Kojak and Tootsie Pops

By Beacon Staff

A recent article in the Seattle Business Journal discussed 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 – and are wisely doing so on an upscale (read: more profitable) product.

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

It’s not much different than Kojak Tootsie Pops – which never happened.

At the corporate level, you know that the lawyers are all over this Starbucks/Hershey thing 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? I can’t recall a single one on the local level – though I’d be happy to hear corrections on that. Really.

I suppose some examples might help.

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 in compliance are quick to jump all over anything remotely creative – even in the most benign situation. Thankfully, most small independent 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?


A locally owned coffee shop with their own brand of roasted beans hook up with the locally owned ice cream shop? Or offer a “Local Coffee Shop Tiramisu” at local restaurants and gourmet stores?

A locally owned chocolate company with “Local Chocolate Brand” chocolate covered coffee beans from “Local Coffee Shop/Coffee Roasting”? How about “Local Chocolate Brand milkshakes” at Joe’s Drive In?

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

Any restaurants selling branded “locally famous” baked goods from the litany of gourmet bake shops around? You see a few folks selling a local bagel shop’s stuff, but promoting that fact? Hmmm.

Breweries, restaurants, gourmet stores, chocolate – all have great mix and match co-branding and promotional opportunities, etc. Those are the easy ones. Some local restaurants do feature local wines and occasionally, local foods.

However, you shouldn’t limit your thinking to “this will only work for restaurants”, as there are plenty of opportunities for everyone else.

So what do you do?

Start with the easy ones. Look at companies whose products blend well with your business. Ever see a jewelry store and a flower shop get together and do a cross-promotion? Couldn’t get more obvious than that.

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

Got a business or marketing question you’d like Mark to write about or just want more info about him? See Mark’s site or contact him at [email protected].

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