Level Up Your Authority: Co-branding and Brand Partnerships

November 20, 2023

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Written by
Beth LaGuardia

man looking at phone for news on Advantage Media

What is co-branding? Co-branding represents the coming together of entities to lend their branding (and typically resources) to a common campaign. The point of combining forces is to increase brand strength and, thus, marketability of the campaign.

For example, consider these well-known brands that teamed up to produce highly successful co-branding campaigns:RedBull +

  • GoPro: Stratos Campaign
  • GoPro: Red Bull Stratos – The Full Story
  • Pottery Barn + Sherwin Williams: Pottery Barn Hues Collection (2013 – present)
  • Amazon + American Express: Amazon Business American Express Card

Think about a brand you are loyal to teaming up with another brand you’ve not tried before, or possibly have never even heard of. When you see the campaign, that brand has achieved some awareness with a new market (you). Possibly some of the trust you have for your favorite brand has rubbed off on their new-to-you, untested product or company.

Companies successfully use co-branding to break into new markets and to gain awareness and market share in existing markets. The ultimate goal of co-branding is to generate brand awareness or new business growth, or both.

Why not build your authority as an individual in the same way?

I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can, and to help you lay out a plan for success. First, let’s look at two distinct approaches and goals, so you can decide which combination is right for you (or maybe you decide on multiple fits, which is perfectly fine).

Amplify Reach: Co-Brand with Thought Leaders

Let’s begin with an exercise. Make a list of other thought leaders who are reaching your same audience profile. This may require some light research.

I recommend you start by asking your audience who they are inspired by, and qualifying the sector you want them to focus on. An example for an executive coach might be someone you follow for insights in employee experience/the future of work/longevity.

Look at common connections in social media. Google the topic and look at those quoted in the news. Think about the people you follow for these topics.

Next, sort the list based on three attributes:

  1. Brand reputation (strong, medium, weak)
  2. Brand reach; volume of the audience they have as loyal to them (low/medium/high)
  3. Your ability to lend brand value to this Authority today, meaning are you able to help them build their reputation with their audience by adding value and/or can you help them reach new audiences by endorsing them to your network (strong, medium, weak).

Now we have a priority list with (strong, high, strong) Authorities at the top.

Creating Your Co-branding Pitch

Next, let’s work on your pitch. You can start by asking yourself:

  • What do you have to offer?
  • Do you have a podcast or a blog with a sizable subscriber base?
  • Do you have a book you have written that you would offer a free download for?
  • Do you have a volume of social followers many times beyond that of the target Authority? Access to an event space?

Maybe it’s simply that you hit it off with this thought leader, and you share a common viewpoint. Perhaps you could embark on a joint study that you co-brand and promote to each of your audiences. You can then share study insights through a webinar or a keynote presentation, or even leverage the facts and data as the supporting foundation for a future book.

Creatively, your pitch could be to produce a series of content together and promote it to your respective audiences. You could team up for a virtual event to promote the content. Maybe it’s worth an old-fashioned mailing with some exclusive value to catch attention. Another angle: think about a common nonprofit cause that your campaign together could benefit.

Sometimes two heads are better than one, and the creative juices get going once you mutually decide there is something “there” to be explored. Time for networking!

Brand Partnership with a Corporate Brand To Break into New Market

Another brand partnership strategy is to approach a corporate brand with a co-branding, co-marketing opportunity Or both.

Let’s say that you coach C-suite or up-and-coming C-suite leaders, and you want to move upstream with clients who are already CEOs. You can use similar methodologies to produce a list of brands to approach and to think about what you bring to the table.

With co-marketing, both parties typically pool resources to offset costs and increase reach and marketability. The key is to make sure that both parties see value in the relationship and association with one another’s brand.

There are always risks when you team up with another brand, because you cannot control that brand’s reputation. Do your research and enter with caution and opportunity to test, with flexibility to expand together or abandon ship.

One option is to do business with a corporate brand and then endorse their work. For example, you could write a book with Forbes Books and reach the Forbes’ CEO-focused audience through our audience marketing strategies.

Then, you can participate in a case study or share content as a member of our network. Partner with us and leverage our brand power to reach your target audience and build trust.Through this partnership, you benefit from the strength of this iconic brand and translate that reach and trust into brand awareness with your new, desirable audience.

Another option would be to give away value to the audience. What about offering a content collaboration, such as a co-branded webinar or other article series? This could be exclusively offered for the corporate brand’s audience in exchange for an explicit or implied endorsement?

Depending upon your offering, you could also consider bundling your product or service with a product or service that the brand offers. This leads to the value of cross-promotion and implied endorsement. You will gain access to the brand’s audience and get a “second look” because of the trust and credibility the brand is lending to you as an Authority.

There are many options, and they don’t have to be costly. Again, two heads may be better than one in thinking about the possibilities once you get the door open for discussion.

Considerations Before You Go Forward

Do your research on the Authority or corporate brand before you approach them.

  1. Have they worked with other authorities or brands, and were those attempts successful? What made them successful, if so?
  2. What is their reputation? Dig below the surface before approaching them.
  3. Clearly know what you offer, and how this benefits the other party. Establish gates and clear success metrics. Decide on a budget and revenue share or referral terms for any resulting business..
  4. Keep it flexible. Test the waters and expand or have the ability to walk away. De-risk where possible.
  5. Validate that the strategy is additive to your brand: Review your brand strategy to make sure this effort is on-brand and, in fact, strengthens your brand.
  6. Get creative! Don’t limit your thinking to what you’ve tried before. Whiteboard possible strategies and pressure test them with what could go right and obstacles that could limit or prevent success.

You don’t have to go it along! We can help with your brand strategy. To get started, take the Authority Assessment or visit our upcoming Events page to build your Master Authority Plan LIVE with us.

Enjoy the journey!

beth laguardia cmo headshot

Beth LaGuardia

Chief Marketing Officer

Beth LaGuardia Cooper provides leadership direction grounded in a nurturing culture that strikes a balance of performance, efficiency, and innovation. Key tenets of her marketing ...

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