It’s quite common when discussing marketing and advertising strategies to bring up the competition. Moreover, there’s much dialogue around how to set your brand apart, beat the competition and stay ahead of the game. Cue in the strategy and rising trend of co-branding that’s changing the way we look at marketing. Co-branding is a collaboration between two or more brands, a joining of forces to offer a product or service that shares and boosts success among all partners.

Let’s take a look at a few successful co-branding partnerships from some well-known brands to explain how this process works:

Paint Colors + Home Décor

When the famous paint company Sherwin-Williams partnered with Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (more specifically, Pottery Barn), it was a very obvious and natural fit because Pottery Barn shoppers were continually asking what paint colors were used in the catalogs and online to complement the home goods they were selling. The goal of the partnership was to get people inspired to create their perfect rooms and spaces from walls to décor, with confidence. Clearly this was a win-win partnership and thanks to their co-branding approach, both companies got more exposure while satisfying an existing need with an overlapping audience.

Music + Sports

Another great co-branding partnership was when Apple teamed up with Nike to create the Nike+iPod products. The goal of this partnership was to integrate music and fitness together in a functional new way. Both brands have a passion for creating great product experiences that include clean design and an innovative approach. Together, runners and other fitness and sports enthusiasts could enjoy a better music and workout experience simultaneously. Today, we continue to see collaboration with the Apple Watch Nike+.

Tips for a Successful Co-Branding Experience

It’s easy to see the connections among these big brands who have taken advantage of collaborative branding and marketing efforts, but what about your company? Even if you’re not at the level of collaborating with Apple or Pottery Barn, it doesn’t mean this marketing strategy should be ignored. In fact, no matter the brand size, there are surely opportunities for co-branding partnerships in any industry, or any size.

There are a few considerations before entering a co-branding partnership to ensure that the results and experience are well worth your effort:

First, both companies have to be in alignment with each other’s values, so there’s a natural fit in working together. This type of collaboration cannot be forced – co-branding just doesn’t work that way. If there are companies locally, or globally, that share similar values to yours, that’s when a co-branding partnership becomes possible.

Next, let’s look at the target market of your potential partner brand and be sure there is plenty of overlap to ensure success. It wouldn’t make sense to form a partnership with a company that does not share a similar customer base. Another thing to look at is if your target markets perhaps use the two products you’re going to collaborate on, at the same time. This creates a perfect opportunity for collaboration.

The Nike+iPod partnership is one example of overlapping markets. Consumers working out wearing Nike gear were already incorporating music into their workouts. Another example of overlapping markets is when Spotify and Starbucks partnered up to offer an exclusive, in-store playlist. It made perfect sense because many people spending time at Starbucks were already tuning into Spotify. Formally merging two brands that were already intertwined was a no-brainer.

Finally, the program or product has to be a win-win for both brands. This might go without saying, but the intention behind co-branding and co-marketing is for both companies to get a higher return than if they were to go at it alone. You’ll want to have a clear strategy of how you plan to roll out the partnership, including a way to measure the return for both companies. In the end, the success of the campaign will determine if there is more opportunity to partner together, or if it’s time to find a new co-branding opportunity.

If your company is contemplating joining forces with a like-minded brand, be sure to reach out to design masters and marketing strategists for a seamless visual and digital marketing experience.