In April, news broke that two iconic alcohol brands were joining forces to create a remarkable new beer: Jim Beam Budweiser Copper Lager. Fruit of the joint labor is now available for consumption:

The unique combination doesn’t appear destined to fall flat, as in the early days since launch, it seems to be attracting even self-professed “craft beer snobs,” which is probably the point for Bud.

When iconic brands come together in a co-branding arrangement, it’s interesting to note visual manifestations of the joint trademark use guidelines, a peek into who’s steering the Clydesdales.

Not surprisingly, the reigns of the Clydesdales appear most closely held by Budweiser, as the Copper Lager is beer, not whiskey, and BUDWEISER is the largest wording on the packaging.

That said, the Jim Beam brand name and logo does adorn the six pack carton’s front face with top line prominence, suggesting the brand power it brings to the party – liquid version of Intel Inside?

Figuratively though, not literally, as the Copper Lager isn’t a boilermaker beer cocktail, instead the Jim Beam name and logo indicates aging of the lager on genuine Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves.

One of the things the packaging does well, from a trademark perspective, is keeping the visual identities of the brands separate and distinct, as they appear together in this joint branding effort.

It’s really not a good idea, from a trademark perspective, to mix and blend the combined brands into a single new visual identity, as doing so raises questions of ownership and how to untangle.

So, the packaging does a nice job of keeping each sides trademark elements physically separable while communicating why Budweiser invited Jim Beam to team up for this Copper Lager party.

The trademark filings tell stories too. The only filings currently on the USPTO database that contain the terms Copper and Lager in a mark are owned by Budweiser parent, Anheuser-Busch.

So, Anheuser-Busch views the Copper Lager name to be part of the Budweiser Copper Lager and Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager trademarks, but it disclaims exclusive rights in Copper Lager.

What we don’t know (yet) from the disclaimers, is whether Copper Lager is descriptive (capable of being owned as a trademark element), or generic (you know, meaning zero trademark rights).

If Copper Lager is not a category of beer (i.e., generic and incapable of trademark status), and instead descriptive, since this isn’t Anheuser-Busch’s first such rodeo: acquired distinctiveness?

Either way, this joint effort does appear to be Jim Beam’s first rodeo when it comes to beer, as evidenced by the intent-to-use Jim Beam trademark application it filed in April 2018 for beer.

Thankfully these brand owners are sophisticated enough not to combine Jim Beam and Budweiser into a single trademark filing, sadly I’ve seen commingling before, and it isn’t much fun to unwind.

What do you think, is this joint effort a remarkable one? Is it likely to last, stand the test of time?

Debbie Laskey, MBA

In today’s crowded marketplace, how do brands stand out? How do they get as much positive brand awareness and exposure as possible without spending more than their marketing budgets allow? In addition to providing excellent customer service and creating amazing customer experiences, one way is to add co-branding to the marketing mix.

According to Wikipedia, “Co-branding, also called brand partnership, is when two companies form an alliance to work together, creating marketing synergy. It is an arrangement that associates a single product or service with more than one brand name, or otherwise associates a product with someone other than the principal producer. The typical co-branding agreement involves two or more companies acting in cooperation to associate any of various logos, color schemes, or brand identifiers to a specific product that is contractually designated for this purpose. The object for this is to combine the strength of two brands, in order to increase the premium consumers are willing to pay, make the product or service more resistant to copying by private label manufacturers, or to combine the different perceived properties associated with these brands with a single product.”

Here are five examples of effective co-branding:

[1] Intel Inside: During the 1990’s, Intel provided processors for computer manufacturers’ machines in return for endorsements by the manufacturers with a sticker that read “Intel Inside”

[2] Nike and Apple: The Nike+ chip is embedded in its running shoes, and Apple promotes the app in its app store

[3] Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld: As the official airline of SeaWord, Southwest features Shamu on three of its planes

[4] Yum Brands: Two of this company’s restaurants are often built side-by-side: Taco Bell and KFC or Pizza Hut and Wingstreet

[5] Chiquita Bananas and Despicable Me 2: As part of the movie, small characters called Minions developed a love for bananas, thus, the resulting partnership – check out this great website.

While both brands in a co-branding arrangement or partnership can benefit from joint publicity campaigns and positive word-of-mouth marketing, there can also be downsides. If one brand experiences a crisis, the negative events or negative publicity can damage the second brand – even if it was not involved directly. This is why it is critical to carefully evaluate the goals and objectives for a co-branding partnership in advance.

So, would co-branding be an effective method to increase customer loyalty for your brand? Chime in and share your co-branding experiences.

For more examples, check out my Co-Branding Board on Pinterest.