I love connecting people and, since I am a business coach, this also means connecting brands. If combined brands can create an appeal to the consumer that is even stronger than what an individual brand can achieve, why not put some time, money and brainpower into a joint venture built on brand synergy?

Macy's is a great example of a national brand developing co-branded campaigns.  In 2010 the department store giant ended their co-branding deal with Visa and took the leap to American Express. Co-Branded cards are a crucial tool for department stores as it enables them to track customer habits and attract shoppers through rewards programs. In fact Macy's rival, Saks Inc., sees over 40% of their sales through its private label credit cards.

Another great example of co-branding is the Macy's spot in which the shoe sales guy goes to the 'stock room' to retrieve a size 8 and engages in a world of fantasy in a stockroom that resembles a combination of Santa's workshop and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The likes of Jessica Simpson, Martha Stewart, Carlos Santana and Donald Trump, to name a few, are preparing their wares for the magic of Macy's in this spot – how exciting!

Leveraging synergistic brands can certainly take a business to new and exciting heights, but most small business owners have a difficult time imagining the process and a profitable outcome. Let's explore your imagination to see if there is a creative opportunity that can open a world of magic for you.

Begin by revisiting your mission statement. A good mission statement encapsulates the business founder's core beliefs and unique values. Why do you do what you do? What's the underlying message or cause behind your business efforts? Once you identify these points they can open up a whole new world to you because you're not the only one focused on that cause, passion or mission. Your values can lead you to other business owners/solo practitioners who have similar beliefs and, therefore, target similar markets.

Ask yourself:

  • Who do I know whose business is different than mine but serves a customer base that is not so different?
  • Where will I meet like-minded entrepreneurs whose customers would benefit from my services or product?
  • What other experiences would my customers benefit from? 
  • Who else has a message that my customers are interested in?
  • Who else needs my expertise to enhance their customer's experience?

Here are a couple of small business co-branding examples:

I have a client who co-owns a successful Internet Marketing Agency and whose business partner is high profile in the world of PPC (pay per click). Knowing that there is plenty of business to go around, they engage in joint ventures with other agencies and individuals in the same field to leverage their strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and resources. They present workshops, offer combined services and are even authoring a book that will combine their synergistic brands. I believe the key to success in their co-branding endeavors points back to the core values of all concerned. They all want to help businesses keep current in an industry that is constantly changing. With this common mission in mind, they combine their 'insiders' knowledge and give information away. They also understand that, although they all target the same market, the marketplace is huge and there is enough business out there for all of them. Their efforts have been very successful and they continue to grow in leaps and bounds.

Yet another client manufactures purses. She has partnered with a national speaker/author who uses purse metaphors to deliver her message. The speaker's book is available packaged in a lovely purse on both websites. This boosts the profile of both brands and expands their reach as well.

I like to use a mindmap to come up with ideas for such things. Give it a try and let us know what you've come up with. Let me know if you need help developing your idea!