21 Examples of Successful Co-Branding Partnerships (And Why They're So Effective).

30 Aug

Written by: John Wylde

Everyone has loyalties to their favorite brands, but there’s a good chance your favorite products result from two separate brands working together.

One of my own beloved childhood memories was a product of co-branding: Betty Crocker partnered with Hershey’s to include chocolate syrup in its signature brownie recipe.

Co-branding can be an effective way to build business, boost awareness, and break into new markets, and for a partnership to truly work, it has to be a win-win for all players in the game. Both audiences need to find value — like chocolate-loving fans of Betty Crocker and Hershey’s.

There are a ton of great examples of co-branding partnerships out there. To show you what makes them so successful, we’ve curated a list of examples of great co-branding partnerships to inspire you.

GoPro doesn’t just sell portable cameras, and Red Bull doesn’t just sell energy drinks. Instead, both have established themselves as lifestyle brands — in particular, a lifestyle that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and usually pretty extreme. These shared values make them a perfect pairing for co-branding campaigns, especially those surrounding action sports.

To make the partnership work, GoPro equips athletes and adventurers from around the world with the tools and funding to capture things like races, stunts, and action sport events on video — from the athlete’s perspective. At the same time, Red Bull uses its experience and reputation to run and sponsor these events.

While GoPro and Red Bull have collaborated on many events and projects together, perhaps the biggest collaboration stunt they’ve done was “Stratos,” in which Felix Baumgartner jumped from a space pod more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface with a GoPro strapped to his person. Not only did Baumgartner set three world records that day, but he also embodied the value of reimagining human potential that define both GoPro and Red Bull.

Anyone who’s designer-conscious knows high fashion and Target aren’t exactly the same caliber regarding quality. Dresses by designers like Sandy Liang go for around $600, whereas dresses sold by Target go for more like $35 a pair. See what I mean?

In this exchange, the high-end designers can expose their name to a new generation of potential consumers, who will increasingly aspire to own more pieces from those high-end collections while furthering the idea that Target can be a store to find fashion-forward clothing.

The Joybird home lifestyle brand and paint company Sherwin-Williams did a co-branding campaign when they partnered together to curate an eclectic collection of home furnishings and color palettes.

Together, the two brands created an exclusive product line of paints and room design inspiration that helped customers easily select paint colors to complement their furniture choices.

These two businesses saw the opportunity to run a campaign that exposed their product and copywriting to brand new audiences. This intersection of target demographics could have brought in new business for each other and could have paved the way for future co-branding collaborations if proven mutually beneficial.

You may have already heard of Casper — an online mattress and bedding brand selling mattresses in a box.

Enter West Elm, a high-end furniture company. Casper and West Elm partnered so shoppers could try out the comfy mattress before purchasing — and so West Elm could advertise its chic bedroom furniture.

This is another example of a mutually beneficial co-branding partnership. It helps both brands appeal to a broader group of shoppers — after all, Casper doesn’t sell furniture, and West Elm doesn’t sell mattresses. It also provides shoppers with options — to try a mattress before buying or to feel what it would be like sleeping in a bed frame.

Kanye West, best known for his Grammy-winning rap albums, partnered with Adidas to develop a high-end footwear line called Yeezy. The combination of Kanye’s personal brand and Adidas’ growing streetwear segment has made for robust company earnings and brand growth since it was introduced.

Kanye’s celebrity appeal benefits Adidas by creating buzz around its apparel, and the athletic-wear brand gives Kanye a well-established platform to build his high-end clothing line. One of the strongest draws of Yeezy — and most notably its shoes — is its exclusivity: Kanye’s celebrity status, extremely scarce roll-outs, and the high price tag make the lucky few to own Yeezy sneakers feel a little famous by association.

Car manufacturer BMW and designer Louis Vuitton may not be the most obvious pairings. But if you think about it, they have a few important things in common. If you focus on Louis Vuitton’s signature luggage lines, they’re both in the business of travel. They both value luxury. And finally, they’re both well-known, traditional brands that are known for high-quality craftsmanship.

These shared values are exactly why this co-branding campaign makes so much sense. In their partnership, BMW created a sports car model called the BMW i8, while Louis Vuitton designed an exclusive, four-piece set of suitcases and bags that fit perfectly into the car’s rear parcel shelf.

Both brands knew their target market desired luxury and meticulous craftsmanship. By selling complimentary high-quality products, the brands successfully garnered attention from respective loyal customers.

