Co-branding (cross branding, brand partnership) is a marketing initiative between two or more companies to raise brand awareness through association with one another forming a marketing synergy. Examples can be as simple and modest as display packaging, as seen in the image to the right, or more detailed as seen in this video:
Butterfinger and The Simpsons, not the most obvious of marriages, but it worked somehow. Could it be the yellowish-orange color of the candy bar that’s similar to the skin tone of America’s favorite animated family? Possibly the ridges of the packaging mirroring Bart Simpson’s hair? Or maybe it’s because both brands’ demographics share a big overlap. It’s debatable, but we’ll examine the last option a bit.
The Simpsons was a hit in the early to mid 90’s (and still is) and Butterfinger leveraged that popularity to get the attention of its fans to relate the two brands. “I like The Simpsons and I like chocolate. Butterfinger is the bar of choice for me,” says Butterfinger’s ideal consumer. Given the ongoing co-branding campaign, we can assume what consumers were actually saying probably wasn’t too far off. Butterfinger got to tap into The Simpsons’ fan base expanding as well as targeting their demographic. What does The Simpsons get out of this partnership (aside from royalty money)? The Simpsons get brand awareness everywhere Butterfingers are sold: grocery stores, retail stores, mini-marts, the Kwik-E-Mart, gas stations, sporting events, and the movies. These are places where The Simpsons would otherwise have to pay each venue separately to appear in, a costlier option. Not to mention, The Simpsons get to expand on their popularity by seemingly being everywhere. Maybe now the two brands’ union doesn’t seem so happenstance, with regards to the similarities in packaging and color, of course.
Not only do co-branding benefits include demographic expansion, cost cutting, and market penetration as mentioned in the Butterfinger/The Simpsons example above, but cost effectiveness and mass outreach as well. For example, the introduction of a new product to the market is simply “a drop in the bucket,” and the marketing push behind that new product had better be big. Otherwise, it’ll just drown in the sea of products. However, with co-branding, that new product doesn’t have to market from scratch. Instead, that new product gets to piggyback on the partnering brand and be exposed to an existing and established audience, which is also more cost effective than marketing from scratch.
Co-branding is great, right? (The answer is yes, btw) But that’s not to say any two brands should get together and tap into each others’ audience. Fisher-Price and Marlboro should probably have extensive meetings before jumping into bed together. There has to be a solid basis and logical reason for two brands to come together. This is where a creative agency comes in: to best match brands or to find ways to promote both brands where everyone benefits. This is where the digital space has an edge over other mediums; in this unhinged space where a finger-biting baby and cats, among (many) other things, can reach a status of phenomenal, the options are endless. With much fewer boundaries and restrictions than other mediums (swearing, anyone?), the digital space offers an abundance of co-branding opportunities. I can’t wait to see the creativity to come between multiple brands.