Cross-branding. Good enough for Starbucks and Hershey. How ’bout you?

americonedream.jpgA recent article in the Seattle Business Journal discusses a new deal between Starbucks and Hershey that will result in an upscale chocolate product.

Once again, we see cross-branding between two industry giants.

What could they possibly gain – and what can the small business owner learn from it?

Obviously, the corporates are looking for any reason to get more sales by leveraging their very recognizable brands on an upscale product.

What about you?

It’s interesting, and perhaps mildly frustrating from a marketing point of view, to see how many huge corporations repeatedly create these relationships in plain view of Joe Entrepreneur – while Joe does nothing to mimic this clearly successful behavior.

At the corporate level, you know that the lawyers are all over this for months. Yet despite a zillion corporate legal pads fluttering in the breeze, we’ve seen the Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer, Star Wars McBurgers, the King Ranch Ford F150 (250, etc), Scouts co-branded Pinewood Derby cars with Jeff Gordon/NASCAR and Chevrolet, and even a collaboration by the Comedy Channel’s Stephen Colbert that resulted in Ben and Jerry producing “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream ice cream”.

But locally? Nada. I really can’t recall a single one on the local level. I suppose some examples might help.

Even in an extreme stretch of the definition of co-branding, you might find a pizza place that has a “vote” for the Super Bowl favorite by buying a team-aligned pizza. You might buy a “Seahawk special” or a “Raider Rowdy”, etc. Examples like these are rare, and frankly, these are pretty lousy examples.

I suppose the lack of local co-branding is easy to understand in some cases. There is that nasty corporate compliance department (aka “Imagination Removal Center”). Roger and Marge are quick to jump all over anything remotely creative – even in the most benign situation.

Thankfully, most small businesses don’t have to deal with the hassle of corporate compliance.

So where is the local co-branding between natural partners like Starbucks and Hershey?

Does the locally owned coffee shop with their own brand of roasted beans hook up with the locally owned ice cream shop? Nope.

Does the locally owned chocolate company sell co-branded chocolate covered coffee beans? Nope.

Does the locally owned burger joint sell “Homestead burgers, made from 100% Montana Local Beef”, raised by Farmer Jim whose grandpa homesteaded their ranch here in the valley in 1894? Nope.

There’s no shortage of opportunities. You just gotta look around and maybe talk to your neighbor a little. You might find a way to help each other, perhaps a great deal.