Home > Identity and Branding, Marketing, Messaging > You have one product. How many brands should you have?

You have one product. How many brands should you have?

Let’s say you work for a company that has one product. How many brands do you think you should have?

When I phrase this question like this, it’s pretty obvious that the answer is “one.”

In reality, though, companies with one product rarely show a single brand to the public. They almost always show two brands: a company brand, and a product brand. And companies who do this can never answer why they’ve chosen to split their brand in two. The company is associated with the single product they sell; a single message, a single graphic idea, a single communication goal will help sell much more product than two messages, two ideas, and two goals.

Sometimes, companies get it right. In the late 1990’s, Claris Software had several products, but the development team behind one of their products, ClarisWorks, left the company. Claris decided that FileMaker, its database product, was the only product worth keeping, and changed the company name to — wait for it — FileMaker. (If Claris had been the stronger brand name, they could have changed the product name to Claris Database.)

There’s nothing wrong with having a company name and a separate product name. But promoting both names and brands is a waste of marketing effort and a waste of money. Your audience only has room in their collective brain to associate a concept with ONE thing — either your product brand or your company brand — not both. That’s just the way the human mind works.

Some marketing experts will say that you can have an umbrella brand, a main brand, and sub-brands. While it’s true that you can create a brand hierarchy, your audience will only remember one of those brands with a product (or product line).

Some companies defend themselves with the argument that they plan to release more products, and they want to leverage their company brand. Leveraging an existing brand seems easier than launching a new one. However, your audience has already made the decision to associate your first product with a certain brand; if they try to associate it with the second brand, it will weaken the branding for the first product–and probably won’t help the second product. There’s a reason why A-1 Poultry Sauce and Virgin Cola failed — and it doesn’t have anything to do with media outlets, marketing expenditures, or celebrity spokespeople. People simply didn’t trust the A-1 brand with chicken or the Virgin brand with soda.

Following this advice would lead you to create a house of brands (vs. a branded house — see more about that) should that second product get off the ground. I think a house of brands can be much stronger in the long run — and in the short run, your marketing budget (and your marketing department) will be grateful for your maniacal focus on a single brand.

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  1. June 17, 2010 at 4:39 pm

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