Through the initiative, Starbucks employees get a Spotify premium subscription, with which they can curate playlists (that patrons can access through the Starbucks Mobile App) to play throughout the day in the shop. This music ecosystem is designed to expand the coffeehouse environment that Starbucks is known for while giving artists greater exposure to Starbucks customers.

The “musical-ecosystem” partnership is mutually beneficial, allowing the companies to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.

Sometimes, co-branding partnerships aren’t just cool projects between two companies — they actually have practical value when the companies work together.

When Apple released the Apple Pay app, the brand effectively changed how people perform transactions. This app allows people to store their credit or debit card data on their phone, so they can use them without physically having the card with them. But for this app to succeed, it needs credit card companies to integrate with this technology. By the same token, credit card companies also face more competition themselves if they aren’t compatible with the latest consumer purchasing tool.

To get out ahead of its competition, MasterCard became the first credit card company to allow its users to store their credit and debit cards on Apple Pay. MasterCard not only showed support of a major consumer tech developer in this partnership — it evolved along with its own customers in how they choose to make purchases at the counter.

You’ve probably heard of Airbnb, the room-sharing application that allows you to find convenient lodging hosted by real people. But its newest partner, Flipboard, might not have been on your radar until now.

Flipboard is a news aggregator that collects news and topical content that users are sharing on social media, and allows you to “flip” through the material much like a social media feed. Well, Airbnb recently teamed up with Flipboard to create Experiences, which serve Airbnb users with lifestyle content tailored to their interests and shared by people with similar interests as the reader.

The ongoing campaign recently led to another co-created product called Trips, which allows Airbnb users to connect with hosts with common interests and actually book these experiences when traveling. This partnership is an impressive example of how businesses can connect their customers with information that caters to their individual interests and drive product usage as a result.

When riders are waiting for an Uber ride, they’re prompted to connect with Spotify and become the DJ of their trip. Users can choose from their own playlists to determine what they’ll listen to.

This smart co-branding partnership helps fans of Uber and Spotify alike enjoy better experiences thanks to the app. And they might be more interested in picking Uber and Spotify over competitors knowing they can enjoy their next ride listening to their favorite tunes.

Levi Strauss & Co. — one of the world’s oldest and most recognized jean brands — recently joined forces with Pinterest, a social platform where users pin posts they like to their user profiles.

The partnership offers an authentic and individualized brand relationship, which is difficult to come by in an increasingly digital environment. Pinterest offers Levi’s a leading social platform with millions of users interested in visual offerings, and Levi’s meets these needs with digital personalization and visual-focused boards.

Some co-branding campaigns are more complicated than others. This example from BuzzFeed and Best Friends Animal Society is one of the simplest ones—and it shows that a great co-branding effort doesn’t have to take months of planning or millions of dollars.

The article is exactly what it sounds like: Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson answered fans’ questions while she played with cute kittens.

The article ends with a CTA advertising that the kittens featured in the video are, in fact, adoptable — a win-win for both partners by using celebrity to garner attention for clicks while providing more exposure for animals in need of new homes and donations.

Whenever a new installment of the beloved “Star Wars” series is released in theaters, it causes global pandemonium. The release of “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens” in 2015 was no exception. The series’ parent company, Lucasfilm, partnered with CoverGirl to capture a broader audience to get new and old fans excited about the movie’s release.

You might be wondering, “What do “Star Wars” and makeup have in common?” And the cleverness of this partnership is evident in the answer.

In the past, space-age action movies were almost exclusively advertised and targeted toward men and boys. But in this day and age, that’s nonsense — because people of all genders can be interested in space exploration and makeup contouring alike.

This co-branding partnership was a win for both brands. Lucasfilm captured more attention and got CoverGirl shoppers (many of whom are young women) excited about the film’s release. And CoverGirl hopped on the “Star Wars” advertising bandwagon that took over the internet, stores, and TV leading up to the film’s release.

The card helped users buy goods and services and provide enhanced data insights on their purchasing activity. American Express and Amazon share a commitment to help small businesses grow in the U.S. and by combining their efforts, the two companies had the opportunity to enhance their performance while building brand trust.

If you have the chance to partner for a not-for-profit cause, it can pay off in multiple ways.

