The term sub-brand sounds like an easily and understandable concept:
“Using an established brand to launch another brand.”
eg. Virgin -> Virgin Atlantic -> Virgin money -> Virgin mobile -> Virgin media
Virgin make it work very well, there an established company with a big reputable name but more often then not sub-brands using the same name don’t work out too well especially if your a small business.
Small businesses usually don’t have the brand power to pull off a sub-brand but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the sub-brand work for you because you don’t have to trade directly off of the mother-brand.
Major brands & sub-brands with different names
Coca cola -> Lilt – Five-alive
Whitbread – > Premier Inn – Costa Coffee
Volkswagen → Audi, Volkswagen, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and overseas SEAT and Skoda.
The examples above do ask a tricky question. Are they really sub-brands or separate entities on their own? Each sub-brand is very different from the mother-brand, promoted in a very different way and holding their own set of brand values. In some cases the sub-brand were individual companies on their own before being bought out by a larger one.
At the end of the day the structure and decision of sub-branding probably came down to a business, financial, strategic and creative decision with the help of a brand consultant. What would work best for both the motherbrand & sub-brand. Look at it in another light you’ll see the possibilities.
Eg Using the mother-brand to name the sub-brand
Coke & Lilt -> Coca cola Lilt -> Coca cola Tropical -> Coca cola Jamaica.
Lilt sounds best.
Whitbread & Costa -> CostaBread -> WhitCosta ->Whitbread Costa
Naming & strategy:
Naming plays a big part in sub-branding and small businesses often make a mistake to take the mother-brand and use it for the sub-brand. In general people think its a way to create brand power for the mother-brand but in essence it should be the other way around and that can only be achieved if you already have brand power.
Using the same name can work but it depends on the nature and relationship of the two brands. If it’s a simply extension of the business with a good link then its possible but if your creating a new business its wise not to relate it back to your existing one as a sub-brand.
Your best bet is to create something BRAND new altogether.
Ask these questions:
1. Will the mother-brand & sub brand create confusion amongst for your TA?
2. Is the mother-brand limited to sub branding opportunities?
3.Will the mother-brand & sub brand lead to a conflict in interests?
The art of SEO & Branding.
Despite my comments of small businesses using wrong tactics to sub brand many excel with the help of the internet and SEO, in fact its small businesses which have pushed sub-branding to another level.
I’ve seen small businesses using several websites with different names to sell one service in a different light. With the use of keywords they have practically created several separate identities for one business. They’ve been able to reach wider audiences and capitalise on the sub brand. Some have been done very quickly and lightly with the intention of pulling in a sale without the full brand values whilst others have gone all out to create a pure sub brand as an extension of a mother-brand.
Sub branding may sound like big business requiring brand power but it doesn’t. At the most basic level it just requires a little creativity, business acumen and clear thinking to make it work for smaller businesses.
How to get started with sub-branding a small business?
First thing to decide s whether you actually need a sub-brand?
Just think of your business in another light? Think of another target market that you want to reach and adapt your values & image to suit them. Categorise your existing clients according to their different industries as well as their size. Create an additional brand to target them individually and you’ll have the makings of a small business sub-brand.