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08-25-2010, 01:42 AM
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- Adding new brands can be a mistake if done for the wrong reasons.
- Changing your current brand and identity can be a mistake if done poorly, or for the wrong reasons.
- This case study analyzes the nuances of managing, creating and strategizing multiple brands.
- Industry emphasis here is online-only businesses, but much of the information applies to offline business, too.

This originally started out as a private conversation via PM and email, but I think the topic has a lot of potential to help some of our members and readers. So I've decided to continue the conversation here, although I am masking the actual company and domain names for the privacy of our associate. Herein the company will be referred to as ACME (not the real name, of course). Some portions of the text will be fully redacted, but the context will be obvious to readers, based on my replies beneath the quotes.

The company receiving my advice here via email has a long-standing well-known brand. It's one operation, 3-4 products, one brand name. Shortly before our conversation, Brand#2 (or ACME#2) was added, for reasons that will become apparent below. The main question has been how to make Brand#2 work better, as well as addressing indecision on adding even more brands for more products versus adding new products to the existing primary Brand#1/ACME#1 brand.

Continuing the conversation...

First of all, thank you for your feedback, that was very cool of you to lend me your insight.
Not a problem, glad that I could give you some valuable input on this.

I'm covering all aspects here, and I understand that you may already know some of these concepts, being an experienced professional in the area of marketing/PR/branding. But I'd rather explain something you know, than assume you know it and that not be the case!

You are right about adding more emphasis on the economical aspect of ACME#2. I tried to incorporate the theme of XXXXXXXXXXX in as many places as I could in the copy. But the "grungy" nature of the theme is so overpowering that it is confusing to most sub 100 IQ visitors. With some more SEO and a bit of tweaking it should do alright. This was mostly an experimental side project to test whether internet multi-branding can work. I'll tell you, it's much harder than I thought. I had anticipated much more traffic, especially with this ridiculous pricing.
Well, it's been a few years since I was tested, but I think my IQ is in the 140+ range, and even I found myself confused for a at least a portion of a second, when I first came to the site. The mix of imagery and messages just didn't present themselves quickly or clearly. I'd say you've gone further than using multiple brands. You've jumped into using multiple messages to create your brand identity, which is never easy. That might be one reason it's seeming to be more difficult.
  • I'm reminded of 1980s/1990s Miller beer, and the "tastes great, less filling" ads that spoke to both the flavor and the ability to consume more. That was a juggle of two messages that were creatively integrated. Of course, it was also created for TV and radio airplay, which doesn't really translate well to what is needed for print. While a four-word motto that explains everything would be awesome for an online business, it's unlikely.
  • The web more closely resembled print than anything else. I'm reminded of a 2008 Bank of America ad series, which spoke to both their financial products (one ad would be about checking, another about home loans), as well as their sponsorship and support of the Olympics. These were two extremely diverse messages (one product + Olympics) that co-existed perfectly due to the design of those ads.
Having multiple messages isn't necessarily a bad thing. You've created a solid message medley that would/should appeal to potential customers, as well as current customers that may be seeking additional services.

One of the messages speaks from a creative stance, and will (if nothing else), make you memorable. Yes, maybe memorable enough for a shopper to come back to your site after "doing homework" to compare you and some of your competitors. That's a good place to be. However, this assumes the message can be understood. To help out the dimwits of the world, you really have to explain it in plain words. Consider a tree motif, for example, as used for an educational site. You have to explain the "helping you grow" message that is represented by the tree, even if it should be an understood generic iconography.

Another message is a basic Q&A marketing message. You've asked a question. If they answer with a "yes" then they know that you're the right company to use. Or at very least, one of the right companies to pick from. The danger, of course, is that anybody that says (or mistakenly thinks) "no" will probably not end up as a customer. Personally, I think that's fine, as they're not the target demographic. As mentioned in the last PM I sent, however, this is combated simply by providing an "out" that goes to your main ACME#1 business, which is geared more towards those customers. Simply provide an adequate call to action for anybody that might say "no". In some ways, the Q&A is very closely related to the creative, so I almost consider them the same message. The creative is simply going to be amusing to those giving the "yes" answers.

