What you need to know about brand partnerships

By Robert Brown

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Nike, Apple, Airbnb, Lego, Mac, Disney, GoPro and Red Bull logo

Co-branding is a strategic marketing or advertising partnership between two non-competing brands.

It is a trend that has gained remarkable popularity over the last few years, which is not surprising when huge brands like Apple, Nike and Red Bull are just some of those getting in on the action.

Some partnerships are an ‘obvious’ choice – take Easy Jet and Booking.com for example. When you visit the Easy Jet website, it feels authentic (and accessible!) to be able to view hotels and apartments from Booking.com. And let's not forget the PG Tips and McVities partnership - a British match made in heaven!

This is not always the case, however, and doesn't have to be. There is no set rule on who should partner with who or what a brand partnership should be, which can be anything from a product collaboration to events to competitions and more. In fact, some of the most successful co-branding examples are collaborations you may never have considered until they came and conquered.

All in all, when done successfully, co-branding can be an effective brand strategy to increase awareness, break into new markets and build your business.

What to consider when thinking about a brand partnership

With such great opportunity to be had, why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, here it’s important to remember: ‘it’s the company you keep’. In the same way a brand partnership can enhance your audience, reputation and overall brand message, it can also have a negative impact on your business in equal measure. First of all, it’s important to consider what to consider when thinking about a brand partnership. Again, a brand partnership needn’t necessarily be ‘an obvious choice’, but it is essential that it is underpinned by similar ideals that help each brand bring out the best in each other. Here are just some of the things to look for when searching for that perfect partnership:

1. Similar values

Whether these values cross in a way where the brands both aim to provide something similar e.g. cheap prices or luxurious quality – or both have the same beliefs or even simply ethics – this is what will establish the very core of the relationship.

2. Similar targets, objectives and goals

Whilst different brands will have different targets e.g. a Starbucks and Spotify partnership still sees Starbucks wanting to sell coffee and Spotify wanting to sell music, they are both aiming to build awareness and boost sales with similar targets, objectives and goals. It is important that the desired outcomes are aligned.

3. Complimentary skill sets that can offer mutual benefits

A brand partnership should always offer you added value. Where some of your weaknesses may lie, your other brand should build you up or vice versa. Alternatively, your strengths should combine to create something better than you already have!

4. Consumer relevance

Although co-branding can bring a wider audience, there must be some consumer relevance that exists. It won't benefit your brand to partner up with another that is unable to connect with your audience in any way.

5. Trust

This may seem like an obvious one, but you must be able to trust your brand partnership and act transparently with one another throughout the process.

The benefits of brand partnerships

Once you have these principles in place, there can be many great benefits to co-branding. Here are just some of the things that a successful brand partnership can achieve:

1. A bigger and broader audience

When two brands double up, you leave your brand open to double the reach.

2. A social buzz

And when two brands join forces, it gives people something to talk about. From extra news coverage, traffic to your website and enhanced visibility of your products, the buzz can be a major bonus to your business.

3. A chance to diversify and add value

If your brand has been unable to reach a specific demographic until now, buddying up with another brand can allow you to address an audience that wouldn't have been accessible to you otherwise.

4. To alter or enhance brand perception

A lot of brands use brand partnerships as a way to give their brand a better image or to take on and maintain a greater social responsibility. A great example of this is the McWhopper - a proposal from Burger King to McDonald’s to ‘end the beef, with beef’ on Peace Day. The concept was a burger that combined the best elements of McDonald’s and Burger King with all the proceeds going to a great cause. Awkwardly, however, McDonald’s declined (maybe because they aren't a non-competing brand!)

5. Sharing resources

Your brand may be the experts in your field, but another brand from a different field can undoubtedly add value to your business. As we always say at JUMP, two heads are better than one!

Some examples of successful branding partnerships

Go Pro and Red Bull logo side by side

Go Pro and Red Bull: Stratos

Go Pro and Red Bull have created a great brand partnership over the year, with Go Pro having the tools for extreme sports events including races, stunts and sports with Red Bull providing the energy to match.

Their common value is that they both believe in the thrill of adventure and a fast-paced take on life. The biggest success so far has been ‘Stratos’, which saw skydiver Felix Baumgartner jump from a space pod more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface with a Go Pro strapped to his body. He didn’t only set three world records that day, but he put Go Pro and Red Bull on the map during a magical moment in history that stands aligned with their worldviews. You can watch it here.

Nike and Apple: Apple Watch Nike+

Nike and Apple logo side by side

This is a particularly effective partnership involving two champs of their industries in totally different arenas – one being the technology giants and the other sporting legends.

This clever partnership uses one another to positively influence the other. Apple has the capabilities to change the world through technology, whilst Nike has the reputation and the motivational capacity to drive fitness fanatics to incorporate Apple into their routines.

Mac Makeup and Iconic Names

Mac and Disney logo side by side

As the world’s leading professional makeup authority, M-A-C has fans in every corner of the planet. But they more than anyone, know how to constantly diversify their audience and add value to their brand through partnerships with iconic names of pop culture, art and fashion.

It may seem crazy that a makeup line featuring Disney Princesses or Rihanna’s signature on the packaging can make such a difference, but this clever stunt shows their ability to stay on trend and continuously enhance their relevance and reach fans both existing and new.

Their brand partnerships are careful and considered, as each name holds the same ethos, value and attitude that they want to communicate to their consumers.

Airbnb and LEGO: LEGO House

Airbnb and LEGO logo side by side

The Airbnb and Lego experiential campaign recently made a very big buzz in the branding world as they unveiled their biggest experience to date.

Airbnb gave aspiring builders the chance to put their imagination to full use in their competition ‘What would you build with your family if you had an infinite supply of LEGO bricks. The prize? A night in the newly opened LEGO House in Billund, Denmark.

Some house rules included: 'play is mandatory!', 'parents are advised to wear Lego-proof slippers at all times' and 'if there's anything you miss in your bedroom, feel free to build it yourself.'

Both brands are built around pushing the limits of what you can see and do, and this brand partnership provided one truly unique experience.

Co-branding/brand partnerships can be a great thing, but it is so important to remember they can also cause a lot of damage to your business. Always carefully assess your potential brand partner and really think about what you could offer each other and whether your goals will work together. If done on the basis that 1+1 = 'more', the brand partnership will have no real purpose and this will show. Done right however – to offer something good to the world – and this could be the perfect way to open up your business to a whole new world of opportunity.

Not sure whether a branding partnership is right for you? As a branding strategy agency, our team at JUMP can offer professional, expert advice on branding, strategy and brand partnerships. From brand values and personal development through to positioning and brand messaging, we work with you to ensure that your brand is communicated in an effective way that captures what you stand for, and, crucially, achieves your business objectives.

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