Would Starbucks coffee ice cream add to your food truck’s dessert list? Would Billy Bob’s local barbecue sauce boost the sales of your BBQ menu items? Or, would an Oreo crust make your cheesecake sound more appealing to individuals reading your menu?

Co-branding is a way food truck owners can modify their menu items that can lead to increased sales and stronger and more beneficial relationships with your suppliers. Not only that it will give customers an increased awareness of your product and may be more likely to try new items on your food truck menu.

Co-branding is nothing new, and it’s something that many take for granted. Next time you visit a grocery store and you’ll see dozens of examples, from the ice cream aisle (Breyer’s and Hershey ) to snacks (Lay’s and KC Masterpiece) to the cereal aisle (Kellogg’s and Healthy Choice) to desserts (Cinnabon and Mrs. Smith’s).

Why Co-Branding?

There are a number of reasons to set up a co-branding program. To begin with, they’re a powerful way of introducing your truck’s menu items to the loyalists of another brand.

Co-branding also enables one brand to benefit from the “halo of affection” that belongs to another. An alliance between a food truck and another local business can do wonders for both.

Another benefit of co-branding is cost savings, something that can’t be overlooked during these tough economic times. That’s one reason you increasingly see fast-food restaurants like Pizza Hut (YUM) and Taco Bell (YUM) sharing the same building—and sometimes the same counter, menu boards, and staff. In some cases, companies co-brand in order to charge a premium, such as Ford’s (F) two-decade partnership with Eddie Bauer.

It’s Not Just for Big Brands

Co-branding is not just for giant national or international brands. While a mobile food business may have difficulty linking up with the likes of Dole or General Mills, there are an increasing number of off the shelf co-branding opportunities of which many businesses can avail themselves.

There are bound to be dozens of custom co-branding partners in your local geographical area. The key is to think creatively about products or services that complement yours in some way and that will enhance the appeal or credibility of your offering.

For example, a food truck could co-brand with a local packaged-foods maker to create a new menu item. A good place to start generating ideas is by thinking about other types of companies that do a good job serving your target market. You might even ask your customers to identify other companies with which they do business and see if you come across any patterns.

Develop Your Own Guidelines

Be careful, co-branding is not without risks. First, it could dilute your brand, since it spreads the credit for a positive experience across two brands where normally there’s only one. And if the experience isn’t positive, it may reflect negatively on you and your food truck.

Because of this, it’s important to carefully consider your own co-branding principles before you enter an agreement. Develop guidelines that are right for your mobile food business that will enable you to objectively assess opportunities that arise. As an example, you may only co-brand with companies that share complementary values. Or will you co-brand only with products that hold a best-in-class status. Finally you might only co-brand in situations where you can retain full review and approval rights on all elements of communications. This will narrow your co-branding possibilities, but it also reduces its risk.

Create a Proposal

Your criteria may differ based on what’s most appropriate for your situation, but “fit” should be a prime consideration. While many brands share similar characteristics, no two are exactly alike.

As a starting point, examine existing co-branding examples and ask yourself how good of a fit they appear to be and why. Seek out other companies and ask them to share their co-branding guidelines. Then put together the co-branding principles that are right for your food truck empire. Once they’re in place, you can brainstorm potential partners who may be a good match and consider the benefits of linking up from their perspective as well as yours. Then put together a proposal and reach out to them.

RELATED: Avoid Food Truck Partnership Mistakes

The Bottom Line

Co-branding is an often-overlooked strategy by which the whole can truly be greater than the sum of the parts. While it should be used sparingly it could generate a new level of interest and excitement around your food truck.

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