By Steve Rivkin
- Kellogg Pop-Tarts with Smucker’s jam.
- Pillsbury brownie mix with Nestle chocolate.
- Dell computers with Intel processors.
- Crest Complete toothpaste with Scope mouthwash (both brands owned by parent P&G).
These are examples of “ingredient co-branding,” one of the most common types of co-branding – and they all make sense.
These combos add a well-known and respected ingredient to one branded product, leveraging separate core competencies to add value.
But a recent uptick in co-branding has brought some bizarre fusions to retail shelves. In the first five months of this year, 6% of all product launches relied on co-branding, almost double the rate in previous years. Some push the sensory envelope. Others are just a desperate attempt to snare eyeballs. Has co-branding jumped the shark?
- Dial body wash with Froyo yogurt. Really? Do I want to eat my yogurt, or wash my armpits with it?
- A&W/Betty Crocker Root Beer Float Frosting. Tell me again: Exactly why do I want root beer flavored cake frosting?
- Kellogg’s Jif peanut butter cereal. Peanut butter nuggets floating in milk may be your kids’ idea of a nifty breakfast. But when did Kellogg’s abdicate its proud flag and turn this packaging into a showcase for Jif? (In other words, what happened to the “co” in this co-branding?)
Before marketers are tempted to cook up the next wild and crazy combination, they might want to take a step back to consider how and why co-branding really works. Here are six realistic questions to ask.
- Does co-branding support your brand mission? Here’s how brand strategist and growth adviser Dean Crutchfield puts it:
“Brands have the power to inspire, instigate, enlighten, enrage, entertain and edify. But if you stretch a brand too far, it can snap. So if you’re prepared to take a shortcut based on a trend instead of a principled decision, reminding yourself of your brand’s mission in the long term should help you make the right choice.”
- Does the co-branding increase meaningfulness and value to the consumer? (The food chain Chipotle proudly points to Niman Ranch as the source of its pork.)
- Is co-branding an opportunity for one brand to introduce its product or service to devotees of the other brand?
- Will the combined strength of two brands justify a premium price?
- Are you co-branding with products whose status is at least the same as your own, if not superior? (The lodging chain EconoLodge has teamed up with leading household cleaning brand Mr. Clean to create a housekeeper-certification program for its staff.)
- Will co-branding – since it spreads the credit for a positive experience across two brands – dilute one of the two brands? Worse yet, could it make your brand look weak or secondary?