How to Bring Sub-brands into the Fold

Make the transition as smooth as possible.

Wendy Ruyle 8.18.2015

Whether through acquisitions or rapid growth, companies all too often end up with a mixed bag of sub-brands. Managing them all can cause serious headaches. Here are a few tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Should your company have sub-brands?

This is the first question to ask. Should you be managing sub-brands at all? Why do you even have them? Perhaps you have acquired businesses over the years and brands along with them. If those brands have more equity than your company brand or your “master brand,” it might be wise to keep them. Or, maybe you have expanded your business to multiple markets where the audiences are quite different. Maintaining multiple brands for consumers with very diverse wants and needs makes sense too.

However, the more brands you manage, the more expense you are going to have. More time for your staff, more printing expenses, more content generation, more design costs, more everything. You won’t be able to leverage the same resources for the company as a whole.

Another thing to consider is consumer confusion. Do your customers understand the depth and breadth your company has? If they did would they be more loyal to the brand? Would they trust in your services more? Make sure they understand all you can do for them.

Transitioning to a master brand

If you’ve decided you want to bring your sub-brands into the fold of your master brand, you’ll want to set up a system and a pathway for each brand. Particularly if you intend on acquiring more over time. Think about how your sub-brands relate to one another. Are they different products? Are they company divisions? Are they a mix of products and services? Determine what you want the hierarchy to be in the end. A few options include:

  • Master brand with divisions—one logo with a type treatment lockup for each division
  • A family of sub-brands—a shared or similar symbol and a consistent type treatment for each brand
  • Sub-brands with master brand endorsement—varied sub-brand logos with a specified placement for the master brand logo

Once you know where you’re going, make a plan for how to get there. How fast you transition will depend on a number of factors: Are your customers tied to your current brand? Do you have a lot of collateral left to use up? Is signage involved? Make smart decisions so you don’t waste materials, but don’t wait too long to make the switch.

In the short-term you can take a few steps to bring the brands into alignment. You can consolidate your color palettes and use consistent typefaces for collateral. Think about using a consistent photographic style and similar graphic elements. These visual cues will tie your divisions together. Your brand(s) can evolve over months and years or change overnight. It all depends on your situation.

When you do decide to make the change make sure your staff understands the reasoning and is on board with the new graphic standards. You don’t want one division going rogue and making their own collateral. It will devalue your brand in the long run.

If it’s a big change, let your customers know too. You don’t want them to think your service offerings are going to change with your name or logo. Assure them that the quality they are used to will continue or get better.

Maintaining multiple sub-brands

You may find you need to keep your sub-brands as separate entities in order for them to thrive in the marketplace. After all, Lucky Charms wouldn’t go very far as “General Mills Marshmallow Shapes Cereal.”

If this is the case you can still save marketing dollars and build a stronger master brand by keeping your brands consistent. Determine a consistent placement for the company logo. If possible use a single color palette and family of typefaces. Use master branded letterhead, business cards, and forms company-wide.

Setting brands free

Sometimes a sub-brand will grow big enough that it outshines a master brand. And that’s ok as long as you have the resources to let it be its own entity. There may be no need to tie it back to the master brand at all.

This process can be complex. Start with a goal of where you want to be, make a sensible plan to get there, and follow through with the transition. There will be bumps along the way and some customers will miss their old brand. But, ultimately your company will grow stronger if your brand ties are made clear.

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