Challenge
Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of co-branding

A large U.S.-based health insurance company wanted to understand the impact that co-branding was having on its master brand. Specifically, a wide range of companies was providing capabilities in partnership with this company’s Plans and their clients. These companies and their services represent a portion (or “slice”) of the total capabilities offered by the health insurance company, so while they can be valuable to clients, they are often competitive in nature. Examples of these companies (or “slice competitors”) include network solution companies, consumer experience companies, and care/disease management companies. In each case, these companies provide value-add services to the healthcare insurance company’s clients, but often in the form of services that compete with their own. Given the challenge of directly researching the impact of this practice, FullSurge was hired to evaluate analogous industries which have a similar dynamic and to provide perspectives on the pros and cons of this practice relative to managing the equity of the master brand.

Solution
Developing best practices based on outside-industry analogs

FullSurge conducted secondary research and one-on-one interviews with a number of high-profile companies in adjacent as well as unrelated industries—companies that also pursue a similar co-branding strategy. Our assessment included companies as varied as Deloitte, GE, Best Buy, American Family Insurance, and Marriott. The goal of the assessment was to understand what each company was doing in the way of co-branding, and at least anecdotally, the impact the practice was having on their business and brand equity.

Based on the collective set of cases studies and in-depth interviews, we were able to identify a number of common themes, and to draw several important conclusions and implications for our client’s business.  We recommended that while slice competitors were helpful to the company’s business in many ways, they would be much better positioned as white label partners. However, we also identified certain situations in which co-branding was mutually beneficial (e.g., for developing strategic relationships, and when maintaining third party independence is important).

We recommended that while slice competitors were helpful to the company’s business in many ways, they would be much better positioned as white label partners.

Impact
Developing a framework to guide future decision-making

FullSurge presented the strategic recommendations to the governing body for the initiative, and to the heads of the major independent Plans of the association. The assessment and recommendations were fully embraced. Following this project, FullSurge was hired to build a detailed framework to help the company’s Plans evaluate slice competitor co-branding opportunities within the context of the criteria identified in this initial project.

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