Co-op Marketing's Top 5 Challenges In 2019: Brands' Edition (Part 1)

By Nikolai Lien


August 8, 2019

In this four-part series, we’ll be looking at the co-op marketing challenges retailers and brands must be ready to tackle in 2019. We’ll identify the top five challenges facing each side —and discuss how these challenges can be overcome. In this first part, we will examine the challenges associated with tracking, verification, and unoptimized processes. When discussing brands in this article, we are referring to manufacturer brands. Specifically, those supplying retailers with their consumer goods.

If you’re unfamiliar with online co-op marketing, check out our introductory article on the subject:

For busy readers, we’ve provided a quick summary of the article’s content at the top. If you find the topics interesting, they are discussed in more detail below.

1.    Establishing tracking and verification processes

2.    Identifying a sustainable and scalable workflow

3.    Communications and collaboration

4.    Financing, acceptance, and approval

5.    Brand safety

Establishing tracking and verification processes

When it comes to co-op marketing in an online setting, there is a lack of established infrastructure. What does this entail? It means that the bones of contention, such as data-sharing, remain unsolved. Brands engaging in online co-op expect to see performance reports, similar to those accessed when conducting their own online performance marketing activities. It’s a reasonable expectation, but not without complication. Online marketers expect this level of performance transparency.

However, sharing performance reports with affiliated companies is not something most marketers would be familiar with.The industry-wide culture is to protect performance data as securely as possible. More than a few retailers’ eyebrows will raise at the mere mention of sharing their performance reports outside the company. Even with their own suppliers. Still, can you imagine the prospect of a brand spending its dollars blindly? It flies in the face of everything marketers have come to expect when managing online budgets.

Beyond evaluating performance, brands must define new ways of verifying that their co-op budget is being spent as agreed by the retailer. Co-op marketing in the offline world did not really face this issue. Cardboard cutouts, flyers, billboards. These are tangible, physical objects, plain for all to see. In online co-op, however, things become diffuse. Ad impressions don’t exist in a physical space, they appear and exist in brief moments on a would-be customer’s device.

This means that unless the brand is allowed to track impressions directly, they will have to trust the retailer is spending the money on what, how, and how much was agreed upon. The brand must see their marketing dollars aid them in meeting a business objective. Simply subsidizing the retailer’s marketing costs for the sake of charity won’t cut it.

Identifying a sustainable and scalable workflow

As alluded to above, online co-op remains an uncharted field. The lack of optimized processes follows as a natural consequence of this. These include:

  • Technical processes – how are the co-op activities going to be structured and delivered upon?
  • Actionable processes – who is doing what and when?
  • Creative processes – who approves concepts and collateral on either side?
  • Reporting processes – who will share what data and how frequently?

Each of these questions requires an answer for a co-op marketing campaign to get off the ground.

Today, no established best practices exist. Retailers might suggest for a brand to spend a certain amount. The brand must then accept this proposal and shift the budget over to the retailer. Marketers have no streamlined platform or interface to work through. Everything happens through emails and agreements. In this sense, players conduct online co-op in much the same way as its offline counterpart. However, in this unintentional homage to its comparatively slow-moving roots, online co-op is also forfeiting many of the advantages of moving efforts online. The status quo is a far cry from an interface allowing marketers to monitor campaigns in real time and shift budgets accordingly. Brands must continue to push retailers on their co-op processes and technology. Only by doing so can true efficiency and agility become realistic objectives, not merely an abstract and theoretical carrot.


Stay tuned to for the continuation of this series. The next article will cover the final three co-op challenges facing brands in 2019.

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