Co-branding refers to two or more companies collaborating to create a new product offering or promotion. It shares many elements with co-marketing, the practice of two businesses trumpeting each other’s achievements. However, the important differentiator is that co-branding indicates that the companies share authorship (though not always equal).
As a consumer, you no doubt encounter many B2C examples throughout your daily life. In the past, McDonald’s Happy Meals featured Hot Wheels cars, miniaturized Beanie Babies, and other models of co-branded merchandise. And who could forget about the infamous McDonald’s Monopoly game?
There are many co-branding opportunities within B2B marketing tactics, as well.
B2B Content You Can Co-Brand With Partners
• Podcasts and interview content. We’ll admit, this is one of Allbound’s favorite ways to join forces with other companies. What’s better than two passionate individuals diving deep into topics they love without a script? For prime examples of co-branded podcasts, see How Consumption Based-Selling is Impacting the Channel.
• Webinars. For a prime example of a co-branded webinar, check out how Inty partnered with Zoom. Both logos are present, as are members of leadership.
• Co-host events. Join forces with partners to create digital or in-person events. These can include workshops, Q&As, conferences, roundtables, or happy hours. Similarly, you can co-host booths at business conventions.
• Press releases. Do you have great news, such as a new partner or an acquisition? Co-branded press releases help to amplify your reach and credibility. Notice how this example features the About and contact information for both Verndale and Optimizely.
• Case studies. Did the merger of your two services or a joint venture result in a customer’s overwhelming success? Document it and promote it!
• Social media promotions. Examples include joining forces with an influencer or company to host a giveaway or promotional code.
• Sales materials. As a vendor, it’s your responsibility to arm partners with attractive materials to help them sell. This includes success stories, pricing sheets, and battle cards. By permitting partners to place their logo alongside yours, it conveys cohesion and polish.
• White papers. Pairing data with advise in the form of a white paper will yield a resource that can benefit readers for years to come. For further guidance, check out White Paper Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Thought Leadership.
This list is only the start of what’s possible. We encourage you to combine your greatest marketing minds with your partners’ teams to brainstorm out-of-the-box opportunities that truly set your joint offering apart.
Why Co-Branding Benefits Your Company
When executed correctly, co-branding allows you to do the following:
• Produce superior content or products to stay competitive. Synergy! Yes, that word. Synergy can yield industry-leading results that leave rivals in the dust. The promise of smooth integration with software that supplements your own (or compensates for gaps) leads to improved efficiency, convenience, and potential cost savings for users.
• Increase the promotional reach of new products or content marketing. This point is obvious, but it’s also too significant to skip. Simply put, two companies promoting content across their respective networks will have significantly more reach than only one organization.
When prioritizing the companies with which you co-brand materials, consider the size, engagement, and diversity of their networks. It may be worth discussing upfront how the content marketing or products will be jointly promoted so you can better determine if it’s worth your time.
• Leverage the identity and credibility of another company. Microsoft and Unicef collaborated on technology to protect vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unicef benefited from the new capabilities that helped achieve their primary mission, but Microsoft reaped an entirely different reward: increased goodwill associated with their name.
A brand doesn’t have to be a world-renowned charity to improve your own reputation by proxy. Perhaps it established credibility within a specific geography or niche audience. Perhaps its leadership cultivated strong reputations, or it is celebrated for its hands-on customer service. Think about how your co-branding collaborator’s identity can enrich your own.
The Risks of Co-Branding
The pros of co-branding outweigh the cons, but it’d be naive to ignore potential downsides outright. Instead, take caution to avoid these pitfalls.
• You tether your reputation to another company, which can backfire. It’s important to have strict criteria for your co-branding partners. Take into account their business ethics, their environmental impact, and the behavior of leadership. If scandal strikes a partner with whom you’re intertwined, your brand may get sniped in the crosshairs.
• You risk misrepresentation by your partners. Let’s say you co-host a live Q&A and the other company’s presenter contradicts your company’s stance. Or perhaps a partner program participant erroneously copies-and-pastes your logo onto outdated materials without you being the wiser.
Luckily, there are actions you can take. Utilize strategic tools like Allbound to help you keep a tight leash on which partners can co-brand select materials.
• You may do most of the work but fail to reap the rewards. This risk is present in any promotional campaign, regardless of whether it’s a co-branded strategy. However, when partnering with another company, it’s possible that they’ll outshine you or fail to deliver on their end of the agreement.
The best strategy to minimize this risk is to communicate expectations up front rather than assume you’re on the same page. The more detailed the plan, the better. Additionally, request final approval of all related materials (but be courteous by giving feedback ASAP).
Important Co-Branding Tips to Maximize Results
Be Selective With Whom You Partner and Co-Brand
We already touched upon this briefly, but it’s so vital that it’s worth repeating: you must carefully vet everyone who you let represent your brand.
