Co-Branded Emails - The Strategy You Need to Try

Email marketing remains a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their target audience. Co-branded emails, in particular, offer a unique opportunity to leverage the strengths of multiple brands to create a more impactful and engaging email campaign. In this article, we will explore the benefits of co-branded emails.


Bill Arnold

12/20/20236 min read

Co-Branded Emails
Co-Branded Emails

Email marketing remains a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their target audience. Co-branded emails, in particular, offer a unique opportunity to leverage the strengths of multiple brands to create a more impactful and engaging email campaign. In this series, we will explore the benefits of co-branded emails in today's blog, and tomorrow we will discuss best practices for implementing them effectively.

Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to reach potential clients and grow your business. However, spam laws, and other limitations, severely limit both the reach and effectiveness.

SPAM laws require that you have received permission from the person you wish to send a commercial email. This usually means using some gated material that will release the content in exchange for their email and other contact information.

Even when you have the best content, often your potential clients will not download your content, because they do not know you.

If you can navigate past that obstacle, and get the prospect to download the material, having them engage with you can be difficult. There have not been enough touchpoints for them to see the value of your brand or any solutions you have to offer them,

Imagine if there was a way to circumvent all three of these issues:

  • Having permission to send the email.

  • Having sufficient awareness that they download the material.

  • Having generated enough trust, that they begin to engage with your brand.

Fortunately, there is a way. Co-branded emails are often the perfect strategy for introducing your brand to prospects who do not know or appreciate what value you can bring to their business.

Co-branded Emails

Co-branded emails are a marketing strategy where you (the advertiser) leverages the relationship that a respected third party (the host) has already built with an audience. In essence, by partnering with this host, you gain access to their email list to send out a high-value piece of content that the host’s audience would be interested in. They are given a link to a landing page to download the gated content in exchange for their contact information. The individuals who do engage are now part of your email contact list for further outreach and nurturing.

There are a number of benefits for both the advertiser and the host.

Benefits to the Advertiser

Leverage - The single biggest benefit to the advertiser is the ability to leverage the relationships and trust that the host has with their audience. This method of introduction has many advantages. Because a trusted company is sending you the information and opportunity, it is akin to a seal of approval.

Utilizing behavioral science in marketing is a critical component, if you want to attract and convert companies or individuals. Co-branded emails take advantage of several of the Laws of Influence as taught by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

The Law of Social Proof – Most people have very hectic lives and simply do not have the time to evaluate every opportunity to the degree that they should. The Law of Social Proof recognizes that we all take shortcuts to make decisions. One of those is relying on referrals from a trusted source. Because they already have built a relationship of trust with the host, that is transferred to the advertiser because of the referral.

The Law of Authority – We are all preprogrammed to respect and listen to people or organizations that we perceive as having elevated expertise or authority. Typically, the host is a national association of a profession. (For example: for lawyers, the American Bar Association, for architects, the American Institute of Architects, etc.) These are all considered preeminent organizations. Because they represent an authority in that profession, when they send out a co-branded email, it is viewed as a recommendation of that advertiser.

The Law of Unity – The subscribers to any host are typically a cohesive group of like-minded individuals, at least in their passion and support for the community they share. People are inclined to be influenced by those they see as part of their group or tribe. Because of this mentality, the host sending out this content from the advertiser is seen as a recommendation and supported.

Expanded Reach - The advertiser can be introduced to a large audience comprised of their ideal customers. They can send an email to a group that is unavailable to them. This expanded reach can increase their brand awareness and convert many of the subscribers to legitimate contacts, so the advertiser can now send emails directly.

Higher Open Rates – Since the email is being sent by a trusted source that the subscriber is accustomed to receiving and opening emails from, they have a much higher open rate than traditional emails. Depending on the industry, a well-received business email may have an open rate of 39.98% (HubSpot). A co-branded email can have open rates that exceed 65%, nearly double the average.

Return On Investment (ROI) – Co-branded emails have a significant ROI. Emails alone are reported to have an average ROI of 4,200%! That means that for every dollar spent, you receive $42 in return. Since you can receive performance guarantees from many hosts (See Pro Tip), that ROI is actually much higher for co-branded emails. We have achieved an ROI of six times higher using a co-branded email marketing campaign.

Benefits for the Host

The host has two major benefits from the symbiotic relationship:

Relevance - The host can help keep their relevance to their community by offering content that will help the subscribers. As long as the subscribers find the information helpful, and relevant to their concerns, or find it entertaining, it is a net win for the host.

Financial - The primary benefit for the host is financial. Typically, a host will have a range of engagement prices that are based upon the composition of the list, typical open rates, and the number of subscribers. These prices can be negotiated, and if part of a larger campaign, may be significantly discounted. We have done co-branded emails with a lot of professional associations, and you can expect to pay between $5,000 to $8,000 for each campaign.

PRO TIP – Pay attention to the open rates and size of the audience that the host is promoting as part of their offer. From those numbers, you can quickly ascertain what the minimum engagement should be. If there are 10,000 members in a subscriber list, and they have an open rate of 60%, you should expect the engagement of 6,000 people.

We ALWAYS require that the host guarantee that engagement rate. If the return is less than anticipated, they have to run that campaign, or another, until that return is realized.

Case Study

Prevail Marketing had a client whose targeted buyer personas were litigation attorneys. The client was a relatively unknown startup and had only 176 names on their mailing list. While they had an extremely limited budget, we encouraged them to invest $5,000 in a co-marketing program with a major national association (not ABA) that had a sizeable litigation section.

For $5,000, the client was promised that the association would send an email on their behalf to a list of 20,000 members who belonged to a specific litigation group. They said that the average open rate was 53% and the average click-through rate was 37%. This meant that 10,600 members should open that email and that 3,922 should be downloading that eBook. That translated to a cost-per-lead, for a market-qualified lead, to be approximately $1.27. We negotiated that these be guaranteed returns.

The initial email did not yield those results. The open rates were only 38%, and the click-through rates 32%, yielding a return of 2,432 members being added to our client's list. We discussed the failure with the association, and they agreed to rerun the email but also agreed for us to use a different piece of content.

The Results - The second email and piece of content resonated with the targeted audience. The email was sent to 20,000 members and achieved an open rate of 61% (12,200 members). The click-through and download rate was even more impressive. There was a click-through rate of 43%, meaning 5,246 were added as market-qualified leads (MQL) for our client.

Combining the two co-branded email campaigns, the client added 7,678 to their CRM for future nurturing. That meant the cost-per-lead for an MQL was about 65 cents.

Needless to say, the client was ecstatic and wanted to run more co-branded emails.


While not all campaigns have the same degree of success, if you get performance guarantees, you will find that there is always a significant benefit to running co-branded email programs.

Co-branded emails offer numerous benefits for businesses, including expanded reach, credibility, enhanced content, cost sharing, and increased conversion rates. To obtain these results, you need to pick the right partner and follow best practices. Tomorrow, we discuss both of these items.