The last message is a basic business appeal -- you're direct with what the service does. As mentioned, this will work well with a number of audiences, especially the corporate ones. They're always looking for direct messages that can give quantifiable information and specs (not marketing-speak), such as tell them how and why they'd save money with your product (or better yet, an average of how much it will save per year -- consider adding that!). Although it does compete for screen real estate with the other messages, it does represent the ability to appeal to deeper-pocket audiences, and that clearly should not be overlooked.

Having three messages concurrently isn't really the issue.

What does pose a problem, however, is the basic design. Unlike the Bank of America ads, which likely were created around the message, I'm betting you started with a message-less design and then tried to fit the message in afterward. Or it started purely with the creative, and the others were added later. If this is accurate, then that's probably the entire issue on the ACME#2 site. I would guess that, by incorporating some of the suggestions from my PM, that you could correct for this. Increasing and cleaning up the logo, possibly providing a little more "white space" (blank space / clean space) for messages to exist without clutter, and maybe increasing the overall contrast of the site (both images and backgrounds) so it draws your eyes more to the various messages, rather than get lost in the backgrounds and visuals.

It really might be as easy as design tweaks, to make the messages more cohesive and comprehensive. I don't think a ground-up re-design is required.

Right now I'm in the process of designing the branding and webdesign for our new XXXXXXXXXXX website and am debating XXXXXXXXXXXX on what domain name to use. At the moment, we are in a quasi-consensus that the product will not be under a new brand, but rather be offered as a XXXXXXXXXXXX product in order to retain the branding benefits of an established company.
I would agree with the idea of creating a new product line, or even a sub-brand, underneath the already-established (and well-respected, I might add!) primary company brand. As you surely know, building a brand takes a lot of time, and you'd be creating an artificial delay in the success of the new item by giving it its own new and unknown branding. And online, it's not just an issue of psychological distrust, it's a technical one, too! Google, for example, weights results with age as one of the variables. Newcomers are severely disadvantaged, even with all the SEO finagling (and other grayhat/blackhat crap) that people try to do. Plus you have the singular advantage of making the main brand that much stronger.

Honestly, the only reason to make a new brand is if:
  1. There's some inherent risk or danger to the new venture that may reflect poorly on the main brand. (Because even if people know several brands are owned by one corporation, there is a psychological disconnect that often firewalls the brands.)
  2. There is potential that the whole product line may be sold off or spun off into its own entity down the line. Therefore it need not be entangled (or "octopussed" as I like to say) with the main brand.
  3. You want to create your own competitor, to effectively be on short lists (lists put together by clients making decisions) multiple times.
I have a feeling that I may be missing a reason, but those are the primary ones I can think of immediately off-hand.

The common reason used for making a new brand, but SHOULD NOT BE DONE, is:
  • You want to get better SEO by targeting a domain name at a product. And then you use that domain name (or a similar variation thereof) to create the new brand. This is unnecessary.
Don't overly tie your brand to the .com/TLD sort of system currently used online. Brand and URL can be the same, and often are, but it's not required. Contrary to popular belief (generally amongst bloggers and other followers of the trade -- not the trendsetters and professionals), disconnect between domain and brand does not have to create confusion, especially when Google/SE's are used more often than (or in place of) URL bars in the browser. It has zero affect on SERP-generated inbounds.

I've tried the multi-branding angle with two of main businesses in the past. What happened was that I had double the amount of marketing and branding, so twice the cost, but at overall less return. The ROI wasn't there.

The only advantage was the third reason up above, where I would make it onto multiple short lists. In a few cases, one would make a short list (and be selected) while the other one did not. But that was often due to the very targeted niche marketing being done, and I could have simply doubled the messages for one brand just as effectively.

In the end, I closed up all the secondary brands after 2-3 years, considering it a failure on multiple counts. However, all was not lost!

