If you’re wondering if a brand really benefits from a cause marketing alliance, a recent study found in the Journal of Advertising Research on Brand Equity Implications of Joint Branding Programs offers some insight. It evaluated the impact of co-branding on consumer perceptions — such as when a toothbrush brand partners with a toothpaste brand. According to the study, such alliances can help two brands enhance each other’s brand equity by increasing their brand differentiation or uniqueness. Note that mega-brands lose their value by partnering with lesser brands, unless the low-equity brand holds other cache that aligns with consumer values such as the “indie” aesthetic, or healthful benefits. Cause marketing trumped other alliances. Partnering toothbrushes with the American Heart Association to prevent dental-related heart problems, for example — conveys the idea of “giving back to the community.” In fact, the research found that pairing a brand with the right cause may be the most effective joint-branding program.