In the worst-case scenario, their poor behavior or reputation casts a negative shadow on yours. In less extreme circumstances, there’s too great of a mismatch for the relationship to be profitable for either party. Their audience may not qualify for your products, brand identities may clash, or internal working styles don’t align.
Research their company, including past product rollouts, marketing campaigns, and generated news. Come prepared with a list of questions when talking with their representatives to discern if you’d be a good match. Develop a list of prioritized attributes and deal breakers based on experience with your best (and worse) partners.
For more tips, read our guide to evaluating and recruiting the right partners.
Have a System In Place to Co-Brand at Scale
Co-branding doesn’t always pertain to large campaigns. For example, when you cultivate a partner program, you need to provide participants with materials that highlight both your logo and theirs.
Manually creating co-branded documents is a short-term fix for companies managing only a handful of partners. However, this approach is unsustainable as the channel grows. If channel managers add logos on request, they’ll hold up partners’ sales conversations as they juggle a growing number of demands. If partners handle this unaided, they may add their emblem to the wrong documents or produce sloppy visuals.
Find a partner management software that enables partners to cleanly add their logo to documents within the portal. Tools like Allbound let you customize access levels for different partner groups or experience levels. Well-trusted partners with established track records will automatically have more co-branding liberties than those who have recently onboarded.
With this scalable solution, sales partners can co-brand materials without your involvement, and yet you limit the risk of them misstepping.
When Appropriate, Sweeten the Pot to Make Co-Branding Mutually Beneficial
While co-branding can occur between two equal titans of industry, it often transpires between organizations with sizable disparities in influence. The brand which has better recognition amongst audiences is letting the lesser-known piggyback off of its established reputation. In turn, the smaller company often brings more to the table by shouldering the majority of the upfront labor.
In the case of partner programs, co-branding allows you to leverage the brand awareness of both the vendor and the reseller. Even if the vendor has strong brand awareness, the reseller might bring a stronger brand awareness in their particular geography or vertical.
As previously highlighted, collaborating with a partner well-rooted in previously untapped demographics is a great way to build brand equity. For this reason, don’t treat these partnerships like you would most others. Give extra incentive through extra access to MDFs, greater sales commissions, or even guarantees of exclusivity. After all, in this particular scenario, you may have more to gain from the co-branding campaign than your partner.
Create Detailed Plans for Execution and Promotion to Ensure Optimal Communication
Open brainstorming followed by detailed timelines and budgeting is necessary for any successful co-branding effort. Why? It minimizes the likelihood that partners will go off-script, as well as anticipates pain points so you can address them as a team. Perhaps most importantly, timelines and budget hold your co-branding collaborator accountable.
Make sure that the preliminary plan states your plans for promotion, not just development. Which social media channels will partners utilize to share the co-branded materials? Will there be any paid campaigns? What about subsequent sales materials?
We’ve all heard the often (mis)quoted line from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.” While this may apply to baseball fields, it certainly doesn’t apply to product marketing!
Have a Plan on How to Measure the ROI of Co-Branding Efforts
It’s always crucial to gather marketing and product data, and co-branded campaigns are no exception. When developing a plan, one of the first steps should be to determine the overarching goals and associated KPIs to define success and failure. For an infographic, this could include engagement, click-throughs, or subsequent email sign-ups. For product integrations, this may mean requested demos, registered deals, and completed transactions.
Why is it important to track co-branding results? To learn and improve, of course. These learnings help gauge whether your approach is working and, if you meet some KPIs but not others, you can hypothesize as to why. For example, if co-branded efforts failed to generate buzz amongst the other company’s followers but caught the attention of your own, perhaps the partner was not the right fit. Alternatively, if both teams failed to meet expectations, maybe the problem lies with the actual offering.
Additional Guides to Help With Co-Branding and Partner Marketing
Co-branding is a powerful tool, but it’s far from the only tactic you’ll need for successful partner marketing. Round out your skillset with the following reads:
Tips and Tools for Building a Channel Content Library – Your partner portal’s content library is pivotal to distributing assets that partners can co-brand in a timely fashion. This article dives into what specific elements to look for when choosing your content library’s supporting technology, as well as how to preliminarily set it up for future success.
The Guide to SaaS and B2B Influencer Marketing – Putting co-branded materials in the hands of the right B2B influencer can be the key to measurable success. This article provides insights into choosing the best influencers for your brand as well as cultivating your own thought leaders.
How to Effectively Work With Channel Partners and Strengthen Relationships in 2023 – Co-branding materials for joint promotion is only a small element of managing partners. Read our in-depth guide on how to improve partner relationships while laying the groundwork for scalable tactics.
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