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Co-Marketing for Consumer Brands: How to Double Your Impact and Make Marketing Fun Again

March 6, 2023

As pay per click ROI continues to fall almost as fast as organic social reach, you might be wondering what's next?  How best to diversify your marketing campaigns and spend?

Well, it may not be well understood, but it's no secret that a lot of the most successful direct to consumer brands lean heavily into brand partnerships and co-marketing.

If this is something you're not familiar with, then read on to learn how you can lower your CAC, significantly increase your reach and make marketing fun again by partnering with other great brands targeting the same niche.

What Is a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Brand?

This article isn't focussed just on DTC brands but we thought it was worth addressing how they differ from traditional consumer brands and what it means in the overall context of consumer brands.

Firstly, direct to consumer brands sell their products to their customers through their own channels.  This could be a website, or their social channels, etc.  

It is often credited as being a more efficient buying journey for consumers, but that should probably be turned around to being a more efficient selling journey for brands - because sometimes a retail store visit is far more efficient for the buyer.

It is commonly thought that direct to consumer brands originated with the internet but in reality they have been around for decades.  The earliest form of DTC selling I could find was the old milkman that used to travel from house-to-house selling milk.

We don't need to go back that far though, Tupperware, which launched in 1946, started selling directly to consumers in their homes.  The door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman is also a strong historical memory of direct to consumer selling.

So, although the online brands dominate the conversation, direct to consumer brands have been around for a long time, but, usually with a very specific focus or model on how they reach their consumers.

Most DTC brands in recent years have started to explore alternative models due to emerging challenges.

How Is the Direct-To-Consumer Industry Changing?

After a lot of hype and high growth it turns out that a lot of direct to consumer brands are finding it hard to make a profit.  The online ad space is expensive and there's a lot of competition.

Although the savings from not having to share your margins with distributors and/or retailers can be huge.  Some of the operating costs are much higher than people predicted.  

The common practice of 'bracketing' when buying clothes where people may order their size plus one size up and one size down means that for every item sold, two are returned, can really hit your margins.

In the end, sharing some of your margins with retail stores and distributors is often the least costly way of getting your products to consumers.  Established retailers have been around for a long time and have often had years to make their supply chains and processes more efficient.

So what we're seeing is more of a mixed model.  The exposure brands get in retail stores leads to more online sales with a cheaper customer acquisition cost.  The mixed model also allows for brands to keep the personal relationships with those consumers who want that direct relationship with the brand.  At the same time it also allows for those who want to purchase from stores and allows for the spontaneous purchase.

What is co-marketing?

So, what exactly is co-marketing? Simply put, it's like a marketing playdate for brands. Two or more businesses team up to create and promote a joint marketing campaign, combining their resources, audience reach, and creative genius. The result? Marketing magic that amplifies the impact, reaches new customers, and creates an unforgettable experience for consumers.

Think of co-marketing like a superhero team-up: when Iron Man and Captain America join forces, they're way cooler and more powerful together, right? Well, the same principle applies to your brand! By partnering with another brand, you can create a marketing campaign that's larger than life, leaving your audience saying, "Wow! That's the coolest thing we've seen all year!"

Still not convinced? Picture this: you own a boutique ice cream shop, and you've got some delectable new flavors that need promoting. You partner with a hip, local bakery known for their mouth-watering cookies. Together, you create an irresistible ice cream sandwich that showcases the best of both your brands. You share this scrumptious creation on social media, in-store displays, and through email marketing campaigns, reaching twice the number of potential customers. Suddenly, your ice cream shop is the talk of the town, and your co-marketing efforts have created a buzz-worthy campaign that leaves everyone craving more.

So, whether you're a small business looking to make a splash or an established brand aiming to keep things fresh, co-marketing can be the secret sauce to maximizing your marketing impact and injecting some much-needed fun back into your campaigns.

How does co-marketing work?

In this section, we'll guide you through the process of how co-marketing works, step by step.

Step 1: Identify the Ideal Partner The first step in successful co-marketing is finding the right partner. Seek out brands that have complementary products or services, target a similar audience, and align with your brand's values. A strong partnership is built on mutual admiration and a shared vision.

Step 2: Collaborate on a Campaign Idea Once you've found a compatible partner, it's time to brainstorm ideas for a joint marketing campaign. This could be anything from a limited-edition product to a shared promotion or an engaging event. The key is to develop a concept that will resonate with your target audience and showcase the strengths of both brands.

