Co-branding is the Future of All Marketing

Old Spice


Co-branding is the True Form of Engagement

There probably isn’t a single marketer out there that hasn’t thought and felt that the world of marketing has changed dramatically in the past 5 years. Not only has advertising moved away from pushing messages and bombarding people with them again and again and again, we are a point in marketing history where creativity, content, and education are expected.

We live in a time where customers expect to be educated and entertained at the same time, where attention spans are short, and real time demand for content and news is frigtening. We are moving into the world of co-branding and real time advertising. A world where we, as marketers, MUST work with our consumers to establish brands that will survive and thrive.

While in the past, marketers and agencies conducted focus groups on their advertisements (and we still do), we are now realizing that sometimes the largest focus groups won’t be able to give you the insight you need. A good example of this is Psy and his 1.7 billion plus video views for Gangnam style. If you told viewers that it would be the most viewed video on Youtube to date, I’m sure many of them would have laughed or shrugged it off.

While a music video may not seem like it’s marketing, I dare you to tell that to Psy who has major marketing endorsement contracts from companies like Nongshim Ramen (one of my favourite instant noodle companies) and Wonderful Pistachios. And not to mention the royalties he must be raking in from sales on the music that’s being distributed.

While there were certain pre marketing elements that made Gangnam style successful, it was the fact that the world played a role (the social media world) in spreading the word about this video. While it seems like it’s just word of mouth marketing, social media now allows co-branding and sharing of brand messages to be exponentiated in a way that has become marketer’s wet dream.

Gangnam style created a dance that other people could be involved in. Instructographs that showed people how to do Psy’s dance were spreading on social media. It was truly a marketing phenomenon, on something, in my personal opinion, that wasn’t that phenomenal, but that doesn’t matter, because it was co-branding that skyrocketed Psy.

Co-branding is Co-entertainment:

This method of co-branding is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your target audiences. It’s when both fans of a brand or a celebrity can help create something that’s fun and uplifting, whether through AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) use of Reddit, which has helped some celebrities such as Gerard Butler, and destroyed others like Woody Harrelson. (For social media disasters you can listen to my social media disaster podcast.)

Then there’s the infamous Old Spice campaign where questions from Twitter are answered in real time through a video. A total of 186 video responses were given. Some of the questions and answers were funny, and others were very entertaining as well. Old Spice, and Wieden + Kennedy, the agency behind the work, hit a home run when they offered real time responses to those Twitter inquiries in which the videos garnered over 65 million views.

Here’s one of my favourite video responses by “Old Spice Guy.”

Co-branding is co-discussions

Co-branding is about creating discussions around your brand. It’s about realizing that as much as you may control the brand message at the start, it ultimately will be your customers that will either resonate with your brand message and want to share it, or they will ignore it.

Being able to have bold discussions, taking stands on what is potentially right and what is wrong, clarifying values for the public, and becoming more transparent with the operations of the business are the new models of business.

Customers want to engage with brands that share similar values, and reject those that don’t. A good example is that of Chick Fil A president Dan Cathay who stated that he was against non traditional marriages, suggesting that he was against same sex marriages. This led to a storm of negative publicity on social media. But ironically even with all the negative press, their sales went up by 12% in 2012. Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee even declared August 1st as Chick Fil A appreciation day, which lead to record sales.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Oreo. They made it clear that they were supportive of the LGBT lifestyles, and when they published the picture below, this lead to a hurricane of comments on Facebook. Most of it was very positive and supportive. Other brands like Grey Poupon, and Coke have done so as well. We’re also big supporters of LGBT rights, and loved Oreo’s campaign.

Oreo rainbow ad

This Facebook post by Oreo displays their support for LGBT. Oreo's post started a huge wave of conversations on Facebook, as well as on social media and around the world. The results were overwhelmingly positive, and PR exposure was worth millions.

To create that emotional spark it’s about starting discussions, not just around your brand, but the values that your brand represents.

Co-branding is Getting Immediate feedback:

Co-branding is also about getting immediate feedback from your loyal fans. More and more agencies are now creating and testing their advertising online instead of in the world of television. More businesses are launching YouTube videos and creating web series that can get immediate feedback and don’t require the hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend for air time on T.V.

Businesses can now know how long a video was watched for, how many people liked the video and respond to comments regarding their advertisements right away. This type of feedback can shape the types of campaigns in almost real time before being shown on TV across the country.

Don’t be afraid of getting immediate feedback, embrace it with all your marketing heart. Businesses need to embrace the model of failing faster, in order to create success faster.

Co-branding is Co-creation:

Co-creation allows for people to participate in creating the brand. Also known as crowd sourcing, this method of co-branding is getting the fans of your brands to directly create content. Doritos has been holding “Crash the Superbowl” contests since 2006, where people can submit their online video commercials.

Asking their fans to create wonderful advertisements and then potentially winning hundreds of thousands and even a million dollars is just brilliant. And the campaign has led it to be the world’s largest video submission contest.

Many of the finalists created work that was delightful, and quite frank, much better than many of the advertisements created by large established firms. What is even more inspiring for these film makers was that they had a chance to have their advertisement seen during the Superbowl. How cool is that to put on a resume?

While there is prize money involved, it’s the ability to get fans excited about the brand and leaving it in their hands that makes the world of social media and marketing engaging.

Etsy does a great job of having guest pinners on their Pinterest account to help create that co-branding.

As branding becomes more of a partnership and less of a dictatorship, brands will find new inspiration and creativity from everywhere. Stop trying to control all the aspects of your brand, and start embracing the new world of co-branding.

What are your thoughts on co-branding, is it something that all marketers should embrace?

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Written by Vincent NG

I’m a social media marketer, particularly for Pinterest, It all started back in 2010 when Pinterest was in beta. It was the fastest independent website to get 10 million unique visitors in the U.S. This really struck a chord with me, and it was then that I knew that Pinterest was going to be a powerhouse in the world of digital and social media marketing.