Co-branding is nothing new to the offline world. The strategy has brought terrific success to many companies by creating new products that leverage the existing and complementary strengths of the partners.
So why not do it on the Web?
The reality is, they're trying. And in a handful of cases, they're actually succeeding. CNN/SI, MSNBC, ToysR'Us/Amazon, and even the newly configured Disney/eBay auction site are good working examples of successful Internet co-brands. Through their work, we have learned of five powerful benefits generated by online co-branding.
1) An improved focus on customer needs and wants - All marketing strategies should have a customer-oriented focus. But because co-branding involves the launching of a new product, it adds extra incentive for a true evaluation of a customer's current and latent needs and wants.
An example of a successful co-brand that captured customers' desires is NBCOlympics.com. By co-branding with the Olympics, NBC delivered a blow to its competitors by delivering on a strong proposition of timely news and rich media coverage. The official event name - Olympics - focused the content and provided immediate topical salience to the target customer.
The result was a site that captured 75% of the total page views for Olympics oriented content, despite competition from the likes of AOL, Sports Illustrated and ESPN. NBCOlympics.com also beat the competition by as much as 200% in site traffic on individual days during the event.
2) Improves the ability to communicate a product or service to a target customer - The point of developing a brand is to communicate a core value to the target customer. Through co-branding these values can be extended and reinforced to communicate a new product to the consumer. One solid example of such a relationship is the Toys 'R' Us/Amazon co-branded commerce site.
In its first online attempt, Toys'R'Us failed miserably. In 1999, they were trounced 3-to-1 in sales by eToys, got fined by the FTC for poor business practices, and had to issue hundreds of thousands of dollars in "make good" gift certificates to angry customers.