3 Ways to Keep a Consistent Brand Image while Co-Branding
Co-branding opens a lot of doors for your business, but it can also create some additional challenges. One of those challenges is misaligned branding that confuses consumers and misrepresents both brand and retailer. The good news is that this risk of co-branding can be easily mitigated with the right approach.
By laying the groundwork early in the relationship, you can keep a consistent brand image while co-branding with retailers to connect with your target audiences, convert customers, and develop loyalty.
Understand Your Target Audience Segments
Consistent presentation of brand elements increases revenue by 33 percent. The reason? Customers find consistency comforting and are more likely to trust in your message and marketing. Keeping your branding intact while working with a retailer is vital in terms of sending a message of trust to your audience.
- Logo. Your logo is, by far, your most powerful brand identifier. 75 percent of consumers recognize a brand by its logo. Be sure to provide high-resolution logo images, and clearly communicate your logo guidelines with retail partners, designers, and anyone else who might be incorporating your brand into co-branded marketing materials. This ensures that all uses of your logo will achieve recognition and convey the desired message.
- Typography. 90 percent of shoppers expect to see consistent branding across all platforms. Using the same typography in marketing materials, on in-store signage, and on your website helps to reinforce the strength of your brand and create continuity.
- Color. Brand colors improve customer recognition by more than 80 percent, and 93 percent of buyers focus on brand color when buying products. Color swapping with your retail partners might seem like an effective way to marry the two brands, but it may have an alienating effect on your audience. Consider additional ways of incorporating brand colors into design elements.
- Graphics/Imagery/Photography. A company’s visual style is the second most powerful way in which people recognize a brand. Consistency in your graphics and visual presentation will reinforce the message to consumers that they're looking at a familiar brand while they shop at retail.
These factors highlight the importance of visual brand consistency, both within your organization and with your co-branding partners. The best ways to maintain visual brand consistency are:
- Having an up-to-date visual brand manual—an absolute must for any co-branding initiative. If your co-branding partners are making marketing materials, make sure they have your branding guide. If you’re handling materials on your own, use the brand manual in discussions with your partner to showcase the importance of maintaining consistency in your branding.
- Designing and providing retailers with ready-made or turnkey co-branded marketing assets free of charge. Your brand stays in control of visual consistency, and because retailers don’t have to pay for a team to do this work, they may be more likely to use it.
2. Choose a Story that Unites the Two Brands
In addition to maintaining visual brand consistency, there needs to be consistency in the story the brand and retailer are telling. There should be a natural connection between the two brands, and it should appeal directly to the consumer.
- Find Synergies. A co-branding relationship works best if there’s a story that connects the common threads between both brand and retailer in a way that truly benefits and speaks to the customer. A great example of this is the relationship between GoPro and Red Bull. Make sure your retail partners are on the same page with you on why organic continuity like this conveys authenticity and gets consumers excited about both brands.
- Develop Your Story. Show consumers why this co-branding relationship is taking place by promoting the commonalities between your partnering retail brand and your own. 64 percent of consumers state that sharing values with a brand is the most important reason why they have a relationship with that brand. Be sure your story tells customers that you aren’t compromising your relationship with them in the retail partners you choose to sell with.
- Address Challenges. From target segment misalignment to changes in the marketplace, there are plenty of challenges to successfully aligning the story of a brand and retailer. So before you begin a partnership, find and address any challenges that may cause your story to misfire or ineffectively speak to your audience.
- Don’t Force It. 86% of consumers believe authenticity is a key factor for them in deciding what brands to support. Work together with your partner to tackle these co-branding issues, but if it’s not a fit, it’s time to walk away. Don’t let the wrong partner derail the trust you’ve built with your audience.
3. Always put the customer first
Your customers should be the focus of everything you do, both internally and in co-branding relationships. The customer cannot feel that your brand is abandoning its principles or selling out in any way. Co-branding relationships should seem to customers as seamless extensions of your brand’s personality, appearance, and values.
- Support the Customer Experience. No matter the extent of your co-branding relationship, consider how the partnership will impact the customer experience. The relationship should always support and improve the customer experience so that it exceeds expectations. Any negative impact to the customer experience that causes shoppers to lose confidence (both perceived and actual) needs to be addressed immediately.
- Understand Your Target Market. If there are any elements of your retailer’s brand that don’t speak to your target market, do not feature those in your co-branded marketing. Similarly, it’s important to understand your retailer’s target market and the ways your brand appeals and does not appeal to them so you know which messaging track to take in your marketing.
- Know the Customer Journey. The customer goes through different co-branding content needs as they progress through the customer journey. Brand messaging may take priority in the early phases, and the retailer may become more important to them in the later phases. Have the customer journey for both brands documented so you know how to focus and shift the balance of branding for the brand and the retailer in your marketing across the journey.
Branding is paramount in the marketing world, and entering into a relationship with a retail partner does introduce risk into your current branding. Take a clear and well-documented approach to co-branding with retailers, and make the customer and their experience with your co-branded marketing your first priority. If you’re able to do that, you’ll reduce the risk to your brand and find success in your retailer and customer relationships.
Written by Jim Mattingly
Associate Creative Director, Jim Mattingly, has led creative and design teams for agency, corporate, and retail for more than 30 years. He has developed branding and advertising for clients, including Tempur Sealy, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Kroger Co., Mandalay Entertainment, U.S. Playing Card, and Cintas.