1+1= >2: The power of Co-branding (as taught to us by the Olympics Closing Ceremony)

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The Olympics have now come to a close after a magnificent 16 days, and just when I thought I couldn’t be more impressed with London, the Closing Ceremony completely wowed me. Not only did it feature superlative British performers, but it also managed to successfully bring together two things that I absolutely love in life (and incorporate into my own brand): art and fitness.

Britain’s most famous living artist, Damien Hirst, meets London 2012! It might initially strike you as a somewhat unusual marriage…but it’s also a brilliant co-branding strategy. As a fan and follower of Hirst for many years, I felt fairly confident about knowing what he’s up to, but I nearly fell off my seat when the 2012 Closing Ceremony stage was revealed. Behold, the man had created a “backdrop” (read floor) of the Union Jack in the form of one of his swirl paintings. Then it all made sense…and the Olympics AND Hirst just got even cooler.

What does this have to do with Personal Branding? Everything. Co-branding is an extraordinarily important aspect of building your personal brand, but is often sadly overlooked.

The corporate big boys have known for decades that the power of a brand intensifies exponentially if paired with the right branding partner.  If you join endeavors with an esteemed and recognizable brand, by sheer power of association, certain dimensions of your personal brand are enhanced (differentiation, relevance, knowledge, loyalty, respect, etc…).  Think Bacardi + Coca Cola, Vespa + Puma, Anya Hindmarch + British Airways, Diesel + Fiat,  The Ritz Carlton + Bulgari, Ferrari + Puma, or even Adidas + McCartney (+ London 2012…treble branding!!)….and the list goes on.

The ultimate objective of any co-branded strategy would be to combine the strengths of involved parties to increase respective brands value (Blackett and Boad, 1999). The beauty here is that this also happens with people…who they stand next to, who they work for, who they support, who they collaborate with, who or what they affiliate with can have a huge impact on their personal brand. In the celebrity world, we may think of the “Brangelinas” or “Bennifers”. In the product world, perhaps it’s James Bond and Aston Martin. In the charity world, it could be Steven Fry and Terrence Higgins Trust.

Why invest in interlocking your identity with another “brand” to create a co-branded relationship? Because when it works, it works. In fact, the phenomenon is so well established that there’s actually an extremely reliable “leverage theory of reputation building” with co-branding. I won’t bore you here — just know it demonstrates an “amplifier effect” of sorts. Just as with corporate brands, this could work for or against our personal brands. In other words, another brand (or brands) can unlock your personal brand potential…or it can diminish or dilute it.

A website called BrandSource offers some important things for us to think about: “Co-branding must, indeed, create equal value for both cooperating brands. No cooperation based on an unequal relationship has proved to be successful. Moreover, no co-branding strategy can be feasible if the brands involved do not share core values and brand belief with each other.”

We are reminded that combining two brands identities can indeed be tricky as you need to look at your brand message and make sure that its perception will not be diluted in the minds of those that matter the most to you (i.e., your “target audience”).

Here are some questions to think about:

– Is the personal brand of your partner(s) in your personal life or place of work reflecting well on your you?

– Is the name and reputation of your place of employment or training working in your favour?

– Is your team, group of friends or colleagues promoting a positive association that’s enhancing your reputation?

– Do you have any “socially responsible” co-branding in your life (i.e., do you affiliate with a charity or personal cause)?

If you’ve answered “NO” to any of the above, perhaps it’s time to consider some co-branding strategies in your personal brand.  After all, if developed and managed correctly, personal co-branding can create a solid 1+1=>2 formula which yields added value for both brands!


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