In a recent commercial, Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds is seen promoting his new Netflix movie, Aviation Gin and Samsung TV in an ad within an ad within an ad.
A few seconds into playing the trailer for his movie on the large TV mounted on a wall behind him an ad for the gin brand rolls.
“How’d that get there?” he sheepishly asks as the puzzled director steps in the frame and asks what’s going on.
“I bought mid-roll ad placement,” says the actor.
Director: “You bought an ad for your gin within an ad for your movie within an ad for Samsung TV?”
Reynolds: “Yes. It felt like the right thing to do.”
We’re seeing more of this “right thing” on the brand front. Now, such Inception-esque, co-advertising might not be every brand’s cup of tea. But a lot more brands are opening up to sharing space in other ways as a recent upswing in co-branding and co-creating activities indicate.
A classic example is the work Mondelez has done for its brand Oreo over the years. Last month, the company tied up with dairy brand Keventers to sell official Oreo Shakes. In 2018, Mondelez and Unilever’s Kwality Walls together launched Cornetto Oreo. And today Oreo has become a staple on McDonald’s dessert menu.
However, finding the right partners wasn’t an easy task, says Sudhanshu Nagpal, associate director – Marketing (Biscuits), Mondelez India. According to Nagpal, “Trust is the crust of co-creating products. You need to find partners who have the same zeal for your product as you. Also, this gives you ample marketing opportunities to create larger brand impressions. Now that we have worked on a few co-branded products, I think we are comfortable to do more in this space.”
Seemingly unlikely co-creations are being birthed. For starters, PepsiCo is attempting to establish itself in the fashion world. The company has launched a dedicated e-commerce channel dubbed ‘House of PepsiCo’. It has apparel and accessory collections from PepsiCo’s brand collaborations with labels from around the world.
While PepsiCo seems to have stretched out of its traditional comfort zone, several younger companies are building their brands through a collaboration-driven strategy.
Ashish Mishra, managing director, Interbrand, explains, “Today, there’s no one model for success, no one way to make an impact, no limit for experimentation and growth – and no slowing down. That has bred a generation of leaders who want to do it their own way – without compromise – which in turn has yielded an unprecedented number of start-up brands.” That’s led to a new type of collaborative competition – or co-petition – where partnerships and affinity lead the way, says Mishra.
Online education mega brand Byju’s is creating co-branded products and, recently, the company collaborated with Disney to create an early learning app for young kids. Experts believe it will help the app garner reach and equity with kids on the back of Disney.
Co-branding is also a way to stay relevant to a new customer base, particularly when ‘staying relevant’ is staying alive.
When Apple and Nike came together to create Nike+ app for runners they created a significant in size and passionate community of their own that congregated on their platform. In 2016, a random redesign caused much outrage among users of the app. The Verge reported, “You know it’s rough when Windows 8 burns start getting tossed around.”
In fashion, one finds many organic “collabs”. Newest is the Adidas and Prada partnership to launch a joint product, expected to hit shelves in December 2019. In the past, Adidas has collaborated with a number of designers, luxury brands, and celebrities to create products and limited-edition lines. An approach that many beauty brands are taking today. For instance, this year designer Masaba Gupta launched a makeup collection with multi-brand beauty retailer Nykaa. Last year, Maybelline New York launched its first-ever limited-edition collection with supermodel Gigi Hadid. The collection which has been designed by Hadid herself was heavily marketed in India.
That said we’re just at the beginning of the co-branding road in India. Ashita Aggarwal, marketing professor at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, lists a few reasons for sparse cases here. “Branding is more developed in the West as compared to India. Therefore, by virtue of experience and comfort, companies find it easy to enter into co-branded offerings. Co-brands need not just expertise but also the legitimacy for the marriage to really work. In India, few brands probably enjoy both.”
Vani Gupta Dandia, founder, CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners is a former marketing director of Pepsico India, who has worked on several co-branding projects. She says, “For success in co-creation the brand and business objectives must be clear,” first and foremost. “Any partnership must serve a specific purpose and consequences, in the long run, be carefully evaluated. It is easy to jump into a partnership, but more difficult to shake off the equity damage if the partnership goes wrong,” she says.
Undeterred marketers might venture deeper into this space as Mishra predicts more action in co-branding as the conventional boundaries of businesses are quickly disappearing.
Now, if only someone would create a co-branded app that could find one the right brand and business co-branding match.
The Early Drive
In 1956, French automobile manufacturer Renault worked with designer Jacques Arpels of Van Cleef and Arpels, the luxury jewellery, watch and perfume company. Arpels turned the dashboard of Renault’s then trending model Dauphine into a work of art. This special edition car is considered one of the early brand collaboration efforts in marketing.
In 2014, Lego and Shell had to end their long co-branded partnership, due to pressures from Greenpeace. The environmental campaign group protested the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic. It targeted the toy maker with a YouTube video which received millions of views for its depiction of a pristine Arctic, built from 120kg of Lego, being covered in oil. Lego’s partnership with Shell dated to the 1960s and involved Shell-branded toy sets being sold around the world.