL sponsor as well as the official beer of the NFL. So, whenever Jill is watching her favorite NFL team on television—she’s almost certain to see the words Bud Light come across her screen.

Subconsciously, whenever Jill decides that she wants to enjoy a beer while watching her favorite NFL team on television—to avoid evaluative thinking—her mind instantly associates Bud Light as being her first beer option.

By co-branding, the partnership between the NFL and Bud Light has been great for both brands. The NFL gets a partner that represents the image of its average consumer (as well as the sponsorship dollars that comes along with it). And Bud Light gets to align itself with America’s most popular sports league—which has helped the brand hold on to its title as the top-selling beer in America.

In his book, Building a Storybrand, author Donald Miller, explains how the human mind creates shortcuts based on commonalities, “Remember, the human brain likes to save calories, so when a customer feels they have a lot in common with a brand, they fill-in all the unknown nuances with trust.” When one brand becomes closely associated with another brand—the audiences for both brands automatically yield trust for the other.

As Miller says, “Essentially, the customer batches their thinking, which means they’re thinking in chunks rather than details. Commonality, whether taste in music, or shared values, is a powerful marketing tool.”

It creates an unfair advantage

Going back to that hypothetical scenario of how you would feel if your two favorite music artists of all time were to ever get together and create an album; now, try to imagine how you would feel if you—yourself, were a solo artist in the same genre as your super group, and the group decided to release their debut album on the same day that you decided to release your album…and you couldn’t push your album back.

It would be hard enough for you just to compete with one of those artists as a solo act; but to have to compete against both acts coming together for the first time to release a joint album—would put your album at a total disadvantage as far as sales and publicity is concerned, due to the odds that the media, and fans of your genre—would be so focused on the supergroup—your project would likely become an afterthought in the genre.

This is another reason why co-branding is so effective—it gives your brand an unfair advantage over competitors in its category by capitalizing on the attention and resources that two brands could configure by working together—as opposed to just going it alone.

And with 71% of consumers stating that they enjoy co-branding partnerships—the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to co-branding.

Fair warning

Now that you know some of the benefits of co-branding. I'd be remiss not to warn you of the potential problems that could also come along with co-branding—if it’s not done correctly.

If you do decide to engage in co-branding, be sure to approach the venture with the mindset that it must be in the best interest of your brand first! Which means any brand you choose to align with yours, should make for a sensical partnership—for your brand.

Of course, you’d want the partnership to be mutually beneficial. But your first responsibility is to your brand. If a potential partner’s brand values and image doesn’t align with yours, and doesn’t make your brand look more favorable to your target audience—it’s not an opportunity worth the risk of even entertaining.

Also, when contemplating on the possibility of co-branding—be certain that your brand isn’t positioned to be perceived as the follower in the partnership. The co-brand should always be aimed towards your brand coming out looking like a leader in its category—instead of being perceived as the Luigi to your partner’s Mario (Google Super Mario Bros. if you’re too young to catch that reference).

“Branding is a leadership issue. It’s about differentiation, not blending into the wallpaper.” Says author and branding expert Rob Frankel, in his book, The Revenge Of Brand X. “So while it may seem tempting to ally yourself with other companies sporting other brands, keep in mind that there can only be one lead dog pulling the sled. Your brand.”


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