Co-Branding 101: Definition, Benefits & Best Examples

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Learn Co-Branding with 6 Successful Examples

All You Need to Know About Co-Branding (With Examples)

Business
October 6, 2022
9 minutes

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What is co-branding? How does it work? How to choose the right brand partner? Get all your questions answered by learning from some of the most successful examples of co-branding!

Few small businesses consider co-branding as a marketing tactic when they’re just starting. As you’re on a mission to build your own brand image, it’s rare to consider how promoting another brand can help you with that.

Although most examples of co-branding come from major industry players, this can be a fantastic tactic for any business. We’ll first talk about what makes brand collaborations effective, and then look at 6 stellar examples of co-branding to learn from.

What is co-branding, and why is it a good idea?

By definition, co-branding is a marketing strategy whereby two or more brands market a single product or service.

Probably the most common form of co-branding are co-branding credit cards. I hear you saying, what is a co-branded credit card anyway? Well, the answer to this question could be as close as your own wallet.

Many credit card companies partner with brands to create loyalty programs, where paying with this credit card benefits the user.

ikea card.png What is a co-branded credit card? A card that pairs up a financial services provider and a seller of goods or services.

Co-branding vs, co-marketing

The above example of a co-branded credit card is indeed an instance of co-branding. This is when brands launch a new service or product together.

Co-marketing, on the other hand, is when brands come together to promote an existing product or service. For example, back in 2014, Uber partnered with Spotify to promote their respective services. Each time a person hailed a ride from Uber, they’d be able to hook up their own Spotify account to the car’s sound system. Simple, clever, and useful!

Benefits of co-branding

Brand collaboration can be a tremendously good move. What are some of the most significant advantages of co-branding? Here’s a quick list.

Strengthens your brand image

Ironically, the greatest misconception about co-branding is actually its greatest strength. People can be reluctant to partner with other brands, scared that another brand will “steal their spotlight.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. When you find the right collab brand partner, your brand instantly becomes more memorable. In a sea of competitors, your brand is the one that doesn’t stand alone. It’s an influential distinguishing factor.

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Shows multiple benefits of your product/service

Let’s explain this one with an example. Say a fitness studio and wholefoods launch a new line of granola bars. The idea behind such a partnership would be to show that this product is both nutritious and healthy and helps maintain an active lifestyle.

The different value propositions corresponding to the two brands help create a sense of added value for the product, even though it’s a product like any other.

Increases visibility & sales

Imagine if you could double your audience overnight. That’s pretty much how co-branding works.

With co-branding, you’re instantly tapping into your partner brands’ audiences and significantly increasing your chances for more sales. The better your choice of a brand partner, the more sales you’re likely to make.

Shared risks & generating trust

If you’ve ever sought a second opinion on any matter, you know how beneficial it can be. Collaborating with others can help you improve your products, messaging, and more. With more horsepower in your team, you’re reducing the margin of error and building more efficient products.

Moreover, when multiple brands put their name on a product or service, it helps to build trust with potential customers.

6 Outstanding examples of co-branding

Now that you know why it can be such a good idea, let’s go over some outstanding co-branding examples with valuable lessons.

Apple & Nike

Fitness and tech are like peanut butter and jelly these days. But one of the brand partnership examples that paved the way for that is the brand collab between Apple and Nike.

The partnership started in the early 2000s when Apple released the first iPods. The idea is simple and effective: people who work out usually do so with music. The partnership started as a way to bring the two products together for an ultimate fitness experience.

But that was only the beginning. In 2016 they launched the Apple Watch Nike+. Along with the powerful Apple OS, the watch could also integrate with the Nike+ Run Club, designed to provide a custom-made fitness experience for any user.

apple-watch-2-nike-inline.gif.large.gif Apple

The main takeaway

It’s a simple yet important one. Choose an organic brand partner. Apple enthusiasts are (mostly) younger people that probably try to have an active lifestyle. The brands had a similar target audience and developed a product that catered to the users’ needs. And since both of these brands were likely already very well-known, joining forces meant increased trust in the new product.

CoverGirl & Lucasfilm

The Star Wars franchise is a global phenomenon and one of the most beloved film series in history. So, with the release of the long-awaited sequel The Force Awakens in 2015 understandably attracted a lot of hype.