The unique media of the Internet allows for "portal" or "doorway" type sites. What I did was retain the now-unused domains, and use them for unique marketing. For example, take one worldwide business at one URL (your own ACME#1), and one now-unused brand that had a geographic location in the domain name (ACME Canada). The Canada site now has 3-4 pages specifically addressing the hosting needs and concerns of people in that geo location. Each page ends with a call to action that lands on one of the products on the main ACME site. On the Canada site, the page text explains how ACME understands the needs of Canadians, etc etc -- always stay transparent and never hide the fact that ACME is the company they'll be dealing with. Any time you want to advertise in that area (be it geo location, or just another niche or sub-niche), you'll have a site specifically created to address it. That's the URL you can give out for anybody wanting Canadian service. Some people use this for SEO purposes, too, although such value is limited.

A lot of companies do this with their causes. Two years ago, a local hospital created a site to address medical training. It had maybe 4-5 pages of info, but the each page followed through to sub-pages on the main hospital site to do the actual "transactions" (contact doctors, read white papers, etc). It was far easier to market the new URL on the radio than to send people to the main hospital site, where they could get lost, as well as force a re-design of the hospital homepage.

Another popular example of multiple brands failing is the American auto industry. Why companies like Ford and GM wanted to dilute their own main brands has been a popular topic lately. There was often so much overlap in products, that it was hard to tell which brand was the luxury line, which was for mid-range sedans and trucks, and which one built the economy/compact models. Several secondary brands have either folded or been sold off. Indeed, there is a strong shift now to re-consolidate back to the primary brands.

We can either add the XXXXXXXXXXXX product line
1. as a subpage of ACME#1 - This will give us the instant Page Rank advantage of linking to a PR6 domain and street cred if anyone googles ACME#1 // Disadvantage is that the toplevel domain is not aligned with the product.
As per above, I would include the product on the main site, in the appropriate site structure already in place. And then with a new and unique URL, create your special product marketing, and then land them on the main site sub page if they are interested in the product.

You now have the product available on the main site, for all marketing/selling purposes. Current/potential customers will see the product available from you, which is good. And then you also have that secondary tool if you want to specifically market. (For example, taking out Google ads for the specific cloud product, which lands them at that mini-site to sell them on the product line.)

SEO of main product page is intact from PR6 domain, and it might even get more PR from the sub site. If there's any worry of SEO penalizing, which I don't think there would be, just nofollow the calls to action on the marketing site.

Just remember what the site is for --- marketing -- for both offline ads as well as targeted online campaigns. This may pick up on SERPs from SEO, especially due to quality content, but don't make that the goal of it. It should have some unique quality content to pass the litmus test of being a "good micro site" vs a "crap doorway". There's a fine line between having a legitimate "convenience" domain, versus having a crappy/shady/scammy throw-away "keyword" domain.


Alternative options include cross-linking between domains but retaining the same branding across all sites. I generally don't like this one quite as much, because it still has the downside of splitting ranks across domains.

For example, a company with three products: Ovens, Toasters, Coffee Mugs. Let's say the company is actually "Allied Kitchen Products". Now let's say the menu bar has six options: Home, Ovens, Toasters, Coffee Mugs, About Us, Contact Us.

All sites have hard-coded absolute links (http//etc.com). The Home, About and Contact are all on a domain named "AlliedKitchen.com". The toaster related pages are on the domain "bestkitchentoasters.com" which is essentially just pages about the toaster products. The ovens might be on "energyefficientovens.com" and coffee mugs on "fancycoffeecups.com". Each menu links goes to the homepage of that mini-site. Sub-navigation bars exist on the separate sites to go to the site-local content (types of coffee mugs, custom mugs, ordering mugs, etc). All sites, all pages, have "Allied Kitchen" branding.

Major corporations have used this method before. And I believe Exxon and Mobil, for a few years after their merger, employed such a technique. In their case, site designs were very complementary, in addition to heavily being linked across domains for the separate-but-merged products and info. Theirs was with actual brand names (Exxon.com, Mobil.com), of course, and not the "keyword" type domains in the above example.

Again, this one gets really screwy really quickly. I've done these, and I always hate them. But it's an option, and you should know it exists.

2. New Brand - New Domain -
We have at our disposal the following cool domains
b. ACMEcloudhosting.com
c. ACMEcloud.com (like rackspacecloud)

Initial plan was to use ACMESaaS but SaaS is not a acronym that is fun to say. It looks good on paper but when verbalized it sounds like shit. Something about the vowels I guess lol. Also many people might not be familiar with the acronym...
A would make a good marketing domain to focus specifically on the needs of that niche, and drop them out to the product page on the main brand. Yes, it sounds terrible, so you'd only use it for certain venues where it will be both understood and only written.

