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5 Steps To Redefining Your Brand Family

What’s your definition of what constitutes a family? Or a household? This may depend on where you live in the world, your own personal circumstances, and your set of beliefs. What’s clear though is that both definitions are in a state of flux, as they adjust and evolve with our ever-transforming society.

Research on global family structures published this week by US nonpartisan fact tank, the Pew Research Center, observed that for much of the developed world, more young adults are living at their parents’ homes for longer periods, either because they never left or because they have moved back. In the US, this represents a seismic societal shift, with more young adults living with their parents rather than with a spouse or partner than has been recorded in more than 130 years.

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Our world has changed. We have come a long way from our traditional definitions and in many instances our laws and our attitudes have not kept up with society and the 21st century. Our dictionaries need to be revised, and what constitutes a family redefined.

Your business may consist of only one brand, or it may have many, but as the definition of family changes in today’s society, so must your thinking of how your family of brands are categorised. What constitutes a family of brands to your business? How do they spend time together, and how does this relationship influence what you do?

Traditionally, brand architectures are used to define brand composition within a business. It’s the way in which brands in a portfolio are related to and differentiated from one another. Good brand architecture defines how the corporate brand and sub-brands support each other, and how they reflect or reinforce the core purpose of the corporate brand to which they belong. At heart, it explains how you choose to manage the parent brand and its family of sub-brands.

Brand architectures fall on a spectrum between a house of brands and a branded house.Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 2.17.41 PMMost solutions fall somewhere in between, and are hybrids, leveraging the strength of the masterbrand whilst allowing flexibility.

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Each solution has its pros and cons, but what is striking is the rise in companies moving to masterbrand solutions either in its purest sense, such as Hershey earlier this year, or as a hybrid: Kellogg’s (2012), UB McVities (2014), UB Jacobs (2014), Arla Foods (2015) and Coca-Cola (2015) to name but a few. Kellogg’s, McVities and Coca-Cola have all seen well documented sales increases since their moves.


Why is that? Is it cyclical, or is there a genuine economic reason to do so? Well, not terribly surprisingly, it all boils down to the benefits that a masterbrand strategy delivers, which are intensified by current business conditions.

An article in Harvard Business Review in March by Denise Lee Yohn outlined these benefits:

  1. Economies of scale. Promoting one brand with one campaign is more efficient in a fragmented media landscape, and can build stronger, holistic, emotional connections.
  2. Ability to build longer-lasting customer relationships by moving fickle customers through the brand portfolio, off-setting increasing brand attrition rates.
  3. Increased flexibility in portfolio management, allowing swift prioritisation and de-prioritisation of different products in response to competitor actions or market changes.
  4. Strong and familiar brand equity, easing the introduction of new products and increasing their likelihood of success.
  5. Creation of a “competitive moat” around smaller brands, protecting them from the increasing number of start-ups and small businesses launching competitive challenges.
  6. Facilitation of stronger stakeholder engagement and appeal as external stakeholder influence accelerates, together with providing additional retailer incentive to stock a full portfolio.

Two significant pieces of global research released last week, The Authentic 100 published by Cohn & Wolfe, and Brand Footprint from Kantar Worldpanel, illustrate how masterbrand and hybrid masterbrand strategies are extremely successful.

The Authentic 100 talked to 12,000 consumers in 14 markets about more than 1,600 brands, asking them to rate these brands against seven key attributes of authenticity. Five masterbrands and three hybrid masterbrands were in the top 10 globally, and for own market, nine were masterbrands and one hybrid.

Brand Footprint measures which brands are being bought by the most consumers, most often. Its findings are based on research which tracks 74% of the global population, or a billion households, across 44 counties and over 200 FMCG categories. 9/10 brands globally were masterbrands in their own right, belonging to companies operating hybrid masterbrand strategies. In the UK, all 10 were masterbrands!

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But, a masterbrand or hybrid masterbrand strategy is not for all. It can be very powerful when deployed correctly, but it is a case of putting all your eggs in one basket. With diminishing control over messages and stories that are shared on social media, if one brand has a problem, they all do! Together with the challenge of being less product, audience, and market-specific.

A successful masterbrand strategy is just that; a strategy, not a way of saving money. It needs to be robust and the masterbrand equity appropriate for transfer to products who have a strong connection. You need to understand what their core joint proposition is, whilst maintaining their diversity. Who’s who in this family?

Could you move to a masterbrand or hybrid masterbrand strategy? Could it help you? Is it appropriate or are you better off where you are?

  1. Is the principal audience across your brands or services aligned, or is it very different?
  2. Are you aware of your overall brand promise and key equities?
  3. Can your brands or services fit together under one brand promise, one personality and one position, or does each one require its own version?
  4. How far can your brands stretch, or are they competing amongst themselves?
  5. Which brand architectures fit, and which can go?

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