Consumers are used to seeing brands linking up through licensing agreements. From Walkers Marmite-flavored crisps to Subway Reggae. Reggae sauce sub, brands exploiting one another products to boost sales has become relatively common practice.
What is rather more unusual is a pair of brands combining for a two-pronged marketing campaign, as in the case of the initiative announced by Diageo-owned vodka brand Smirnoff and Coca-Cola’s Schweppes. The brands launched separate drives encouraging consumers to use Smirnoff Red Label with Schweppes Canada Dry ginger ale to create a Moscow Mule cocktail.
While French cognac brand Grand Marnier rolled out a promotion on a similar theme earlier this summer, urging British drinkers to mix it with elderflower cordial to create a Grand Esprit cocktail, it did not tie the campaign to a specific mixer brand.
Several other drinks brands have experimented with in-store tie-ups ; Diageo stablemate Gordon’s Gin released a premixed gin and tonic drink with Schweppes in 2006, while Bacardi used the Coca-Cola brand under license for an outdoor campaign a few years ago.
Smirnoff’s marketing manager, says he approached Schweppes with the idea of a joint campaign after it was decided to run the promotion for Moscow Mule, a drink that the brand launched as a bottled alcopop in the 90s. The cocktail has a lot of heritage with the Smirnoff brand, but we also wanted to give consumers the confidence to make it at home. Schweppes, with Canada Dry, was a perfect match.
Although Lock claims that Smirnoff would have gone ahead with the campaign with or without Schweppes, he admits there is an advantage of scale to working in tandem. It is not only a case of pooling budgets and resources, but also the combined weight of the two businesses. However, it is important that the marketing works well for both brands, and that they are not tripping over each other.
According to Lock, the mixer drink positioning is a major pillar in Smirnoff’s marketing strategy, and future work featuring both Schweppes and other soft drink brands is planned. Schweppes marketing manager is less committal about future collaborations, but she would consider them. In the case of Moscow Mule, the two brands had the same objectives and the association was simple and logical.
The managing director at branding agency Ziggurat Brands, points out that although it was a brave decision by the Smirnoff and Schweppes marketing teams to work together, in this instance, the two brands were similar enough to pull it off.
They will have looked at the brand values and decided there was enough in common. If two brands are like minded, tie-ups should be quite low risk, but campaigns can get into hot water if one brand stands to benefit more than another.
Other examples of this type of tie-up tend to be found in the charitable sector, where private companies can add clout to drives, as in British Airways collaboration with Unicef to promote the Change for Good campaign.
The sporting arena is another area that lends itself to such activity. This occurs mainly through sports bodies promoting a competition or team product in partnership with sponsors, such as the Coca-Cola Football League or the ING Renault Formula One team.
Joint marketing is a great way for a brand to be creative about attracting new users and uses. Joint campaigns are most likely to work when a content brand joins forces with a channel brand.
As marketing budgets tighten in the current economic downturn, there may be an attendant rise in the number of consumer brands teaming up. The Smirnoff-Schweppes campaign is a case in point, where two category leaders have joined up to resist the financial pinch.
Collaborating with another brand presents a range of potential pitfalls. In an attempt to broaden reach, brands often make the mistake of striving beyond their heartland and trespassing into territories beyond their expertise. The price of this is often a dilution of the core brand. Brands considering a partnership to weather the recession would do well. —