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When co-branding makes sense

A company’s success or failure hinges on its brands. They are the key to controlling consumer perception. Brands take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to build and become loaded with ideas and feelings in the mind of the consumer.

So combining an established brand with your own can be a quick way to get powerful results. This can help in penetrating new markets and extending a brand’s reach. Most of all, it can be a major sales catalyst.


Finding the right brand for you to partner with could be the next big break for your company. The most common method of creating co-brands is to create a new product or offer by combining products and then shouting about it to the world. Many food producers have had success with this, for example Häagen-Dazs released its Bailey’s Irish Cream flavor. Another is Hershey's chocolate in Betty Crocker brownie mix. In fact, you can visit your local grocery store for isles full of examples.

Nike and Apple also had success when they unveiled Nike +, a technology that allows Nike shoes to track running data on your iPod. These two combinations put two strong brands with large followings into one package. This resulted in more success for both brands.


Sometimes the co-branding opportunity is so good a whole new company springs up—as happened with another of our clients, Sony Ericsson. With the strength of the Ericsson brand as a quality cellular phone manufacturer and Sony as a world leader in camera and electronics technology, a new line of high tech phones was created and marketed. Despite the already crowded marketplace, consumers were intrigued by the brand pairing and flocked to the shops to check out what the new duo could offer them.

However, although co-branding can be a quick way to gain market share, you should be wary when venturing into this type of partnership. If, for example one of the brands is suddenly seen in a bad light, it could affect the partnership (the Tiger Woods incident comes to mind). Or if the two brands aren't really aligned either philosophically or in the minds of the consumer.

You know you’ve found the right partner when the two brands are seamlessly complementary and the benefits for the consumer are crystal clear. The Nike/Apple co-branding ventures is successful because of its undeniable ability to add value to each other’s products, thereby creating something greater than the sum of their parts.


Kevin Duffy is the Creative Director for The Duffy Agency's Boston office.


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