Cross-branding: Helping or Hurting Your Return on Investment?


Image from: Television / Shutterstock

Television and the internet are littered with reality-based shows. “Fast and Loud” is one of the newer programs in the automotive vein. It features two colorful main characters that buy older cars, enhance/hot rod them, and ideally sell them for profit. They’re backed by an entertaining support cast. The show covers the purchase, updating, and sales of vehicles, with enough “dramedy” to add flair. But it also serves as a great case study on how the impacts of cross-branding can be seen through the lens of consumer online behavior. To highlight that, we analyzed search referrals for “fast and loud” across all the major search engines using Millward Brown Digital’s industry-leading panel and patented consumer data and normalization processes.

Discovering “Fast and Loud”

Over the past three months, was the destination site for over 40% of destinations for “Fast and Loud”; is the website for The Discovery Channel, which airs “Fast and Loud.” Results are a good first proof-of-concept of cross-branding.

At just over 20% are referrals were to “Gas Monkey Garage” is the name of the shop in Dallas, Texas, where the program is filmed. That site’s looks like it’s designed to leverage interest into incremental revenue for the shop (merchandise, vehicle sales, mechanical services, and brand equity). Youtube referrals are next, which may represent consumers’ interest in watching episodes online. However, few if any “Fast and Loud” episodes are available on youtube, no doubt to help channel interest to the “official” channels, such as

Search Referrals Fast and Loud

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The next three sites are search and information sites, which raises a question: Is all the cross-branding confusing consumers? The Gas Monkey home page (above) shows the logos of Gas Monkey Garage, Fast and Loud and Discovery.

The Discovery Channel site (left) also highlights the program, but naturally as an ancillary brand to its own. Discovery is hoping that “Fast and Loud” traffic can be leveraged to create interest in other Discovery programs, as well as other Discovery products (including but not limited to television watching). Discovery currently lists several other reality automotive shows (e.g., Turn and Burn, Texas Car Wars, and Street Outlaws) plus multiple non-automotive programs. Each is a revenue stream.

But it doesn’t stop there, Fast and Loud has its own partnerships. For example, a recent episode featured a build for NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr., whose sponsor (Diet Mountain Dew) now has a sweepstakes that ties in Dale’s brand, Gas Monkey Garage, and Diet Mountain Dew. Or is that a partnership with The Discovery Channel? Another is a Gas Monkey/ebay Motors partnership.

[Oh, yes, the presence of in search results at first may seem inconsistent with the expected demographic; it likely reflects episodes in which the shop bought a wrecked Ferrari F40 and repaired it (OK with most Ferrari fans) but also hot-rodded it (not OK with most Ferrari fans).]

Loud to Lancaster

Flow Chart

Click to Enlarge

All the brand and site interconnections could create some interesting paths to purchase. Imagine this one: Your friend Richard watches “Fast and Loud” on TV and Tweets about it. His friend Aaron reads the tweet and searches on “Fast and Loud” on Google. Like one in five searchers, his next destination is the Gas Monkey site. There he sees and clicks on the link to and watches a video vignette of the episode in which they build a hot rod for NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. using the colors of Diet Mountain Dew. Aaron’s now interested in the sweepstakes to win the car, so clicks on one of the links on the site, which takes him to Facebook (oops, bad link—I don’t want to BBQ—that’s not good ). He backs up to and in the video section clicks on an advertisement for Goodyear Wrangler tires. Exploring more the one site, he finds other shows including “Amish Mafia.” He decides to visit Amish country as a result, so it’s off to TripAdvisor for hotel reviews and to make a reservation, in this example Lancaster, PA (part of Amish country). From Fast and Loud on TV to booking a hotel in Lancaster…and a missed opportunity for Diet Dew brand social awareness building along the way. See the following page for a visual.

The best way to answer whether all the cross-branding is yielding a good return investment is by starting with these questions:

  • Audience Profile: Who are the “consumers” of Fast and Loud content on Are they consistent with demographic targets? Is the site attracting positive, but surprise demographics that could inform how to evolve the show over time?
  • Site Engagement: To what extent do Fast and Loud searchers engage with other Discovery Channel content? Are there appropriate cross-pollination efforts revealed by those behaviors?
  • Differentiation: To what extent do visitors to differ from those going to Fast and loud pages? Are their opportunities for each property to grow their traffic with that knowledge?
  • Attribution: Are consumers that visit both sites starting on or How does Twitter and other social activity correlate with changes in site traffic?
  • Path to Purchase: To what extent does watching visiting the Gas Monkey website and/or the Fast and Loud pages on correlate with downstream purchases of vehicles, parts, merchandise, magazine subscriptions, etc.
  • Brand Equity: How are ancillary partners, like Diet Mountain Dew and ebay motors, benefiting?
  • Brand Stretching: Will the upcoming launch of a Gas Monkey-themed restaurant create overlap with the Food Network?
  • About Lincoln Merrihew:
    Lincoln Merrihew is the Senior Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.