Avoid These 3 Co-Branding Mistakes

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An ideal retail co-branding partnership blends the marketing message of brand and retailer in a way that builds confidence and inspires consumer action. But with all the stakeholders and messaging priorities involved, the goals of a co-branding partnership can go off the rails, especially if you aren’t aware of some of the pitfalls. Here are three that we’ve seen derail success, and here’s how to prevent them.


1. Sacrificing Your Company’s Branding

If your branding takes a back seat to your retail partner, you’re putting your brand’s credibility and reputation at risk, as well as risking the success of your campaign.

  • Prioritize Consistency. Consistent brand presentation has been proven to increase revenue by 33 percent. This is as important in solo brand marketing as it is in co-branding. When customers see messaging they recognize from a brand they recognize, they feel a sense of trust from that familiarity which encourages them to act.
  • Provide Visuals. Make sure you share your most up-to-date brand style guide so your retail partner knows exactly what logos and colors to use on co-branded materials. Again, this ties directly to revenue—the use of signature colors can increase brand recognition by 80 percent.
  • Create Your Own Materials. If you’re unsure your retail partner can create materials that uphold your brand standards, create your own and provide them to the retailer. Retailers often appreciate this initiative and investment from a brand. Plus, you’re able to have more control over your own branding within the confines of your partner’s retail space, helping your brand’s core properties stand out.

2. Only Focusing On Your Target Market’s Demographics

There’s a lot more to your audience—and the audience of your retail partner—than simply ages and income brackets. It takes understanding your audiences on a deeper level to find cohesion in your messaging.

  • Align Values. Co-branding requires alignment of philosophies and core values—between your business and your partner, and between both sets of audiences. Nearly 90 percent of customers stay loyal to businesses that share their values. Reflect those values in your co-branded marketing and strive for authenticity, which is a key factor in buying decisions for 86 percent of customers.
  • Dive Deeper than Demographics. Demographics are valuable, but they don’t tell the whole story. Knowing the personalities, values, and pain points of consumers helps you create marketing with your retail partner that speaks to the common decision points and motivators along both of your shopper journeys.
  • Find the Right Partner. Your retail partner should help you appeal to your target market beyond geographic and market share metrics. Yes, focus on what will move your business forward, but be sure your integrity and message are kept intact through your associations and partnerships.

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3. Imbalanced Branding

A co-branding partnership should strengthen both brand and retailer. That can’t happen if one dominates the public image of the relationship. Imbalanced branding can damage the relationship between partners and cause confusion among customers.

  • Consider the Needs of Your Partner. As an entity with an equal stake in the partnership, your retailer isn’t going to want to take on all of your brand’s properties. The retailer also wants to increase its brand awareness, and it’s likely not going to do so by putting your colors and logos all over their marketing materials, especially at the expense of its own brand elements.
  • Give and Take. Prior to the creation of co-branded marketing materials, discuss branding with your partner. Collectively find the right balance of branding that works for both brands and properly represents both businesses. Be sure that nothing is left open to interpretation, because that’s where problems start.
  • A United Front. Leave consumers with a synonymous impression of both brands through your co-branded message. Bring both brands to an equal footing and present both as strong brands in which consumers can be confident. In co-branding, your brand essentially sponsors their brand and vice versa; be sure you’re aligning yourself with a business you’re proud to stand by.

Successful retail co-branding requires brands to align with retailers with similar goals, values, and growth potential. But if you find your business not being properly represented, if your business is losing its identity in the name of co-branding, or if you’re focusing on things that aren’t important to your shared audience, you may find that co-branding can hold you back instead of propelling you forward.

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