Brands co-market all the time, either helping build reputation, or negatively impacting the perception of the brand. But co-branding is not an exact science. Like any other kind of marketing activity, it works on a case-by-case basis. Here are seven questions -- and answers -- to help you understand when it's best to co-brand and when you might want to decline such an opportunity.
1. Could we risk our reputation by associating our brand with others?
Co-branding is not only about creating awareness whenever possible. You also need to protect your brand's reputation when "partnering" with others. If you perceive any palpable risk, seriously consider not participating in the program. If you see no risk, ask yourself:
2. Who's in charge of communications?
If the answer is only your brand or the third-party brand, in most cases you wouldn't communicate as the new co-branded identity, but rather use the relevant brand's identity. If the answer is both brands (or several brands in the case of multiple sponsorships), ask yourself:
3. Who are you communicating to?
This question is not binding, but it provides context that can help you find the right answer and approach. In an ordinary co-branding scenario, your audience will be interested in hearing about what the different brands have in common, not just about the exclusive aims of one particular brand.
4. In whose channel are you communicating?
If you're communicating through your brand's corporate channel, or that of a third party (e.g. internal massive email or town hall) you would normally be using that brand's identity. However, if the communication takes place in a neutral place or channel (e.g. a backdrop in a hotel ballroom or a dedicated microsite), then co-branding with the new co-branded identity definitely applies.
5. Does the communication style and content support your strategy?
Co-branding opportunities are beneficial when they benefit the individual strategies of the companies involved. Even when it's beneficial for your marketing or sales efforts, you should make sure that the message being sent on behalf all of the participating brands doesn't interfere with your messaging strategy and instead helps to reinforce its brand perception.
6. Is the activity relevant enough or is it completely meaningless?
Any marketing program you participate in, including co-branding, should be meaningful for your brand strategy and not just "fluff." Make sure that there is a compelling reason why your brand should participate.
7. How important are the other brand/s for you?
Whether it's because they are important brands in the sector, or because they're just important for you, the question of what the other brands mean for the relationship is not insignificant in co-branding. Ask yourself how important the other brand is in the industry and for your business to improve the relationship. The answer will not only help you decide whether to co-brand or not, it will also help you define the co-branding communication approach.
As said, co-branding is not an exact science. But by asking yourself the right questions, you'll be able to better decide which co-marketing opportunities are beneficial to enhance your corporate reputation, and how to approach them from a solid brand perspective.