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Co-Branding’s Greatest Love Story?


Co-Branding's Greatest Love Story?

Penguin and Match.com’s dating site for book-lovers is a marketer’s dream…

He saw her first. Glancing up from his laptop, he found himself utterly spellbound at the sight of the deliciously beautiful, very proper, 40-something woman on the other side of the room.

She sensed the strong, predatory, glance. Glancing icily from over the top of her orange-covered book, she prepared to look disapprovingly at her crude observer. But when she met the gaze of the young, raven-haired man with the computer, she found herself, to her surprise, blushing.

He closed his laptop sharply and stood up. She realized, with a start, that he was approaching her. Secretly thrilled, she waited for what felt like an eternity. Finally, she meekly looked up from her book into his deep, green eyes.

‘I am fresh to the old country,’ he said with a deep American baritone. ‘And I know you don’t do this kind of thing often.’ He smiled. ‘But I just had to head over and make you a proposal that I think you will find mighty agreeable.’

Breathlessly she exclaimed: ‘I assure you, I have never been approached in this manner before.’ But, oh, the longing… What could this vibrant American have in view? Her mind raced with passionate speculation.

He smiled at her again. ‘My name is Match.com.’ Suddenly, the handsome American’s proposal began to make sense. ‘Oh, I see… ‘ she beamed. ‘My name is Penguin. Penguin Books.’

It may sound like bad fiction, but it’s a real story of successful partnership, and one every good marketer should study carefully.

Last month, Match.com opened a special dating site for Penguin book-lovers. The site, which is co-branded as ‘PenguinDating – powered by Match.com’, is positioned as ‘a place to meet and indulge in the age-old art of writing love letters’. For a small monthly fee, book-lovers can use their knowledge of literature to help find that special someone.

Like most co-brands, the offer seems, at first sight, a little ridiculous. But read on and the partnership makes a lot of sense and illustrates four key strategic advantages that strong co-branded partnerships can deliver.

First, the two brand equities combine very well and provide a genuine synergy that neither could achieve on its own.

Second, despite these synergies, the two brands serve very distinct market segments with little existing crossover. By bringing the two brands together, the potential target market for the co-branded site is doubled and the partnership will introduce both to a new market for their other services.

Third, co-branding is often highly newsworthy, and the press coverage of the partnership last week will help Match.com maintain brand awareness and boost member recruitment, while maintaining Penguin’s position as Britain’s best-known book publisher.

Fourth, research suggests the two co-brands often gain positive brand associations from their partner in the relationship. Match.com could gain from Penguin much-needed establishment credentials and lose any remaining associations of sleaze, while the publisher gets to rejuvenate its 73-year-old brand, by association with the young, very 21st-century website.

Finally, with Penguin promoting the site in 2m paperbacks each year and Match.com charging the usual fees, both brands stand to share profits while building brand equity. When was the last time you read those two points in the same sentence?

As she lay awake next to his warm, sleeping body she thought: ‘This is so good. Why did I not think of it sooner?’ Then, with a mischievous smile, she added: ‘I wonder who else could offer me more of the same?’


– Penguin was founded in the UK in 1935 by Allen Lane, to offer high-quality literature in an accessible format. The books were an instant hit, thanks to an iconic design that included a distinctive orange-and-white livery and the famous Penguin logo.

– Penguin digital marketing director Anna Rafferty sees PenguinDating as part of its mission to ‘develop meaningful connections’.

Match.Com was founded in the US in 1994 and was one of the first websites to launch a subscription service. More than 50m people have joined since its launch. In 2004, Guinness World Records recognized Match.com as the world’s biggest online dating service.

– According to Jason Stockwood, managing director of match.com: ‘Online dating has returned us to the romantic notions of letter-writing.’

– PenguinDating.co.uk has been live for a week. Current members include Rachel from London, who loves Nabokov, and Steve from Salisbury, reading Kerouac.

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