Brand WarsThe Force is Strong in Co-Branding

The latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens created a lot of buzz leading up to its release in late 2015.  So were some of the brilliant marketing strategies employed by Disney in relation to this film.  Take a look at this advertisement. It is probably my favourite Star Wars related ad.  Is it an advertisement for HP or The Force Awakens?

How about these morphed logos. What you see is the clever use of well-known characters of the Star Wars franchise such as Jabba Hutt and Han Solo and join them with well-established brand names like Pizza Hut and Coca Cola.

jabba hutt han solo

The above illustrates the prolific use of co-branding by Disney for Episode VII of the Star Wars franchise.  It is noted that at least 19 brands ran tie-ins for the film (Monllos, 2015). It has more brand partnership than any other movie (Bronner, 2015).  A number of people have questioned whether Disney’s marketing of Star Wars is too much (Jancelewicz, 2015) as outlined in this Buzzfeed webpage: 21 Pictures that proves this “Star Wars” stuff is getting out of control.  However, observers believe it to be a winning strategy for the company.  In fact it is noted that the product tie-ins actually get fans fired up as they serve as touch points for people (Monllos, 2015).

So how has co-branding work for the Star Wars brand (and ultimately Disney) and what’s in it for the partnering brands?

To begin, we must understand the importance and power of brands.  A brand can have immense power and brand equity when consumers, over time, learn to positively associate the name, logo, thus goods or services a company offers with a certain set of favourable attributes, meaning, quality and perception.  Consumer’s positive association often leads to brand recognition and customer loyalty.  Thus, the mechanism behind brand extension or co-branding is to evoke and maximise the consumer’s established feelings, connection and partiality towards the brands and induce their engagement with the new products (Batra et al, 2010).

Co-branding is when two or more brand names are presented simultaneously to the consumer (Grebosz, 2013). Co-branding is also about having at least two brands collaborating in a marketing context such as advertising, product development, product placement or distribution (Sreejesh, 2012).   It is best used when there is added value to the co-branded product, where a single brand would not be able to achieve on its own (Helmig, et al, 2008). Thus, according to signalling theory, this branding strategy can be highly effective because the strength of one brand could be leveraged for the co-branded product in areas where the second brand lacks and vice versa.   Research shows in pairing complementary brands, consumers’ perceptions of an unknown brand, as well as the co-branded product, are enhanced when paired with a well-known brand without diminishing the reputation of the superior brand (Helmig et al., 2008).

Star Wars is a recognisable brand name with an appeal that has actually grown and has a cult following on a mega scale (The Strategist, 2016). When Disney bought the rights to the franchise for $4 billion it is in fact buying the Star Wars brand equity, that is, what the brand is worth. Star Wars is said to be probably the one brand that could maximize brand extension without failure (Sauer, 2015).  As a movie, it is an experiential product (Cooper-Martin, 1991) and holds more abstract associations linked to its brand. Research shows that abstract associations allows for broader extendibility fit into more product categories (Batra, 2010).  For Disney, partnering with other brands meant not only increasing exposure for the film but also leveraging existing brand assets through licensing deals with other manufacturers in other categories. In doing so increases the brand’s financial value because it raised the estimates of its future revenue (Batra, 2010).  As for the partnering brands, they too would benefit from the collaboration both in financial as well as consumer’s attitudinal terms.

Hang Nguyen\username:hngu2204\Student ID: 2115192574\word count:651


Batra, R., Lenk, P. & Wedel, M. 2010. ” Brand Extension Strategy Planning: Empirical Estimation of Brand-Category Personality Fit and Atypicality”. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR). Apr 2010, Vol. 47 Issue 2, p335-347.

Bronner, S. (2015, December 16). New Star Wars Film Is a Marketing Force Brands Should Study. Retrieved from Entrepreneur:  a accessed 14/4/2016

Copper-Martin, E. 1991. “Consumers and Movies: Some Findings on Experiential Products”. Advances in Consumer Research. Vol. 18 Issue 1, p372-378.

Grębosz, M. & Otto, J. 2013. International Expansion of Brands by Realization of Co-Branding Strategy. Journal of Economics & Management. 2013, Issue 14, p77-87.

Helmig, B., Huber, J. A., Leeflang, P. S. H. 2008. “Co-Branding: The State of the Art”. Schmalenbach Business Review (SBR). Oct 2008, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p359-377.

Jancelewicz, C. (2015, December 14). Has ‘Star Wars’ marketing gone too far, or is it genius? Retrieved from Global News: accessed 14/4/2016

Monllos, K. (2015, December 17). The Brands Awaken: Disney’s Co-Branding Push for New Star Wars Film Is Unprecedented General Mills, Kraft, Verizon and more. Retrieved from Add Week: accessed 14/4/2016

Sauer, A. (2015, June 30). Carlsberg Men’s Shampoo: Brand Extension Gets Beer Fans in a Lather. Retrieved from Brand Chanel: accessed 14/4/2016

Sreejesh, S.2012.  “Products, Analyzing the Moderating Role of Task Involvement”. International Management Review. Jun 2012, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p21-31.

The Strategist. (2016, January 5). Star Wars: The Force is with the brand 30 years on. Retrieved from The Strategist: accessed 14/4/2016

Brand Wars: The Force is Strong in Co-Branding

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