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Co Branding Vs. Co Marketing: The Key Differences & How to Use Both

Co-branding and co-marketing are both examples of how two great tastes can taste great together.

Co-branding can make a huge impact on the market. Ideally, it renews interest in both brand partners and creates a windfall that stays current in customers’ imagination for years to come.

Both co-branding and co-marketing are becoming more common as brands seek to combine their unique strengths, energize their social media, and spark a truly memorable collaboration.

Before you can reap the benefits, though, it’s important to clear up exactly what’s at stake. It can be easy to confuse co-marketing with co-branding, and that leads to missed opportunities.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Co-Branding?

At its simplest, co-branding uses two (or more!) brand names on a single product or service – which is usually a combination leveraging the unique offerings of each brand partner.

Co-branding taps into the visibility and sentiments associated with each existing brand, but often also includes unique brand identifiers such as a special logo and color scheme.

By combining their market reach and brand awareness, brand partners have the chance to re-engage the public and (hopefully) persuade them to pay a premium on a new offering.

Some awesome examples of this at work include:

  • Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone Creamery shared one another’s menus in select stores in 2009. The initiative was popular enough that it soon spread to other locations, eventually leading to joint items like co-branded coffee floats, and raising sales.
  • MasterCard and Apple Pay beat the competition in the world of cashless transactions by partnering up. MasterCard became the first credit card to support Apple Pay, giving it a huge customer base while snagging exclusive features for MasterCard cardholders.
  • Taco Bell and Doritos breathed new life into both brands and added plenty of sales, especially among college students, with the tasty (but not very inventive) concept of Doritos Locos Tacos. In fact, Doritos seems to show up on an ever-increasing range of other foods these days.

All in all, co-branding means synergy. Co-branding is often used when a large company acquires a smaller one or when a lesser-known company enters an international market. In the most high-profile cases, however, distinct brands partner for only a limited time, generating brand buzz.

What is Co-Marketing?

Co-marketing is closely related to co-branding, but it’s not quite the same thing.

With co-marketing, the brand partners aren’t creating a unique new product or service as a result of their work together. Instead, they look for ways to effectively share their customers and build awareness for both brands – it’s somewhat similar to cross-selling in the sales world.

Co-marketing tends to involve less razzle dazzle than co-branding. On the other hand, it lets companies work together closely on messaging while spending less. This allows them to develop deeper insights into their existing customers and adjacent market segments.

Done right, the results can be incredible. Even when it doesn’t go well, it’s informative.

Some memorable examples of this include:

  • Airbnb and Flipboard achieved millions of online hits, profile views, and campaign impressions with a joint effort to promote Airbnb’s new curated travel service, “Trips.” This led to a huge influx of interest in Trips functionality and tons of user re-engagement for Flipboard.
  • HubSpot and Chatfuel developed an e-book on AI chatbot implementation perfect for its audience: Marketers on the cutting edge. Its unique interactive format demonstrated the power of Chatfuel technology while showing that HubSpot is the #1 inbound marketing thought leader.
  • Uber and Spotify worked together to differentiate both brands from a sea of competitors: Spotify members using Uber can queue up a special playlist timed to launch just as their Uber begins, giving them a unique ride experience no one else can match.
  • Taco Bell has lived in the co-marketing world since long before Doritos. When the 1993 sci-fi film Demolition Man depicted Taco Bell as the only surviving restaurant chain after the “Franchise Wars,” Taco Bell picked up on it with special deals promoting the movie.

How to Get Started with Co-Branding or Co-Marketing

If you’re excited to leverage the power of collaboration for your own brand, there’s an easy way to get started. It all begins by asking yourself a few simple questions:

What’s Special About My Brand?

For individuals and businesses, any strong partnership starts with self-knowledge. Hopefully, you have a good sense of what attributes your customers associate with you – the values, emotions, and lifestyle they pursue when they choose you over your competitors, as well as which buyer personas love you.

Which Brands Complement Mine?

Next, all you have to do is find brands that share similar customers – in terms of interests, buying power, and worldview – with convergent (not competing!) interests. Just think about how things combine: Coke and Pepsi are bitter rivals, but Doritos and Taco Bell? A match made in heaven.

How Can We Work Together?

A detailed, cohesive marketing report is the best way to spark cooperation from a would-be brand partner, so think things through carefully. A good collaboration is a natural offshoot of what you already have – one that will leave customers saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

In a competitive economy, these are two ways for creative companies to build true win-win situations. Not only do customers take notice, but it can be the start of a long and beneficial “brand friendship.” The potential is endless!

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Rob Steffens

Rob Steffens

I am the Director of Sales & Marketing here at Bluleadz. I'm a recent newlywed who enjoys spending time with my wife vegging out and binging our favorite shows or getting some exercise on the Racquetball court.