Brand and brand, hand in hand

Emma Flood this week weighs up the merits of brand partnerships.

On a recent lunchtime browse through I stumbled across an article by Lyndsay Peck (click here to read the full article) discussing the benefits of brand partnerships:

Although brand partnerships have been around for years – some successful, some less so – I was intrigued by the news that Heineken and the relatively new national newspaper i are launching a joint hybrid app that will give readers the chance to read the paper’s content in selected pubs and bars.

The initiative forms part of Heineken’s Hub initiative, which kicked off in April and involves providing superfast broadband in selected premium bars and pubs across London and Cardiff. The brands will also offer monthly competitions with prizes such as new gadgets and technology.

Stirring my interest in brand partnerships, or co-branding as they may also be known, I dug a little deeper to find out more about why organisations enter brand partnerships, and what the potential benefits could be.

Although the author of the article recounts recent examples (such as McDonald’s Flurry and Smarties as well as Apple iPod and Nike), it would appear that co-branding has been in existence for some time, seemingly dating back to 1956 when Renault had Jacques Arpels of jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels turn the dashboard of one of their newly introduced Dauphine’s into a work of art.

So, if brand partnerships have a fairly long history dating back over 50 years, there must be some significant advantages – reducing costs through shared advertising/promotion, increasing sales revenue through broadening your reach and targeting new audiences, further increases through positive association with another brand…?

In returning to the perhaps unlikely brand partnership between Heineken and i, it draws us to think about what we would be looking for in a brand partnership. Would we want to go for an unusual partnership to stir up interest in our own brand and raise questions on our motive, or would we stick to the traditional approach of synergy and brand fit, which is summed up in the article:

Brand partnerships in FMCG can work nicely if you are a brand that goes together, although often this is retailer-driven, unless you are Unilever or P&G and you can cross sell your brands by giving freebies or vouchers of one onto another. In the media sector, publishers often bundle magazines to encourage trial but ultimately the partnership has to offer a degree of synergy and consumer benefit.

What the article does not cover is the potential detriment of a brand partnership. What if the brand you have partnered with and invested alongside suddenly, for example, becomes embroiled in a scandal? How easily could you be disentangled from the partnership, and would you exit unscathed? Perhaps there is an argument for conducting due diligence into whether the company’s mission, objectives and ethics are congruent with your own company. Or is there a safer method yet; that of same-company co-branding? This offers merit in providing economies of scale, etc. and Proctor & Gamble offer an example of this in their marketing of Gillette M3 Power shaving equipment (which require batteries) with Duracell batteries, where both brands are owned by P&G.

In closing my thoughts on this article, I am mindful that the author did not explore how brand partnerships are measured in order to understand whether they have truly been successful or whether there was no significant benefit. Given that activities such as brand partnerships require significant investment to deploy, any branding activity should be well evaluated before investment is made. B2B International is an expert in brand research and has written multiple white papers on the subject.

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