How many logos do you need?

Determining when a new offering needs a unique logo can be difficult. Here are some tips to make it easier.

Wendy Ruyle 7.29.2021

When your organization has a new product or service, giving it a logo can be very tempting. Sub-brands can be a very useful part of your marketing toolkit. But how many logos are too many?

Let’s take a look at when you might need a sub-brand logo and how many you can realistically support.

There are several instances that might result in a need for a sub-brand such as: an event, a milestone, a campaign, or a product or service line that is distinct from your main business. Should it have a logo? Should it be tied to your main brand as a child or sibling brand? Or should it just have a distinct descriptor?

When you need a distinct sub-brand logo

There are times when a “House of Brands” strategy is appropriate. This means you have one overarching brand and many sub-brands that aren’t related visually to each other or to the overarching brand. You might use this approach if you are trying to sell to completely different audiences. For example, Target has a whole series of house brands to sell to varying audiences: various clothing lines for men, women, and children; housewares in different price points; food products for health nuts and couch potatoes. All of these logos feel like they belong at Target, but they don’t align visually in any other way. They cater to their audience.

You might use this strategy if you have an overarching brand in a category that makes your sub-brand unappealing. Clorox has the sub-brand of Hidden Valley Ranch. If they sold it as Clorox Ranch Dressing, no one would be buying. This strategy also comes in handy if you are trying to sell your sub-brand product to organizations that are competitors of your overarching brand. Perhaps you are an IT consultant, and you develop a custom software that you want to sell to other IT professionals. They’re not going to want to recommend a product that is tied to your consultancy. You will get more traction if you create a brand that is separate from your overarching brand.

There are downsides to this strategy. Every logo you create is another brand to support. That means a digital and social media presence for each brand, collateral, signage, incentives, and swag with each logo. Do you have the staff and budget to manage these brands?

When you need a child or sibling brand logo

Sometimes you need a logo for your sub-brand, but you want it to be tied to the parent brand. When your parent brand has strong equity, and you are selling to the same or an adjacent audience you need a child or sibling brand logo. A good example of this is Kellogg’s. They make a variety of breakfast products, but each has their own signature look. Eggo Waffles and Special K Cereal use the same typeface and color to indicate they are related. The Kellogg’s name also serves as an endorsement on every box.

Another reason you might need a child or sibling logo is if you are celebrating a milestone, creating an event tied to your brand, or launching a limited time campaign around a special offer. You still want to capitalize on the brand equity of the parent brand, but there is something special happening and you want to make a splash with it. Capital campaigns, 100-year anniversaries, and events all fall into this category. These logos have a limited time span, so they won’t need as much ongoing support as some child brands might.

This is one more brand to support but you do have the benefit of shared brand equity. If someone likes your waffles, they might buy your cereal too. If they trust your organization, they might attend your event. Be careful not to get too many child brands going at the same time, as you could cause some customer confusion. And make sure you have budget and staff to support each brand for its lifetime.

When you need a descriptor

This is called a “Master Brand” strategy. You have one logo with the ability to substitute descriptors depending on your business unit. IBM has many areas of service from aerospace to computing to consulting, but they capitalize on the name recognition and equity of IBM to sell all of it. They are a powerhouse in all of their sectors because they have built trust with clients over the course of many decades.

FedEx is another good example of this strategy. There is FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Office, etc. They all use the same logo with just the descriptor and one color changing out. They are saving costs and building equity with the one respected name, because all their offerings are aligned with their bigger purpose as a company.

This strategy allows you to share costs among your sub-brands. You can have one digital and social media presence, one set of signs, and one visual system to use for all your materials. It can be somewhat harder to get noticed for a new product launch and it may take longer to grow market share, but every new division that is successful builds more equity for the parent brand.

There is no one right answer to how many logos you need but it is probably fewer than you think. Take time and think critically about what it takes to support a sub-brand in whatever form it takes. The more you are prepared for the marketing needs ahead, the more successful your launch will be.

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