Sub-branding is defined as “the process of creating a secondary brand within a main brand” (Stafford,2014), with the overall intention of helping differentiate a product line to a desired target, or as an opportunity to reach a new audience all together.
With each year that passes we see an increase in the number of companies launching these sub-brands in order to appeal to a younger demographic, more specifically Millennials. But why Gen Y? and why Sub-brands?
A brands architecture not only defines them, but also helps the consumer find their perfect product or service, with today’s Millennials notorious for having a variety of specific needs and wants, vastly different from generations before them, brands have started to take note, launching Sub-brands specifically targeting this constantly evolving and stereo-typically ‘tricky’ generation.
Last month the mobile giant Vodaphone unveiled Voxi, a new network designed specifically for those under 25. The network offers mobile plans tailored to the younger consumer, with the brand showcasing free social data at the front of its launch campaign. When a similar launch in Portugal with the Sub-brand Yorn grew its share of the Millennial segment by 60%, Vodaphone spared no time in implementing the launch of Voxi within the UK after spotting a gap in the market that needed to be filled.
Sub-branding can not only benefit the brand extension itself, but can also generate great exposure for the parent brand. By extending any brand to appeal to a new segment or a wider audience that was previously unengaged, it shows the general consumer that the brand is catering to the needs of the mass, becoming more inclusive, more thoughtful and overall shows the brand in a positive light.
Another positive associated with Sub-branding is the increase in power and reach of marketing efforts. Sub-brands allow strategies and campaigns to be more targeted, more focused and more specific in message and direction. As a result of this, product choices become clearer, as the route to decision and purchase is simplified by taking a more direct target approach.
However, Sub-brands are not without their drawbacks.
Implementing any change within a brand is not without its risks. Yes, Sub-brands have the potential to become more inclusive and increase an audience size, however, they have the potential to cause the opposite effect. Sub-branding can create confusion within the minds of a current target audience, causing them to ask the questions “is this brand still right for me?” and “am I no longer the right consumer? In addition to this another downside of a Sub-brand launch is failure will almost certainly damage your existing brand too, rendering all efforts worthless.
The pros and cons of the end results of Sub-branding provide a lot to think about when considering a launch, however there are three main considerations that should be taken in to account, that aim to make the initial decision a lot clearer.
Firstly, and most importantly, can you actually afford a Sub-brand?
Not only is there legal, creative and trademark costs to be considered, but the amount of time allocated to this extension is often just as important when achieving your end goals. If you haven’t got the time, you won’t yield the results.
The second key consideration is will the Sub-brand cause conflict within your offerings?
Aspects of a brands DNA, such as the personality and promises are often highly specific, therefore changing these fundamental elements of the parent brand within the Sub-brand can lead to alienation, conflict and confusion within the brands architecture. If a luxury brand was to launch an economy Sub-brand with the aim of appealing to the Millennial market with less disposable income, current customers
may start to feel the brand name overall has become less desirable and less exclusive, overall damaging the high-end reputation of the parent brand (Distility, 2011).
The final consideration to be taken into account is will the Sub-brand fit within the same product category?
If yes then Sub-branding may indeed be the answer, but if no, the path to success becomes less straight forward.
When Vodafone unveiled Voxi the target consumer had changed but the product offering was ultimately the same. A jack of all trades may cover the whole market, but inevitably one skill will take the limelight, proving that sometimes sticking to what you know really is the best option.
Distility. (2011). Brand Architecture Basics: What Is a Sub-Brand?.Available: https://distility.com/building-brand/brand-architecture-basics-what-is-an-overbrand/. Last accessed 13th Oct 2017.
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Stafford, A. (2014). Sub-branding. Available: https://www.marketingbinder.com/glossary/sub-branding-definition/. Last accessed 12th Oct 2017.