Step 3: Assign Responsibilities With your campaign concept in place, clearly define each brand's responsibilities and create a timeline to ensure smooth collaboration. By delineating roles, both brands can focus on their strengths and contribute to the campaign's success.

Step 4: Launch Your Co-Marketing Campaign Now it's time to bring your campaign to life! Utilize your combined marketing resources, such as social media channels, email lists, and in-store promotions, to amplify your message and reach a wider audience. Be sure to tag and mention each other in your promotional materials, so both brands benefit from the increased visibility.

Step 5: Evaluate Results and Celebrate Success After your campaign has concluded, take the time to measure its success by analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs), such as website traffic, social media engagement, and sales figures. Understanding the results will help you determine if the campaign met its objectives. And, of course, be sure to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements together – a successful co-marketing partnership is always worth celebrating!

By following these steps, you can effectively leverage co-marketing to enhance your marketing impact and create more engaging campaigns. So, go ahead and explore potential partnerships – who knows what amazing co-marketing opportunities await!

How to Find the Right Co-Marketing Partners to Work With

You can start with brands you already know or maybe you can get an introduction to another business from someone you know.  The next best way is to use a platform like intribe which will help you sift through and select potential partners faster.

Failing that, it's all about cold outreach.  First, build a list of potential brands with your partner Google Search and the filter and prioritize them by the following analysis.

  1. Align with Complementary Brands. When seeking co-marketing partners, look for brands that offer complementary products or services. This will ensure that your joint marketing efforts have a natural synergy, and both businesses will benefit from the collaboration without direct competition.
  2. Share a Target Audience. Choose a partner that shares a similar target audience. By doing so, you'll ensure that your marketing efforts resonate with both your existing customer base and your partner's, maximizing your reach and potential impact.
  3. Find a Cultural Fit. A successful co-marketing partnership requires great chemistry. Look for brands with a similar company culture, values, and brand personality. This alignment will make collaboration smoother and help create a more cohesive and authentic marketing message.
  4. Assess Marketing Resources Evaluate potential partners based on their marketing resources, such as their social media presence, email lists, domain authority and in-store promotions.
  5. Research Past Collaborations. Take the time to research potential partners and their previous collaborations. This can give you insights into their approach to co-marketing, the types of campaigns they've executed, and their track record for success. Ideally, you'll want to partner with brands that have a history of successful partnerships and a commitment to high-quality campaigns.  We have features in intribe that specifically help you do this.
  6. Start with a Trial Run. Before diving headfirst into a full-blown co-marketing campaign, consider starting with a smaller project or trial run. This will help you gauge the partnership's effectiveness, test your compatibility, and build trust before investing in a larger-scale campaign. We always say it's best to date a little first, before getting married.

Come up with an idea to pitch

Some cold outreach for comarketing partnerships is basically some version of "hey bro, you want to partner?"  As appealing as that sounds, it's not usually no.1 on my priority list.

When I receive an invitation for partnership that's short and clear and outlines what the partnership looks like and how it might benefit me, I'm more interested.

The best outreach, though, are somewhat fully formed campaigns.  Imagine you get an email containing:

  1. An idea for a social media give away from a brand with a similar audience to yours
  2. They've outlined how the campaign will work and what your participation will look like
  3. They've listed the other brands or types of brands they're inviting to participate as well so you'll know it's going to be a bigger event.
  4. They include a mini project plan.

As you can imagine, that last type of email or DM usually gets a response from me.

So, put a little thought into how you might partner with the brand you're reaching out to and then summarize it into a few bullet points.  Having said that, don't over think it either.

Do you need a formal co-marketing partnership agreement?

First thing to note - we're not lawyers and nor do we play one on the internet.

This really comes down to how your business operates and considers risk.

Many partnership activities go ahead without formal agreements but this is usually determined by the amount of money involved, unique industry compliance issues and how well you know the partner.

A simple giveaway on social media with a few brands coming together to each contribute one of their products as a prize and agreeing to promote the campaign on social media might just involve a simple email exchange and agreement.

A give away involving a car or other high value item probably requires a contract and formal plan.  Similarly co-creating a product with a lot of upfront development costs would need a formal agreement.

If you're co branding a product with a large brand - you'll have to sign a contract.  They will probably have sent you the contract before even discussing the details of the campaign.

Alternatively, if you're co branding a local website with free hosting and contributing copy and images created in-house, then maybe you don't need one.

