Restless consumers are hunting more than ever for products that deliver additional value. Co-branding a strong national brand with an equally-recognized licensed brand is one way in which to accomplish that. The goal: to pump up volume and to gain a competitive edge by attracting and retaining customers in a highly-charged consumer product environment.
As a result, there’s been a rush to co-brand with both national and licensed brands looking for opportunities to exploit. Too much of a rush at times. Some co-branded partnerships are sensations while others fail to hit the mark. They have to make sense to consumers and represent a great fit or, at the very least, share brand values to work. Even then, they have to be presented to consumers in a compelling manner at retail so that the partnership will be easily and immediately understood.
Reasons for national brands and licensed brands to partner
Banking on the success of two powerhouse brands:
If a national brand is well-established and doing well, co-branding it with a well-recognized, highly-successful and complementary licensed brand could create a new product in the marketplace with an established pedigree. Keep in mind, however, that the popularity of licensed brands can often be fleeting. The licensing landscape is filled with brands that are hot now but will be old news in the next 3 – 6 months. The key to success here is to partner only with brands that have proven longevity.
Partnering “for a limited time”:
Intentionally limited co-branded partnerships between national and licensed brands can create massive consumer demand – sometimes even a frenzy. This type of co-branding is most successful when the licensed brand is highly-anticipated before launch, like a successful film franchise’s latest release, for example. The hype will drive awareness and, due to the short-lived availability, co-branded products will become highly sought after.
Creating limited edition luxury items:
National luxury brands appealing to an affluent consumer can generate excitement by creating limited runs of exclusive items that are co-branded with a carefully-considered popular licensed brand. Desire among fans of the licensed brand will be generated through the uniqueness of the products as well as their exclusivity and limited availability. When the partnership is a perfect fit between national luxury brand and licensed brand, it will draw the attention of consumers who may never have considered purchasing the luxury brand’s products. A good example would be the Nixon x Star Wars watches I recently blogged about.
Elevating commodity products:
The proliferation of too-similar consumer products dilutes brands, especially when the economy is a bit sluggish. Even during normal economic circumstances, lower-priced private label brands take a bite out of national brands market share. Smart co-branding can elevate a commodity to another level, creating incentive for consumers to shell out more due to higher perceived value.
Caveats to co-branding
It makes no difference how strong the appeal of a co-branded product is; it can fail. Consumer expectation is so heightened when co-branded products are launched featuring two strong brands that if the experience falls short in any way, it can torpedo expected sales and even do damage to both brands.
Are they a perfect fit? Many co-branded consumer product partnerships never take off because they mystify consumers; they simply don’t make sense. Even if they aren’t a perfect fit, brand values need to be aligned.
Does the co-branding add value? Even powerful brands can’t make magic if the consumer can’t justify the additional spend for the co-branded products.
Too much of a good thing? Some of the most dominant brands have lost their cachet – and loyal customer base – due to overexposure. Over-licensing the most powerful brands can lead to serious brand dilution which should be avoided.
Hastily designed packaging. Many consumer products, including co-branded products, fail to meet sales expectations and even die on the shelf due to ineffectively designed packaging. The investment in licensing is significant, as is the investment in well-designed packaging. To effectively present both brands and maximize their full potential, strong package design is critical.
To co-brand or not to co-brand?
There are, indeed, many considerations here. If well-conceived and properly executed, co-branding can have huge upside potential to both brands. Volume and competitive edge is one thing, but the opportunity to create greater brand equity carries even more impetus at a time when so many brands are losing their luster.