To sub-brand or not to sub-brand

Giles Lury
The Value Engineers

Sub-brands are less costly and less risky than launching a new brand, but they can lead to brand overload, which, in turn, can hurt the master brand.

A great deal has been written about the definition and codification of the different types of brand architecture models companies adopt, from the Monolithic to the Mixed Economy approach.

However, in a marketing environment, where there are fewer new brands being launched and a corresponding proliferation of sub-brands, perhaps the brand architecture questions that need more attention are, on what basis, and for what purpose should you be launching new sub-brands, and when is it right to cull and kill existing sub-brands?

Looking into the history of marketing, the emergence of sub-brands can perhaps be traced back to Henry Ford, or rather to General Motors’ response to the Model T Ford. While Henry Ford actually said “You can have any colour as long as it's black,” he might as well have said: “You can have any car as long as it's a Model T Ford.” The Ford approach was based on maximised standardisation, maximum economies of scale and a one-brand-size will fit all.