In summary, it's really a cost/benefit calculation.  The higher the risks, the more likely it is that you should have a formal agreement.

What's the difference between co-branding and co-marketing?

When it comes to collaborative marketing strategies, co-marketing and co-branding are often mistaken for one another. Although they share similarities, these approaches have distinct differences that make them uniquely suited for different marketing objectives.

Co-marketing is the partnership between two or more brands that join forces to promote a shared marketing campaign. Each brand maintains its separate identity and combines resources, audience reach, and creative talents to amplify their marketing efforts. The goal is to boost brand awareness and reach a broader audience for both parties involved.

On the flip side, co-branding is when two or more brands collaborate to create a unique product or service that merges their brand identities. This strategy results in a co-branded offering that showcases the strengths of each participating brand. Co-branding aims to capitalize on the combined reputation and trust of the partnering brands, ultimately creating a product that appeals to a wider customer base.

Define your campaign and promotion details with your partner/s

Once you've found your partners it's time to get into the details.

A few things that will help you stand out from other brands they've partner with is to remember that a partnership campaign is for the mutual benefit of all the companies involved. If you keep that in mind you'll soon be partnering with the more of the top DTC brands you could hop for.

The next thing to keep in mind is how you'll measure success for the overall campaign.  What's important for each of the partners involved?  Is it to drive traffic? Is it for brand exposure to new audiences?  Is it to get new customers? Is it to get more first party customer data?

Whatever it is, particularly if you're just starting out, it's worth going the extra mile to help your partners achieve their goals.  When you become known as a brand that is focussed on win win outcomes for their partners you'll have other brands lining up to collaborate with you for their co-marketing campaigns.

Agree on the content you'll share and promote

Once the details of what it is are nailed down, it's important that everyone is clear of their responsibilities.

Will everyone create their own content to promote (unlikely)?  Often one of the brands involved is leading the way and they'll own creating most of the content.  Or if one of the other brands has a particularly large creative department then they may volunteer to do so.

How many times will each brand email their list?  What will the social posting schedule look like? Is a dedicated landing page required?

Co-Marketing Shared Landing Page

Large partnership campaigns run by large brands will often create a landing page just for the campaign.  (They do this even for their own campaigns that aren't co-marketing campaigns).

This naturally involves more costs and work but it also has some benefits.  In this case it may be fairer to all brands involved in that the traffic isn't just going to one of them.

Another benefit is if the campaign is getting it's own branding because the event might run on a regular cycle over time attracting it's own SEO presence and growing its domain authority.  A good example of this might be a physical event like a bike race or a sales event like Black Friday annually.  Socialbee have a great example of this with their Black Friday page here.

In the end, this is one of those things that's up to and the companies working with you.  For longer term ongoing campaigns it makes sense.

Measure your co-marketing campaign's results

When defining the goals of the campaign at the beginning, figure out how you'll measure them.  Will you be tracking referral traffic?  Can you determine how consumers online will engage or will you be tracking what a company sells?

All of these things will make it easier to learn.  If you consider each campaign an opportunity to learn and improve you'll become a partnership marketing guru in no time.

It's also a great tool to go back to your new partners and build relationships for the long term.

Collecting metrics will also help when pitching campaign ideas to larger consumer brands down the track.

Follow up with your co-marketing partner

There's gold in following up.  As my first ever sales manager always said, "the money is in the follow up" and this is so true.

You get feedback.  You can discuss potential future campaigns. You can ask for referrals to other brands.  Actually, the very best time to ask for a referral is right after you've run a successful campaign with them and they're still basking in the afterglow.

Other things to think about

We spoke earlier about looking for other brands that are in alignment with you, your audiences, your brand values etc.

Some of the highest ROI campaigns have come from brands coming together that clash.  Allbirds and Shake Shack ran an amazing campaign that created a ton of word-of-mouth amongst trendy New Yorkers...precisely because it was so unexpected.

Wrapping up

Co-marketing has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing tactic.  

If you're new to it, get started ASAP and build your networks and skills.  PPC ads aren't delivering what they once did and brands will need to diversify their spend.  

Get ahead of your competition by building a stable of great co-marketing partners and help each other grow.

What is Intribe? 

Intribe helps brands partner up to enjoy collaborative partnership marketing opportunities. Our clients tell us this delivers 10x the conversions of traditional advertising channels. 

We are currently running an early bird discount of 75% off our normal prices.

Find your perfect partner today - no payment needed!