Co-branding done well – Neil Finn & Paul Kelly

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard Paul Kelly singing with Neil Finn an old Crowded House song Into Temptation – as a Crowded House fan,  it was a familiar tune, yet now somehow enhanced with Paul Kelly’s voice. These two major stars (& brands) of the Australian and NZ music scene had a lot of fun mixing it up with each other’s well known music – a truly rich co-branding exercise. Not surprisingly they’re releasing a boxed CD & DVD set. If you’re a fan of either it’s worth taking a look at their collaboration onstage via YouTube

As branding consultants we’re often asked to advise on the value of certain partnerships and opportunities that align one brand with another. Each time this happens we evaluate from both perspectives the potential positives, talk through any possible negatives and explore the brand benefits and commercial outcomes. While it may be tempting to rush head-long into a co-branding or partnership exercise with a brand that appears to be a good ‘fit’, it’s important to be conscious of a checking the reality of the situation from an audience or market perspective – can you really create something together that is greater than what you achieve alone? If it’s more about cashing in purely for commercial gain it is unlikely to succeed. Customers are notoriously good at detecting BS; they’ll quickly join the dots and work out if this is just another sales and marketing exercise.

Co-branding, sometimes called brand partnerships, has to make sense from the customer’s point of view; they must benefit in some way beyond their current experience with either brand individually.

Co-branding done well is a powerful way to reach new customers, to build brand awareness, and to shift perceptions. By pooling resources, co-branding ventures can reach a wider audience and potentially increase sales and brand advocacy, as the fans of one brand, choose to share the association with the new brand to their community, via conversations and social media platforms. Having a story to tell about why your brands together offer more is an important part of creating a strong co-branding partnership.


A good commercial example of valid co-branding is Qantas and Emirates partnering to offer a wider choice of destinations and flight times to their customers. Both are premium airlines, so customers are not going to be concerned that they’ll get an inferior service or brand experience. Yes, it will strengthen the commercial performance of both companies, and it makes sense for customers – the co-branded offer is greater than what is available from each company on its own.

Tips for Successful Co-branding

  1. Are the brands a good match? (positioning, audience, tone, what they’re known for)
  2. Define your goals (separately and together – be clear about what you want to achieve)
  3. Will your cultures collaborate well? (do you like and respect each other’s culture and want to work alongside each other?)
  4. What’s the actual offer & does it make sense to the customers of both brands?
  5. What are the risks?  (be savvy – in what ways could this go wrong for either or         both brands?)
  6. Be clear about expectations and time-frames (long term, one off?)
  7. Be open & human (all relationships experience challenges and the way you navigate them strengthens or undermines your partnership)

Both Neil Finn and Paul Kelly have well recognised and well loved personal brands – they mean something to a large audience of fans, so it was fairly obvious that this would be a good co-branding partnership. At its heart, both Neil and Paul were committed to creating something great together – and they wanted to share the experience of their joint presence on stage with their fans. You can feel their joy and the fun they had in the process of working on each other’s songs. They were building on an age old tradition of musicians getting together, jamming and collaborating.  Fans could imagine these two on stage together. I can’t quite see either of them on stage with Billy Idol or Alice Cooper. Early on Paul Kelly says “I’m going to be Neil and Neil’s going to be me” and that sentiment says it all – we’re in this together, we’re having a good time and creating great enjoyment and value for our shared audience.

To discuss co-branding opportunities and ideas for your brand, contact Fiona

Written by Fiona Pearman

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