Co-Branding: Centuries of Stamina

October 2003 Communication, Marketing, Partnership

This summer I had the pleasure of visiting Cesky Krumlov, a Renaissance city in southern Bohemia, now a part of the Czech Republic. Earliest inhabitants in the area date back to 4000 BC, but the city really began to pick up as a center for commerce, power, art, and philosophy after the 1200s. Outside of the personal enrichment I received from visiting part of our global cultural heritage, I also was vividly confronted by still evident centuries of co-branding that established rulers as fit to rule.

One of the first noble families to manage the house included the Rozmberks whose coat of arms included a five-petal rose. Their reign in Cesky Krumlov lasted until the 1600s when the estate was passed to several other families prior to being confiscated by a communist regime. When these families claimed their right to rule the estate, they often included the Rozmberk’s five-petal rose within their own brand as can be seen in the coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg. An early form of co-branding.

The moat near the little castle has long been converted into a bear pit, complete with live bears. This too can be called a co-branding exercise in that the Rozmberk’s were related to the Italian Orsini family and “Orsa” can be translated into the English word for “bear.”

Perhaps the most powerful co-branding relationship for the estate was related to the nearby Roman Catholic Church of St. Vitas. In this church, the coat-of-arms of various noble houses that have maintained Cesky Krumlov are very prevalent. The monotheistic church both anointed the rulers as divinely established and provided a thought framework for the peasants. This thought framework reinforced the concept of a single leader and a hierarchical leadership structure, a useful framework for keeping order within an estate.

The power structure also included numerous ambassadors to other noble houses in the Central European region. Each of these diplomatic relationships solidified the current owners of the estate as the appropriate leaders through power and identity.

These symbols and relationships were created for many purposes, such as signet rings for clarifying the origin of commands, banners for establishing territory, and a regional government for the enablement of trade. They also were very much a collection of co-branding exercises. The borrowing of symbols, creation of relationships, and repeating of statements from other sources of power attributed rule to the houses of Cesky Krumlov. Theses symbols communicated that the estate owners were indeed appropriate members of society to rule the estate.

Today, the value of co-branding is no less than it was during the Renaissance.

When IT product and service firms make appeals to their use of Enterprise Java Beans, .Net, C++, MySQL, Oracle, and other standards, they are using co-branding to express their expertise. While a company that uses these technologies, or other well branded technologies, will not immediately become successful, the use of a well known technology does quell market concerns. Very few firms are able to make business software solutions with untested technology and not raise customer concerns.

Similarly, project based services without any reference to a well considered methodology will be considered dubious in their performance. Not that a methodology assures success, there are plenty of examples to the contrary, but being able to state that your project managers are PMI accredited may help alleviate market concerns.

Small firms and large corporations benefit from co-branding relationships. Hence, Novarra (, a provider of solutions for adapting web based applications to wireless handheld devices, derives value from their numerous business associations which include BEA, Computer Associates, PCS, RIM, Certicom, Motient, TeamCain, RDG/ATSG, and Intelligent Decisions. While not all of these companies are household names, many are well known. Elsewhere, OSIsoft ( has created over 50 relationships with business partners, data partners, alliance partners, performance partners, and enterprise technology partners. We won’t even attempt to define all of the co-branding relationships of a firm like Veritas (

The value of co-branding is the ability of the secondary brand to provide an indicator of value within your own brand. For individual job seekers, their employment histories can be thought of as nothing more than a collection of brand designations provided by prior bosses, and co-brands between their own capabilities and the strength of the previous employers. For companies, reaching out to other businesses and associations, creating relationships identifiable by customers, and promoting these relationships enable potential customers to quickly identify the company as a potential source for value.

Co-branding is not bragging, nor is it unnecessary entanglement, but rather a series of well constructed relationships and designations that indicates value to potential sources of revenue.

About the author

Tim J. Smith, PhD is the Managing Principal of Wiglaf Pricing, and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University of Marketing and Economics. His most recent book is Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures.

Tim J. Smith, PhD
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