By selling this fun, inexpensive fitness product, Target encourages children to embrace a healthy lifestyle and uses kids’ successes to supply underserved communities with the necessary resources. It’s an ongoing partnership that generates awareness of global malnutrition, helps UNICEF meet its demanding SDGs, and opens up Target to a demographic of families they might otherwise have had access to.

The co-branding partnership started as a way to bring music from Apple to Nike customers’ workouts using the power of technology: Nike+iPod created fitness trackers, sneakers, and clothing that tracked activity while connecting people to their tunes.

It’s a genius co-branding move that helps both parties provide a better experience to customers — and with the popularity of fitness tracking technology, Nike+ is ahead of the curve by making it easy for athletes to track while they play.

Dr. Pepper-flavored lip balm. I mean, it’s genius.

If you think the connection between lip balm and Dr. Pepper is a little thin, consider the copy on one of their vintage ads: “It’s the super shiny lip gloss with lip-smacking flavor… just like the world’s most original soft drink.” And later, “From Bonne Belle of course: the cosmetics company that understands your taste.”

While you don’t think of flavor and cosmetics, this campaign works because overlapping target demographic consumers can get excited to try an affordable and fun product like Dr. Pepper lip gloss with ease.

Every so often, we hear about a brand partnership that we think doesn’t make any sense — but it leads to a few incredibly memorable, unexpected campaigns. If you want to broaden your horizons of who you should partner with, check out these surprising co-marketing successes.

Yes. You read that right: Burger King and McDonald’s — two of the fiercest fast—food industry opponents— joined together for a co-marketing campaign in 2019. And, while we don’t encourage competing brands to do this — the campaign was for an amazing cause.

At the time, McDonald’s was donating $2 to childhood cancer charities for every Big Mac purchased. So, Burger King worked with the competing fast-food chain to host “A Day Without a Whopper.”

For one day, Burger Kings across Argentina and other countries took the Whopper off their menu in an effort to encourage people to buy a Big Mac from McDonald’s instead.

Warby Parker is known for selling affordable glasses at stores across the U.S. and through nearly fully virtual fitting platforms. Arby’s is a restaurant chain known for its slogan, “We have the meat!”

Meanwhile, Arby’s offered food with boxes that had the WArby’s logo on it as well as onion rings with a box that read “Onion Ring Monocle.”

This campaign shows that you don’t necessarily need a matching audience demographic or a partner in a similar industry to create a campaign that catches a large audience’s attention. Sometimes all you need is a sense of humor and creativity.

When the Doritos Locos Taco was first introduced, it quickly became one of the fast food industry’s most popular and widely recognized items. Frito-Lay took Taco Bell’s crunchy taco recipe and gave the Locos Taco its special, signature twist: a Doritos shell. The two companies wanted to keep the shell as close to the original cheesy chips as possible, using the original corn masa recipe and coating it in that distinctive nacho cheese dust.

Taco Bell and Frito Lay advertised the Doritos Locos Taco by wrapping the taco in a classic Doritos bag, reflecting the co-branding partnership and appealing to both brands’ audiences. The Doritos Locos Taco’s extraordinary success is yet another example of why co-branding can boost reach and sales for both brands.

It makes sense for a company to team up with celebrities who can promote their product, Tim and Eric’s comedic style is incredibly random and unique. Although they’re pretty hilarious, as a marketer, you might wonder how this type of comedy style translates into a mattress marketing campaign that actually generates revenue.

While you might think Tim and Eric had dull down their iconic routine to sell Purple products, this is actually quite far from the truth. In a video series called The Purple Boys, they actually amped up their bizarre antics.

The storyline of Purple Boys episodes often relate to a sleep-related pain point, such as the “Sunday Scaries.” Although the script and special effects are incredibly random, the episodes almost always end with the Purple Boys supplying a sleep-deprived character with a Purple mattress.

To give you a visual of what this off-the-wall comedy series looks like, check out this episode that centers around a sleepy character named Joe Dunder:

Although hiring actors is technically more of a sponsorship than a partnership, this large-scale campaign benefits both parties. While Tim and Eric could spread awareness of their comedy to Purple audiences, Tim and Eric fans might watch these videos for entertainment and learn about Purple’s products along the way.

Although you might not have the budget of the brands noted above, you can take note of them regarding their creativity, level of storytelling, and how they pooled their resources to connect their separate brands in a mutually beneficial way.

As you search for the best co-marketing partner for your brand and build a winning campaign, we hope you find some inspiration for your next stellar launch.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.