What Can Channel Marketers Learn from Doritos Locos Tacos?

A strategic approach, careful partner selection and aligned messaging help co-marketing campaigns succeed.

Zhanna Boguslavska, Global Channel and Alliances Marketing Lead

June 26, 2024

7 Min Read
Channel marketers lessons
Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock

In 2012, Taco Bell and Doritos partnered to introduce Doritos Locos Tacos. The consumer response was incredible. Within 10 weeks, more than 100 million tacos were sold, and Taco Bell needed to hire an additional 15,000 employees to meet the demand.

When two strong businesses and trusted brands partner, the results can be remarkable. The Doritos Locos Tacos are a great example of successful co-marketing, where two or more companies partner to promote each other's products or services to their shared audiences. Co-marketing offers many benefits as a cost-effective and creative means to reach new customers and generate sales.

The same is true in the channel. Co-marketing in the channel can be effective in generating new leads, enhancing visibility and credibility and growing sales and customer loyalty. When done effectively, partner organizations can leverage each other's specific strengths and reach to stand out in a unique way amidst an extremely crowded and competitive market.

6 Examples of Robust Marketing Strategies

The problem is that most software companies and their channel partners don't go about co-marketing in the right way. That means wasted time, money and resources. While software companies frequently don't necessarily need to reach mass viral status, there are important lessons to be learned from successful consumer co-marketing campaigns.

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Here are six examples of robust and effective co-marketing strategies and the lessons that can be implemented for channel companies and their partners.

1. Finding the perfect partner: Taco Bell and Doritos compatibility. Two brands who understood one another and their audiences well are Taco Bell and Doritos. Why did they have such success? The two brands had virtually identical audiences and demographics. It just made sense to co-market together.
All partners offer different benefits to a given organization, whether it be expanded market reach, expertise and knowledge, accelerated sales cycles, scalability opportunities or others. However, not all partners are a perfect fit to work alongside on a co-marketing campaign. To choose which partners are right for co-marketing, your company needs to consider how a given partner's goals, visions and audiences align with your own.

By working together, Taco Bell and Doritos enhanced their brand visibility and generated massive revenue. Channel partners can learn from their success: don't skimp on the early-stage work of finding your right co-marketing match.

2. Co-branding strategy: IKEA and Airbnb's creative tactics. Once you've identified your partners, it's time to develop your approach to marketing. Both parties should first align on their objectives to ensure consistency and coherence — this may take a variety of forms, including sales growth, increased product enhancement, new customer engagement, building brand awareness, market expansion or enhancing credibility. You and your partner should also align on the specific tactics you'll use to deploy your campaign. This could include email marketing, co-sponsoring an event, creating a new partnered blog series or a social media campaign — there's no limit to the ways you and your partner can reach potential new customers.
A great example of a creative tactic for a co-branding strategy is IKEA and Airbnb's partnership in 2014. The two companies collaborated on a campaign allowing customers to spend the night in an IKEA store, creating an immersive event that leveraged the unique appeal of each company to drive brand visibility. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box when choosing your own co-marketing tactics.

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3. Message alignment: Red Bull and GoPro encouraging the extreme. Another critical step in developing your co-marketing strategy is crafting your joint message and identifying the unique story that you and your partner can tell. What are the core messages and themes you want to communicate? What differentiates your offerings from competitors in the market? How can you tailor your joint messaging to resonate with customers' specific needs? Developing this message and identity will help both you and your partner understand how to effectively communicate your combined value and reach the appropriate audience.

Red Bull and GoPro are prime examples of partners who align on a clear message. Both have established themselves as lifestyle brands for adventurous people who lead action-packed lives. The two collaborated to equip athletes and adventurers with GoPro cameras to capture extreme stunts and action sports on video while Red Bull sponsored the events. The message is extremely clear: these two brands help their customers reimagine their potential and go beyond what they thought was capable.

4. Communication and building trust: Nike and Apple's long-term success. An often overlooked but vital step of co-marketing with a channel partner is establishing effective, consistent channels for communication. Regular, transparent communication ensures that both parties are aligned on goals, strategies and expectations and accelerates the process of identifying and resolving issues. Equally important is building trust. Fostering a sense of reliability and mutual respect enables partners to work toward common objectives without fear of conflict or misalignment. Being honest about capabilities and limitations while maintaining an open line of communication can lead to a strong, enduring relationship, one that not only enhances short-term marketing efforts but also drives long-term business growth.

Nike and Apple were co-marketing partners whose trust in one another led to a great campaign. The two worked together to create the Nike+iPod Sport Kit in 2006, integrating Nike's footwear with Apple's technology to enhance the running experience. This required the two to share proprietary technology and brand equity. The result was a seamless user experience and operational synergy that added brand value and increased revenue. The two are still partners — don't disregard the importance of the relationship that you build with your co-marketing partner.

5. Joint budgeting and resource allocation: Hershey and Betty Crocker optimize spending. Discussing joint budgeting and resource allocation is another necessary step to lay the groundwork for a successful collaboration. Clear financial planning ensures both parties are invested and accountable. Start by determining the necessary resources to achieve your shared goals. This includes marketing funds, personnel and technological tools. This can prevent overspending and limits the possibility of surprise costs. Regular reviews and adjustments to the budget can keep the efforts aligned with evolving goals and market conditions.

A cost-effective, successful co-marketing campaign can be seen with the Hershey's and Betty Crocker effort. By incorporating already existing products into one another — Hershey's chocolate chips and syrup into Betty Crocker baking mixes — this partnership effectively leveraged budgets and drove brand credibility without high marketing or technological spending. This might be compared with a software company offering observability or ITSM products to an audience within an existing channel without having to create an entirely new product or marketing campaign.

6. Measuring success: Spotify and Uber together drive rides and downloads. Perhaps the most important component of your co-marketing strategy is establishing clear, measurable goals so both you and your partner can know if your campaign is achieving its purpose. Regularly reviewing and analyzing these key performance indicators (KPIs) helps identify successful strategies and areas that need improvement, keeping the marketing plan agile and effective. This regular assessment will allow you and your partner to make data-driven decisions, adjust tactics in real time and stay ahead of market trends, ultimately leading to more impactful outcomes.

A great example of a co-marketing strategy whose success is easily measured is Uber and Spotify's partnered efforts. The partnership enabled Uber riders to control the music in their rides using the Spotify app. Measuring success was straightforward: Uber could track app integrations, user engagement during rides and the increase in ride requests during the campaign period. Spotify could measure new user sign-ups and increased usage among existing users.

The Art of Co-Marketing

Mastering the art of channel partner co-marketing requires a strategic approach that encompasses careful partner selection, cohesive branding strategies, aligned messaging, strong communication and trust-building, effective budgeting and resource allocation, and continuous measuring of success.

By learning from successful co-marketing campaigns, channel organizations and their partners can unlock the full potential of collaborative marketing efforts, elevating brands and driving growth in today's competitive marketplace.

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About the Author(s)

Zhanna Boguslavska

Global Channel and Alliances Marketing Lead

Zhanna Boguslavska oversees global partner marketing strategy at SolarWinds. She leads global channel marketing plans and programs aligned with growth objectives across North America, EMEA, APJ and LATAM, as well as SolarWinds Global Transform Partner Program, along with expanding partnerships and co-marketing initiatives with strategic alliances partners such as Microsoft and AWS. Previous experience included posts at Dell and Nokia.

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