The 3 A's of masterbranding: Ambition, Audience and Adaptability

Nick Liddell
The Clearing


David Aaker and Erich Joachimsthaler may not have created the concept of a masterbrand, but they've done more than anyone to drive home the importance of brand portfolio strategy to the marketing community. Their 2000 book 'Brand Leadership' provides a succinct definition of what a masterbrand is and does. Concepts in marketing rarely achieve such enduring acceptance:

"A master (or parent) brand is the primary indicator of the offering, the point of reference. Visually, it will usually take top billing."

The masterbrand was identified by Aaker and Joachimsthaler as one of the fundamental building blocks of brand architecture, along with:

  • Endorser brands - "which lend credibility to an offering" (e.g., Post-it Notes from 3M)
  • Sub-brands - "brands that modify the associations of a masterbrand", and (e.g., BMWi)
  • Descriptors - which "merely describe what is offered." (e.g., Head & Shoulders Classic Clean)

Masterbrand architecture: the lowdown