Most of us have probably eaten at or driven past a Taco Bell somewhere in the U.S. Most of us have also probably eaten a Dorito chip, or know someone who enjoys Dorito chips. Two extremely well-known brands, two complimentary offerings, with two similar (yet different) target audiences. In 2012, these corporations decided to embark on the ultimate restaurant co-branding product, the Doritos Locos Taco – a Taco Bell taco served inside of a crunchy Doritos shell. The combination was just crazy enough to…sell a billion units in its first year alone. 
This is just one example of an effective restaurant co-branding campaign. Co-branding is defined as the strategic partnership of two or more brands on a single good, service or location. A co-branded marketing strategy can take many forms. Restaurants may choose to share a physical location with another brand (ie. Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins), create a co-branded product (ie. Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries) or join forces on a campaign (ie. sponsoring a philanthropic event together).
There are numerous benefits to co-branded marketing, especially within the restaurant industry. The main reason for this strategic partnership is to reach new audiences. Co-branding allows two brands to step outside of their usual client base and cross-promote their name to their partner company’s audience. Audience may be a different geography, psychographic, or demographic (or a combination thereof), therefore greatly increasing consumer reach. This is a major reason that many quick-serve restaurants participate in co-branding opportunities with other restaurant franchises across the country.
Another benefit to co-branding promotions are the cost savings. Two brands partnering means splitting costs on promotions or combining and extending marketing budgets to further reach. In addition to this, marketing exposure is increased because the strength of two separate brands cross-promoting means more consumer awareness.
Another noteworthy (and very important) benefit to co-branding is increasing customer satisfaction by introducing them to something innovative. This keeps loyal customers interested in your fresh offerings (key in the dining industry where people like to try different things), and new customers excited to try out your restaurant after they discovered on social media or blogs that you are working with another brand they enjoy.
They key to any successful co-branding promotion is one in which all participating brands, as well as consumers benefit. In other words, everybody wins.
The obvious yet critical component to achieving this winning outcome is by selecting the right partnership. This should be one in which the products/services are complimentary and the audiences are similar (ie. Taco Bell and Doritos – the target audiences have some differences but would likely enjoy both tacos and chips). This helps to ensure that both brands are bringing a new audience to the table, one that could potential become a loyal customer to the partnering brand. Another important factor to consider is the brand equity. Every business has its own set of consumers and recognition within the marketplace. By selecting a partner that holds a strong brand value, you increase the odds of gaining new customers because they already have a loyalty and a positive awareness of the other brand.
Co-branding can be a very successful marketing strategy for expanding your restaurant’s audience in a cost-effective manner. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
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