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Brand Architecture

How Sub-Brands Impact Master Brands


We are happy to answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today we hear from Jose, a Chief Marketing Officer in Chicago, Illinois who writes…

“I have a question regarding the measurement of negative and positive impact sub-brands may have on each other and the master brand. I understand there are different methodologies such as BCM and factor analysis that can help me understand key associations for a particular brand relative to competitors, but they do not highlight the specific impact sub-brands may have on each other. What methods would you recommend to better understand the  full impact?”

Thank you for your question, Jose. I would approach this in one of two ways:

1. PRE & POST: First, I would seek perceptions of the master brand. This could include reaction to a battery of predefined associations (rating them on a five-point scale) or open-ended responses or both. Next, I would present an ad form concept that links the new sub-brand to the master brand. Then, I would seek perceptions of the master brand again. Finally, I would note any changes in master brand perception pre and post-exposure to the ad form concept.

2. SPLIT CELL: I would seek the responses of two demographically/psychographically identical groups. One group would provide perceptions of the master brand without any exposure to the new sub-brand (again, through a battery of predefined associations, open-ended responses or both). The other group would first be exposed to an ad form concept that links the new sub-brand to the master brand and then be asked to provide perceptions of the master brand. In this case, you would identify the differences in responses between the two cells.

In both cases, the ad form concept must describe the sub-brand in the way it will be marketed and experienced (in purchase and usage) to get an accurate read. This is not as critical if the sub-brand is already well-known in the market but just not yet linked/affiliated with the master brand. Then, just communicating the linkage between the two brands in the ad form concept would be sufficient. Regardless of the method used, the way the sub-brand is linked to the master brand in the ad form concept (for instance, master brand/sub-brand versus sub-brand endorsed by the master brand) will have an effect on how people respond. In all cases, you should use sufficiently large sample sizes to be able to discern small changes/differences in perceptions. You can apply one of several different types of statistical analyses to identify statistically significant differences.

Jose, we hope this helps. You can learn more about brand architecture here.

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Barbara Soifer on December 04th, 2013 said

Hi Jose - I'm not sure you finished your question - but in general, determining the type of architecture you are working with is the first essential step in researching how much impact a sub-brand has on it's master.

Is it a family of brands or a brand family?

For example, Marriott is a brand family - Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott Marquis, Marriott Hotel. All are marked by the brand name - they may have different color schemes or "logo" treatments, however you know who the master is. A positive or negative experience at one location or news item that names the sub-brand will have impact on the rest of the brand family. But if you are dealing with independent sub-brands as you would find in pharmaceuticals, for example, the impact to the Master may be diminished significantly.

My question to you is this - are you testing the impact of the Master to the Sub-Brand or the impact of the Sub-Brand to the Master? There is a significant difference and the research you do will need to be tailored to your needs. A general answer may be Brand Perception Studies, Focus Groups, Pre- and Post-Event measurement surveys.

I would stay away from using ad campaigns in testing the impact as you need to be careful of your research being more about the ad campaign than about the brand. Stick to your Brand Ladder, Brand Attributes and overall Brand Definition than the most recent ad campaign.

Hope that helps!

Brad VanAuken on December 04th, 2013 said

Thanks for this, Barbara. Yes, generally I recommend understanding the affect of linking the two brands in either direction – master brand to sub-brand and sub-brand to master brand. Focus groups and and other types of qualitative research can also be used to understand this better. I was not referring to ad campaigns above, but rather ad form concepts (words and visuals) representing the two brands and the nature of the linkage between the two brands and perhaps something about the sub-brand if it is not known. I assumed that the brand architecture had already been decided and this was just a test to make sure there were no unintended negative associations.

Hilton Barbour
Twitter: ZimHilton
on December 05th, 2013 said

Jose/Barbara & Brad – perhaps layered beneath your answer is an aspect which is key. What is the PURPOSE of the sub-brand within the entire brand architecture? Is it a Flanker, an Innovator or, perhaps, a Challenger within the category or an entrant into a brand new category?

All these aspects will impact the types of research you’ll consider. Ultimately this sounds like a classic semiotics exercise, particularly if the sub-brand is intended to fulfill some tension or opportunity in the category.

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