It’s like chocolate and peanut butter. Wine and cheese. Nuts and bolts. Some things just go together. Some things, you wouldn’t think of as a great combination, but with clever partnerships, co-branding and affinity marketing can elevate two separate companies into something better together.

What is co-branding/affinity marketing?

Simply put, it’s a marketing partnership between two brands whose products compliment one another in ways that elevate both companies higher than they could do it alone. By aligning marketing campaigns, target audiences, and budgets, the possibilities are stratospheric, some of them quite literally.

Take GoPro and Red Bull.

While initially these two products—portable cameras and energy drinks—don’t seem related, the values between the two brands are very much aligned. They’re both lifestyle brands, marketed to those seeking the next big adventure, being fearless, and in many cases extreme action. By combining forces, GoPro equips athletes and adventurers around the world with cameras for sporting events and stunts, and Red Bull adds its reputation and experience to sponsor these events, creating a unique experience for participants and spectators alike. None of the events are as stunning as the Stratos project, where GoPro and Red Bull combined to pull off a stunt like no other. They teamed up with Felix Baumgartner, an Australian skydiver, daredevil, and BASE jumper, to break 3 world records by jumping from a space pod more than 24 miles above the Earth with a GoPro strapped to his helmet and his chest.

Matches Made in Heaven

  • Looking for the perfect brownie recipe? Betty Crocker and Hershey’s chocolate have just the thing, partnering to bring you their gooey goodness even better than your mom used to make.
  • Need to run off those brownie calories? Nike and Apple have been in partnership since the early 2000s to bring you Nike+, athletic apparel equipped with apps that help measure your exercise performance. It’s more than just clothing with convenient pockets for your iPhone. It’s athletic apparel and shoes with Apple technology embedded, so no data point is left untracked in your quest to get healthier.
  • When Diet Coke wanted to celebrate its 30th anniversary in Europe, they turned to fashion designer Marc Jacobs to dazzle drinkers with a designer can.
  • Think Star Wars and Cover Girl have nothing in common? Think again. Space age action is no longer targeted for only men and boys, and CoverGirl smashed stereotypes by announcing the first ever male CoverGirl in 2016. Both companies said people of all genders can be interested in space exploration and makeup, bringing CoverGirl’s The Light Side and The Dark Side makeup line to life. Movie fans will recognize the makeup as the sides of good and evil in the movies, and makeup connoisseurs are given a whole new palette to play with.

Benefits of Co-Branding and Affinity Marketing

Considering the benefits of co-branding? There are several that can make such partnerships worth it:

  1. Brands share customer loyalty and increased sales. Those loyal to one brand are given the green light to explore an affinity for the other brand, earning both products new customers.
  2. Boost to reputation. When one brand has built goodwill, that gets transferred to a new product and vice versa, helping both brands become greater than before.
  3. A unique product. With the marriage of two companies, sometimes new products are born that neither company would have been capable of introducing on their own.
  4. Cost effectiveness and shared risk. With a budget spread between two partners, either there’s an opportunity for great cost savings in the campaign, or the campaign itself can be more widespread, reaching greater audiences than either would have been able to afford alone.
  5. Brand and product awareness. Where one brand might have been smaller than the other, or in a slightly different market, now both brands enjoy collaborative efforts to make more people aware of each other, increasing their overall market share.
  6. Technology sharing. Like the Nike+ ingenuity between Apple and Nike, both powerhouses in their fields bring technology to the market that can’t be had anywhere else.

Drawbacks to Watch For

Like with any partnership, there are pitfalls. When considering brands to collaborate with, companies should make sure of several things:

  1. They don’t dilute their message. With communication being spread between companies, sometimes the message can get lost. A strong, strategic plan can help stave off any cross-communication snafus.
  2. Both brands share equal reputations. If a company with strong market goodwill partners with someone with a reputation for substandard products or service, their goodwill can shrink, and rapidly. People will lose trust in the word of the reputable brand before they’ll take a risk on the less-reputable one.
  3. Find an ethical match. If two brands don’t co-exist with similar values, culture, and ethics, the partnership will be short-lived, and perhaps do more damage to both parties than never having partnered at all.
  4. Size matters. If a market giant collaborates with a small business, customers may question why someone so big is interested in the products of someone small, and the small business could be swallowed whole by the large brand’s reputation. While both companies don’t have to be equal in size, comparable works better for both their purposes.
  5. Share alliances. If your quality control is more stringent than your brand partner’s, will you be able to stand behind a collaborated product? Will you be able to meet your customers’ expectations? It’s not only about reputation—your shared product has to stand the test of the market, and if it doesn’t, your name is also on the line.

With the right collaboration, co-branding companies share a greater potential not only to capture market share otherwise unavailable to them, but to bring about products that wouldn’t have existed before. Trailblazing the way for new and exciting innovations is why a lot of businesses start up in the first place. Partnering with another like-minded brand could mean you reach your full—and even greater—potential faster, better, and with less risk than ever before.


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