3 Tips For Effective Co-Branding

Co-branding has become increasingly popular as brands form alliances to attract new customers and maintain differentiation from the competition. Alliances can come in many forms within and across categories, for example:

  • Products joining together (Dairy Queen Blizzard and Rolo)
  • Retailers highlighting specific brands or partnerships (Target featuring Listerine and Scott tissue)
  • Brands aligning with popular movies or characters (Chevy teamed with Transformers)
  • Brands partnering with a star/spokesperson (Nike and Michael Jordan) 

Regardless of the type of alliance, co-branded advertising has a unique set of challenges, as advertisers must ensure that they deliver a cohesive message and that each brand receives the appropriate credit. A few basic rules can help you create effective co-branded advertisements. 



1. Determine the lead and the supporting actorin the ad. Frequently, one brand is leading the charge. For example, in this Dairy Queen ad, a young girl describes how a Dairy Queen Blizzard infused with delicious mini Rolo candy helps her hold onto summer just a little bit longer. The colors, voiceover, and branding primarily cue the lead brand (Dairy Queen) while Rolo plays a supporting role. Because the goal is to drive traffic to Dairy Queen to try this featured item, the visual focus is appropriately skewed more toward Dairy Queen. 

In this Target ad, multiple brands/products on screen demonstrate the good deals you can find at the store. But the look and feel of the ad unmistakably evokes the Target brand. This helps viewers recognize that while the ad may highlight Scott or Listerine, the message is about your Target experience.

2. If you have two lead brands, find the common ground. Sometimes, both brands need to share the spotlight. The key to a successful co-branded ad is showing that these brands are teammates working together. This strategy works well when the two partners are naturally linked, such as Nike and Michael Jordan. An early ad from the duo, “Banned,” showed Jordan wearing the shoes that had been banned by the NBA. The connection between Nike and the player is clear and complementary. This helps viewers remember both brands, and adds longevity to the message.

In contrast, in this Chevy ad where a car and truck change shape, the connection with Transformers is not intuitive. The Chevy and Transformers brands have very different equities, and therefore the advertising is not likely to have staying power in the minds of consumers. In short, the less naturally cohesive the brands seem, the more important it is to find the common ground between the two and play it up.

3. Keep visual branding simple. It’s difficult enough to create a well-branded ad when you have one brand. When there are multiple players, it can be even trickier to get your viewers to walk away knowing what the ad was for. Because of this, branding visuals should be kept as simple as possible. So, rather than showing all brands on screen together, try giving each brand a chance to take a bow before moving on to the next. Zooming, pausing and audio/visual synch are other techniques that can help guide viewer’s attention to the key players.

Following these simple tips can help ensure that these collaborations are as effective and successful as possible. If you’ve seen examples of successful co-branded advertising, please share them with me in the comments below.

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