CoverGirl cleverly jumped on the bandwagon and launched a line of makeup in two styles (the “Light” and “Dark Side”).

star wars cover girl.png The Disney Blog

The main takeaway

Remember the last takeaway we talked about? Well, this is one of the examples of co-branding that suggests quite the opposite. While partnering up with someone that’s a natural fit for your brand, the opposite can be just as successful.

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Surprising people with an unlikely brand partnership can give you a lot of attention. Of course, you need to do plenty of research and figure out whether co-branding makes sense (I’m pretty sure many Star Wars fans wear makeup). It’ll always be a bit of a leap of faith, but if done well, these instances of co-branding can be incredibly worth it.

UNICEF & Target

Here’s another fitness tracker campaign, but with a slightly different angle. Target partnered with the nonprofit to sell child-friendly fitness trackers. The proceeds from the sales helped UNICEF deliver food packages to underprivileged children worldwide.

unicef watch.png

The key takeaway

Don’t think of co-branding as just a way to increase sales. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to strengthen but also improve your brand image. Whether partnering with a nonprofit or finding a way to help a cause close to you, co-branding is an excellent opportunity to promote your brand mission and values.

Levi Stauss & Pinterest

We all use social media to look for fashion inspiration and even purchase clothing. But in 2018, Levi Strauss & Co teamed up with Pinterest to create a unique experience.

Tapping into what Pinterest is already known for (inspiration boards), Levi Strauss created a personalized experience based on a questionnaire and the user’s behavior on Pinterest. The result was a Pinterest board of Levi Strauss clothes tailored to a person’s taste, along with a link to the customization page on Levi.com where buyers could further customize their apparel.

levi strauss pinterest.png Levi Strauss

The main takeaway

Some of the best co-branding examples demonstrate how vital it is to focus on the user experience. A high-quality product or service is essential, but you must consider the entire buyer journey. This co-branding example created an entirely new way to use an existing platform to buy existing products.

H&M and Versace

When it comes to co-branding, opposites can really attract. It’s safe to say that H&M’s regular shoppers are not likely to be purchasing high-fashion anytime soon. And yet, both brands are known for their creative designs and a true passion for fashion, despite the vast difference in price ranges.

The 2011 brand partnership brought Versace’s cutting-edge design onto H&M’s affordable racks. Now you might see how this directly benefits H&M - people swarmed to buy anything connected to the iconic luxury brand.

But what about Versace? Well, while you should have a solid understanding of your target audience, it’s never advisable to be exclusive. Versace managed to position itself as a very unique high-fashion brand that found a way to democratize haute couture.

versace hm.png Sandra’s Closet

The main takeaway

Although they aren’t exactly competitors, you won’t see many examples of co-branding between companies from the same industry. This success story is a reminder that you shouldn’t view co-branding as a competition. Instead, it’s a joint venture that can benefit everyone involved.

You just might need to adjust the metrics of success. For H&M, it could have been more sales. For Versace, a brand image makeover helped this exclusive brand get more attention in the public eye.

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Milka & Oreo

This following co-branding example is so successful that you may have forgotten it’s an instance of co-branding and instead think of it as just another popular product.

Milk chocolate and cookies are a match made in heaven. But when two prominent brand names join forces, it’s expected that the product would become an instant success.

milka oreo.png

The main takeaway

It’s actually a simple yet important lesson. Try to partner with a brand that can improve your product. Some may think it decadent, others won’t like it - but there are a ton of people out there who fantasize about delicious, cookie-flavored chocolate. This product gives the best of both worlds (or really just both worlds) and represents both brands equally.

To be fair, these brands are owned by the same company. But remember, we’re not talking about revenue here - we’re talking about brand building. And this is one of the collaboration examples that best demonstrate how fairness and reciprocity are the cornerstones of effective co-branding.

Is it Milka? Oreos? It’s both.

Closing remarks

Hopefully, this sheds some light on co-branding and gives you a few valuable lessons on how to do it effectively.

There’s no brand too big or small to try out this strategic approach. Before diving into it, ensure you have a clear idea of your brand identity. While brand collaborations are perfect for improving and strengthening your brand image, you shouldn’t use them as a way to create one.

Next, make sure that there’s a reason to co-brand. Whether it’s a new and improved product, a greater cause, or an enhanced experience for your clients - be clear on what you want to achieve.

Finally, don’t forget that co-branding is about collaboration and respect. While you should have your own interests in mind, the best co-branding examples are those that help everyone involved.

Ask not what the co-branding can do for you; ask what you can do for the co-branding!

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Danica Popovic

October 6, 2022

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.