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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Brand Strategy: Sub-Brand Creation


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Today on Branding Strategy Insider, another brand strategy question from the BSI Emailbag. Carla, a Senior Marketer from Kansas City, Kansas asks: 

“I'm researching sub branding and would like to know if you could provide reasons a company should think about sub branding services. Specifically for B2B marketing.”  

Carla, thanks for your question. Generally, a company should operate with as few brands as possible to maximize the impact of limited marketing resources. Having said that, companies often create sub-brands. I recommend no more than two levels of branding – (a) corporate / parent / umbrella brand and (b) sub-brand / product brand. The following are reasons to create a sub-brand: 

  • To create a stronger appeal to a particular market or market segment (for instance, the most discerning customers within the category)
  • To make the parent brand more relevant to a specific market or market segment (for instance, African-Americans)
  • To call out or highlight different amenity, benefit or values bundles offered by specific groupings of products or services (for instance, business hotels versus luxury vacation resorts) 

Any time the products and services are similar (or the same) and the amenity/benefit/values bundles are similar (or the same) and the customer segments are seeking similar (or the same) things, there is no need for separate sub-brands. In fact, in this case, to have separate sub-brands would be confusing because the customers would not understand what the distinctions were between the sub-brands. The best rule of thumb is to keep the brand architecture as simple as possible and to align the brands and sub-brands with specific customer needs and benefits. The bottom line: brand architecture is designed to help make product choices as clear and simple as possible for customers, so use common sense when creating sub-brands and, as a marketer, make sure you are always viewing the world from your customer's perspective.

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