Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Sleeping with the Enemy Can Pay Off

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Sleeping with the Enemy Can Pay Off

Article excerpt

Usually, we only look at other brands as competitors. But the marketing world is changing: many marketers now perceive other brands not simply as rivals, but as potential partners in mutually beneficial projects.

There has been enormous growth in co-branding over the past 18 months: Puma has worked with Mini to produce a special-edition car; Acer has worked with Ferrari to create a laptop computer; Volkswagen has partnered with Apple to create an iPod-compatible Beetle.

Unexpected partnerships are springing up all over the world, transforming co-branding from a vague notion into a key marketing strategy for many major brands.

Academic research on co-branding can help to explain its sudden attraction.

Typically, academic marketing research is the last place marketers should look for inspiration. Most of it is arcane, pointless and over-complex.

But the literature on co-branding is the exception.

One of the earliest papers on the topic is still one of the most interesting.

Park, Jun and Shocker ran laboratory experiments in which subjects were asked to rate a fictional co-branded cake-mix product from Slim-Fast (known for bland-tasting, low-calorie slimming food) and Godiva (known for rich-tasting, high-calorie chocolates). The co-branded mix was rated far higher than a single-branded offering from either brand. It was also rated higher than a Godiva and Haagen-Dazs co-branded product, as the two were perceived as similar.

It appears that only positive brand associations are perceived by consumers who encounter a co-branded offering.Research has also uncovered the existence of 'positive spillover effects' on the contributing brands. For example, it is likely that SlimFast products would be perceived as less bland-tasting by those who had experienced the co-branded cake mix, while Godiva would have reduced the perception of its products as high-calorie. This opens up the tantalising possibility of using co-branding as a way to modify and improve brand equity while still making money from the co-branded product or service.

Then there are the practical advantages. When two brands work together there are enormous potential insights to be gleaned from working with a different organisation: both brands can bring their own loyal customers into the target market, thus increasing the potential attraction of the new offering; the product development and marketing costs are shared between the organisations; and the co-brand is eminently buzz-worthy. …

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