It takes two: why co-branding should be on your agenda

Branding, Communications, Design, Brand Marketing, Creative

Staff Writer 16 Feb 2023
5 mins

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Co-branding or collaboration can be a powerful tool for business – leveraging the strengths of different brands can create a more compelling and unique offering.

My introduction to co-branding came via the world of fashion and menswear during high school. Like many other teenagers in the ‘00s and the ‘10s, I developed an unhealthy obsession with sneakers, and often the most sought-after were co-branded.

Some of the stand-out collaborations included adidas Originals and Bape, Nike SB and Supreme, Undefeated and Jordan, or Asics and Ronnie Fieg.

Two mammoth brands meeting perfectly in the middle without sacrificing their unique identities was almost a guaranteed recipe for success and an easy win for both sides.

During my professional career, I was fortunate enough to be involved with several co-branded marketing projects.

Not only were they extremely successful in attracting and retaining new customers but often resulted in an impressive boost in revenue.

With the wavering effectiveness of so many other marketing strategies, co-branding appears to be just as dependable as ever.

The trick is to get it right but getting it right can be hard when you’re not sure what to look for.

What is co-branding?

Co-branding is a marketing strategy in which two or more brands collaborate to create a new product or service.

This can take the form of a partnership between two companies, or a collaboration between a company and an individual.

It is an opportunity for both brands to combine resources, identities, and brand images for the mutual benefit of all parties. The motivations for co-branding are potentially endless.

One of the earliest examples of co-branding or partnership occurred in 1956, when French car manufacturer Renault worked with Jacques Arpels of the prominent jeweller Van Cleef and Arpels to turn a Dauphine dashboard into a work of art.

The advantages of co-branding

Partnering with another brand can provide advantages for all involved, including customers who buy the products or utilise the service.

Co-branding can:

  1. Increase and Enhance Brand Awareness
  2. Improved Brand Image
  3. Increased Credibility
  4. Attract New Customers
  5. Drive Sales
  6. Strengthen the Existing Customer Base
  7. Development of Better-Quality Products

What are the keys to co-branding success?

When developing a partnership with another brand, it is important that there are some key fundamentals in place to give it the greatest chance of success.

  1. Respect – While both brands can differ in almost every regard, age, product offering, etc there must be mutual respect between them for what they have achieved and what they continue to do.
  2. Build on contrasts, not similarities – Look for brands that can supplement your product offering that can offer new associations. When brands that are similar collaborate, the results tend to be disappointing. Imagine if Rolex and Omega came together or K-Mart and Target? Nobody would win, including the public.
  3. Synergy – While your brands should contrast one another there still needs to be a synergy and like-mindedness shared for it to make sense.
  4. Authenticity – Both parties should be equally qualified to offer products and/or services in the range being co-branded.
  5. Know your opportunity – the primary objective isn’t to propel you into a product or service offering, it’s to introduce you to a new audience demonstrating what you do best.
  6. Differing target markets – Co-branding is an opportunity to introduce your brand to a new audience. If you share a target market with your dance partner, you will diminish the reach of your partnership.
  7. Communication – Ensure the lines of communication and objectives are clear from the start.

Classic collaborations

Omega and Swatch

The most talked about watch of 2022 is a collaboration between the Swiss luxury watch brand Omega and the affordable but ever-reliable Swatch, the MoonSwatch.

An Omega-Swatch MoonSwatch

Photo credit: Worn & Wound

Costing £207, a mere fraction of the price of a £3000 Omega Speedmaster Professional, the release was a global success, selling out instantly.

Subsequently, the release also resulted in increased sales of the original Omega Speedmaster Professional.

Uber and Spotify

Ride-share app Uber and music-streaming platform Spotify partner to enable riders to determine what they’ll listen to when travelling to and from a destination.

You’re more likely to opt for both apps over respective competitors knowing the integration exists.

Target and Missoni

Italian luxury brand met with mainstream retailer Target in 2011 for the first time to collaborate on some 400 items.

Photo credit: Target

The affordable price point attracted huge demand causing the range to sell out in-store and the website to crash.

The pair went on to produce several other collections in the following years and as recently as 2019.

Apple and MasterCard

A good example of practical co-branding. MasterCard was the first credit card company to allow users to store their cards on Apple Pay.

This clearly demonstrates how an institution with a rich history can adopt technology and evolve with its users.

Palace and Calvin Klein

London’s Palace Skateboards and the iconic Calvin Klein joined forces in 2022 on a collaborative collection. The collection featured a fresh twist on classic items from the CK range including underwear and fragrance.

Proving so successful the collection was re-released later in the same year to help fulfil demand.

Nike and Apple

The partnership resulted in the creation of the Nike+ Running app and the Nike+ FuelBand fitness tracker.

Google and Levi’s

The partnership resulted in the creation of the “Commuter trucker jacket“, a denim jacket equipped with touch-sensitive fabric that allows the wearer to control their smartphone without taking it out of their pocket.

Photo credit: Levi Strauss

An opportunity under your nose

Co-branding and partnerships present fantastic opportunities for businesses to grow brand presence, customer loyalty, and revenue.

Often the best co-branding opportunities that make the most sense are staring you right in the face. They can derive from organic relationships with like-minded aspirational business owners.

In 2023 keep an eye out for potential co-brand partners and you might just discover an opportunity to propel your brand to the next level.


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