Branding Within a Brand: How to Do it Right (and in One Case, Very Wrong)

Branding within a brand can come in many different forms, so it can be hard to truly evaluate which strategies work and which fall short. Even the reasoning behind a multi-brand strategy can vary drastically from one company to the next. But the  goal is always the same: to reach a wider audience and generate more “selling” opportunities. The way a company publicly displays its portfolio of brands on the web, in print and on social media is an important part of its overall content marketing strategy. Companies that are on point with their branding have carefully calculated how they want consumers to see and connect (or in some cases disassociate) with brands in their portfolios, and the thought clearly shows. 

Under a Brand Umbrella

I’ll admit, I’ve never sat down to read a newspaper front to back—call me a millennial. I follow the news on a daily basis, but like many people these days, I get nearly all of my news online. So how is it that a non-reader of newspapers can easily make the connection among a variety of content produced by USAToday, a popular media outlet that began as a newspaper? The answer is simple: branding. USAToday USAToday has mastered the art of segmenting its consumers while housing these segments under a larger brand umbrella. The aesthetic of these brands across print and digital platforms is clear and consistent, whether the content targets sports fanatics, techies or travelers. Every Twitter handle, every off-shoot blog and even the flagship paper itself all bear the iconic USAToday circle, neatly color-coded by topic and stamped with a white-lettered title. You could spot them from a mile away. Take the Road Warrior Voices blog for example. The site, which is an off-shoot of USAToday, is focused entirely on travel. Notice the consistent use of the USAToday emblem and Road Warrior Voices logo across the Road Warrior Voices website and Twitter page: road warrior As demonstrated here, this umbrella tactic allows users to classify themselves in one or more segments and easily explore new segments of a brand they already trust. Road_Warrior_Voices_Twitter

Growing With a Brand Over Time

During a stint as an event-planning blogger early in my career, I became very familiar with wedding brands like The Knot, which is a big player in the industry. The Knot is an online hub for all things wedding planning, complete with a national and many regional print magazines. A bride can plan her wedding from start to finish using The Knot. The only problem? Wedding planning inevitably comes to an end for brides (or so one would hope), and interest in the brand subsequently fades into the background. Cue The Nest and The Bump, two solutions for continuing the lifestyle journey with The Knot’s brand loyalists. From wedding to newlyweds to baby, the various brands cater to all three stages of life.  xo group

Entering New Territory

There comes a time in the life of a company when it’s faced with the choice between positioning itself as a leader in a niche market or expanding its focus. But if a company plays its cards right like Bonobos did, it may be able to have its cake and eat it, too. AYR_Ad Bonobos is an industry leader in refined menswear. The brand offers consumers a unique shopping experience in which retail stores (also known as Guideshops) keep every size and color of perfectly starched garment in stock so customers can always find the perfect fit and then have their purchases shipped to them. But what if you’re “not a dude,” as the company’s recent marketing campaign so eloquently put it? Would you shop at a men’s clothing store? Probably not. But you might enjoy the same quality and level of service that comes with the Bonobos business model. This notion was the inspiration behind the brand’s decision to launch a new line of women’s clothing, AYR, as a completely separate brand. One caters only to men, the other only to women. You won’t find any mention of AYR on the Bonobos site (save for the brief appearance of the marketing campaign mentioned above), nor is there a women’s section in the back of the print catalog. That’s the key to maintaining an expertise in both categories without tainting either brand’s image.

Taking a Step Backward

Netflix users might remember the brand’s identity crisis in 2011. The company announced its plan to split into two brands: Netflix, which would become online streaming only, and Qwikster, which would become a separate DVD mail-delivery service. Netflix I don’t doubt this plan was hatched with the best intentions. Customers were paying for DVD delivery and streaming, but surely there were some users who wanted only streaming and others only delivery. To address this need, the company decided to cater to its customers’ needs by offering more options. In the process, however, Netflix managed to alienate its core customer base: users who wanted BOTH streaming and delivery services. As one might imagine, those in opposition were angry and loud. Netflix ultimately made the right call by revisiting its branding strategy to keep all services under the Netflix brand umbrella.

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Have you come across any companies that are superb at branding within a brand? We’d love to hear more in the comments. 
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