Society is accelerating. In the digital world, time and geography are of little relevance. People can be anywhere and everywhere. As lines blur providing some separation between “real life” and “digital life”, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain distinct parts of our lives.
Earlier this week on Branding Strategy Insider, Mark Ritson shared, The Rise of The One Brand Strategy citing the recent announcement that Coke (UK, NW Europe) was consolidating all of the Coke sub-brands (Coke Zero, Coke Life, etc.) under the Coca Cola brand. And as he notes, this approach to brand architecture isn’t new, but what is new is the amount of companies who are departing from portfolios of independent brands, and moving towards a more singular corporate focus.
If we consider people as brands, there are similarities in the Brand Relationship Spectrum that can be used to describe what is happening in the culture. This is important to consider because it’s a move which aligns to the way more and more people work. When a brand works the way people work, it’s easy to grow and nurture a relationship at the personal level.
Before digital was so pervasive, life’s boundaries and constraints were more discernable. Retailers had operating hours, people went to offices to work, and came home in the evening to relax. Operating inside of those parameters, it was easy to “leave your work at work.” Many of us have even heard the expression, “I am a different person at work.” People-as-brands could operate in a sort of “sub-brands” approach. This allows a mindset of ‘managed’ that gives us a sense of control. Control is needed for privacy.
Then, enter digital – where constraint and boundary are whatever we want them to be, which is both awesome and problematic. There’s a whole generation of people today who have little or no concept of privacy, or any desire to take a managed approach to life that allows separation. There’s also a growing number of people migrating to this idea as the effort required for separation and privacy is simply too much. Wunderman’s visionary planner, Simon Sylvester, years ago wrote, “In the future there will be no privacy. Everyone will know who’s sleeping with who, and no one will care.” Our digital footprints are all over the web, which means they are searchable. The blending of all aspects of one’s life, which is native to one generation and adopted by anyone else, allows for an adaptive approach. Without a drive for separation, a progressive, flexible, nimble mindset makes it easier to ‘go with the flow’.
The branded house model is not a model for every brand. And none of these models are better than the others; it is just as easy for a sub-brand to change as it is for a branded house, in the same way that a person with a great degree of separation in their life can be on the forefront of progress.
The implication for brands is to examine what customers, who look at brands across a thin line, really care about in the human-brand interaction. They see right through you. We all know the Costco case study: Costco’s customers buy Kirkland clothing, Kirkland vodka, and Kirkland dog beds. The quality is consistent which is their strong brand story and appeal. (i.e. if it’s Kirkland, it must be good.) Their success tells something about what those customers value. The same approach would likely fail if Procter and Gamble consolidated all of their brands.
Ask yourself, “where is the story?” Because that will be the easiest place for customers to cross the thin brand line.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education