CO-BRANDING: HOW TO COMBAT POTENTIAL PITFALLS USING BEHAVIOURAL RESEARCH

By Jason Bradbury, Sr Director of Client Service at EyeSee

 I am a simple individual and perhaps a creature of habit – choosing peanut M&Ms as my go-to sweet snack, relying on Cinnabon K-cups for my daily coffee fix, and letting Apple technology keep me well organised and connected.

While data (and life) confirm that I am not a lone example of a consumer having favourite brands, recent research shows that these loyalties are the first to go as we adjust to the mounting pressures of a global recession. Apart from tinkering with variables of pricing and volume, there are other strategies your brand might explore to pre-empt eroding loyalty.

In fact, there’s a good chance that one of your new favourite products may just be the result of two separate brands working together – the fruit of a co-branding or licensed partnership initiative. If your goals for 2023 include

• reconnecting with or expanding your consumer base,

• evolving your brand identity or reputation,

• innovating the product,

• and/or all of the above,

then co-branding may be the right strategy for you! However, this approach does carry certain risks, and mitigating them should be a top priority. Here’s how behavioural research can help.

Know your shifting consumer and (reframe) their needs

75% of brands could disappear tomorrow … and most consumers wouldn’t care. On top of this, shoppers are already actively engaging in brand-switching behaviour due to rising inflation. By exploring collaborations within or across categories, you can open up a whole world of possibilities either to deepen your connection with existing consumers or to expand your base.

One such example is well-known consumer products entering into a partnership with Disney. Disney-licensed characters are displayed on Huggies nappies, Band-Aid adhesive bandages, and even Gucci collections! Disney characters are iconic, instantly recognisable, and intergenerational. Through these collaborations, these brands have managed to overcome their challenges in creating appeal and eliciting an emotional response, which has an enduring effect on retaining brand loyalty and also helps to draw consideration from new potential customers.

The journey of successful co-branding begins with understanding the intersection of consumers and their behaviours. Pre-testing your advertising materials (online videos, TVC, social media posts, etc) and packs can give you crucial insight into how consumers will see, react to, and evaluate your co-branded product, and if they would ultimately be inspired to purchase it. A mixed-method approach – in which behavioural methods of eye tracking, facial coding, and virtual shopping are combined with surveys – can measure such preferences with as much as an 80% correlation with actual shopping behaviour.

Introduce agile reality checks to your co-branding initiative

On average, fewer than 20% of product and pack innovations prove to be a success. Adopting an iterative approach and testing at each stage of development increases the chances of yielding a positive result.

More specifically, there are three main ways in which behavioural research can play a big part in shaping your co-branding initiative:

Screening: Start testing early in the process (even concepts and drafts!) and narrow down your options. Leverage more granular subcategory criteria, including usage frequency, understanding brand awareness and openness to purchasing the product, and even filtering on geolocation. With every added testing criterion, the potential risk of a new launch gets smaller.

Test in context: Use virtual simulations of stores and retail environments to tap into authentic consumer behaviour with high accuracy. The same goes for e-commerce – any website or webpage, such as Amazon, Target, or Kroger, can be replicated. Having the ability and agility to put respondents in a context that feels familiar and authentic is key to estimating the success of the co-branding strategy.

Volumetric and market share projection: Test claims, pricing, and other aspects of the launch to estimate in-market success, switching behaviour, and opportunities for driving share within the first year.

Make co-branding resonate: Optimise at every touchpoint

Experts concur that having a seamless and experience-driven path to purchase is more important now than ever. Shoppers’ expectations are changing, and brands must be aware of the hyper-sensitivity of their customers. Thus, co-branding can be an effective tool to enhance brand or product communication, and also to serve as a potential visual cue for highlighting variety or subline differences.

Additionally, there are many widely overlooked opportunities within omnichannel – optimising touchpoints such as e-commerce packshots being one of them. Hero images can significantly boost sales by attracting more attention. They garner 5% higher visibility than standard package designs on desktop (with even greater potential on mobile because of the smaller screen size) and can increase sales by about 15%. Considering these key touchpoints when implementing a co-branding strategy can significantly boost your chances of success.

Summary

Co-branding is all about expanding your opportunities to connect viscerally with the consumer. By introducing new propositions and potentially enhancing communication by leveraging the established equities of each brand, you are generating broader interest and/or emotional response, which has a positive effect on consumer retention.

Adopting behavioural methods and testing within contextual shopping environments allows for more authentic and predictive insight into how your co-branded product will perform. This type of feedback minimises the risk of unfruitful investment and represents a definite advantage – even more so under the pressures of recession, when consumers are increasingly fickle and marketing budgets precious.

This article was first published in the Q4 2022 edition of Asia Research Media

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