Co-brand guidelines: helping your partners put their best foot forward

In the B2C space, co-branding comes in all shapes and sizes. There are some great examples (Apple + Nike), some questionable examples (Crocs + Balenciaga) and some controversial ones (we all remember when everyone deleted ‘that’ U2 single from their iPods).

Looking at the B2B space, where partner marketing and co-branding is not only much more commonplace, but also much more straightforward, you’d think partnership guidelines would be straightforward too. But no. A deep dive into the brand guidelines we have on file found that only 37% of brand guidelines include guidance on co-branding.

For Lenique, our Head of Design, creating co-branded identities is instinctive. With 13+ years navigating bringing the graphics of two or more brands together, she says,

“I’ve been doing this long enough now to know how to apply the standard brand guidelines to co-branding. From the brief I can get to the bottom how to structure the asset, and which brand to give prominence to, if any. It comes naturally to me. I’ve been designing in the co-branded space for years. But for a designer that’s new to partner marketing, it isn’t so easy, and clearer guidelines are necessary to help them on their way.”

Why are co-branding guidelines so important?  

By having clear co-branding rules within your brand guidelines, you have greater control over how your brand is represented by partners. Whilst your guidelines may state how and where your logo should be placed, you should include additional guidance on how it should be placed alongside other logos. You can also outline how to utilise elements, such as shapes, which may be synonymous with your brand, how colour should be used, imagery options and much more. It takes out the guesswork for any designers working with your brand and ensures consistency wherever your brand may appear.

Why do so many brand guidelines not include co-brand guidelines?

Branding agencies do a fantastic job of creating brand guidelines – we know this because we see, interact with and use many of them daily. Whilst they may be heavy hitters in the branding space, co-branding isn’t something traditional designers are regularly exposed to. To develop clear and comprehensive co-brand guidelines, a designer needs to have some understanding of the partner ecosystem, and where a brand may be used. For traditional branding agencies, this isn’t a core competency.

So, what should co-branding guidelines cover:  

When you are the lead brand:

One of the fundamental questions you need to ask when co-branding is, ‘who is leading the marketing effort’? If your brand is leading the effort, you are the lead brand. In this instance, your brand guidelines should be followed, with guidance on how partner logos will be displayed alongside yours.

Co-brand lock ups:

When there is no lead brand, and two partners are working in equal partnership, you will need to create a brand lock up. Within your brand guidelines you should make it clear what a brand lock up should look like when featuring your brand, including spacing, use of colours, orientation and use of sub-brands. You may also want to provide multiple size options for different applications.

Three or more brands:

In today’s partner ecosystem landscape, co-branding with more than one partner is happening more and more. To ensure your brand guidelines reflect the many forms ecosystem partnerships can take, your guidelines should include several options. This could include:

Tri-logo: Where all brands are working in equal partnership

Lock up + partner: Where two brands are working in equal partnership, alongside an additional partner brand

Logo wall: Where you need to give equal focus to all brands

Templates for standard assets:

As a vendor, your partners are promoting your products and solutions on your behalf. By creating a suite of editable templates and standards assets, alongside clear co-brand guidelines for each of the assets you make available to them, you have greater control over how your brand is represented with their campaigns.

This could include things like presentation templates, e-books, social media posts, digital ads and more.

Guidance and what can and cannot be co-branded:

Not everything is suitable for co-branding, and it is up to you to communicate through your brand guidelines where co-brand with your partner starts and ends. If there are content types you don’t want your logo to appear on, make this clear within your brand guidelines.

Guidance on how your branding should not be used:

Finally, it’s a great idea to show examples of what good looks like within your co-brand guidelines, but also what ‘bad’ looks like too. Focusing on common branding mistakes made by partners, you should demonstrate what not to do, reducing the chances of your guidelines being interpreted in the wrong way.

A word of advice from Lenqiue:

“Not only do clear co-branding guidelines ensure consistency at every customer touch point, it helps your partners put their best foot forward. By leaving nothing to interpretation, you can support them in elevating your brand, tell a better joint story, and ultimately drive sales.”

Need some inspiration?

There are some brands who are leading the charge in partner co-branding guidelines. We take our hats off to Red Hat (see what we did there), who have created an easy to digest and comprehensive set of co-branding guidelines. You can view them here.

Need help translating your brand guidelines into co-brand guidelines?

Book a call with our Head of Design

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