B works. No option either way, good or bad. It's generic enough to be keyword grabbing, from both SEO and human/organic stance.

C works. Although I don't necessarily believe in the cascade effect. (Cascade effect = doing it simply because somebody else is doing it, especially if you don't know if or why it works. Our society has a horrible problem about this right now. I now consciously make sure I don't do this.) If you're only doing it because Rackspace is doing it, then don't do it. Anyway, B sounds better than C.

Although this is primarily a SEO based decision, PR and Marketing are also inherently tied in.
I would watch for that. It's my experienced opinion that all matters of SEO should be run through a technically-savvy PR/marketing person. When IT horns it's way into matters of communication, all hell tends to break loose. From time to time, you do find communication-savvy IT people, but those are even more rare than tech-savvy PR people.

I had the unfortunate circumstance of working with a company for the better part of 2006-2009, where IT was allowed to run the digital communications and PR had to get their approval. It was completely upside-down. While some things "ranked" well, the message either did not exist, or was all over the place. The design was dreadful, and the budget was lopsided in favor of tech toys instead of wise marketing. In the end, those high PR pages and SERPs didn't do crap for them. Even PR 10 won't help when the content is full of inconsistencies and typos, and looks like it was designed in 1995. Company politics was largely to blame, and I'm quite thrilled to be away from that mess.

SEO is based heavily off content, using tools put in place by IT (the CMS, page optimizations, etc). And content should be created almost entirely by marketing or other mass comm entities within the organization. Therefore SEO really is part of public relations / communications / advertising / marketing.

So if it wouldn't be too much of a bother, would you give me your opinion on this?
Long-winded, I know. But this isn't basic discussion by any means. I hope it helps you.

Will continue a few things back in email again from this point...

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08-31-2010, 01:32 AM
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Continuing more of the conversation. This is just a relevant portion thereof, with much of it redacted for privacy. However, you'll probably find the content just as useful...

Off the bat I want to say THANK YOU in all caps for your awesome help. Many of the points you mentioned I felt in my gut but didn't have the experience or perspective to encapsulate it coherently. .... Our business is on a critical cross roads at the moment thus such quality advice is invaluable to us.
Again, glad to help, and happy to hear you're finding the info useful.

Much of what I'm telling you is the fruits of many years of research, with variations of application in the past decade. The topic of branding has been an interest of mine since I was a kid, mystified by the brands of food or gas we'd buy, and how those brands would change and grow (or fail) through the years.

I'll begin with the red hot question of - to multibrand? - or to not multibrand? My initial reason to multibrand began when I bought the domain name XXXXXXXX over 12 months ago. At that time, there were a fraction of the amount of competitors as today and the barriers to entry (at least in regards to Google rankings) were slim.

But our XXXXX offering took longer than expected to reach market and the date is now August 30th 2010. The competitive landscape is different and the market's readjusting. First mover advantage is now only a memory while the dread of market maturity strikes panic in the heart of those that might be left behind.
It really doesn't matter. A lot of people find it hard to believe, but it's a good news that allows you to focus on the important aspects of marketing and the business. Don't fret about being "too late" to anything.

I'm reminded of two great men:
(1) my college journalism professor, and
(2) George Carlin

Let me start with my mentor (or rather, one of my mentors):
  • From the photography aspect, he would remind us that humanity has been around for thousands of years. Whether you're a strict religious person who believes in just a few thousand, or a scientific type that believes it's hundreds of thousands of years old, the bare truth is that everything has already been done. Every image has been drawn, photographed, etc. All we can do is create a new interpretation that some may find more favorable than others. Put 100 skilled photographers at an event, and you'll always be able to choose an image you like "best" -- and sometimes it's the "new guy" that shot it.
  • From a story approach, everything has already been written. Whether it's the lying politician or the new beauty queen, it's all been done. How we tell it is all that matters. (Of course, there's a deeper discussion there, about objectivity vs bias, but that's not important for this discussion on branding.)
And then George Carlin used to say the same thing about words. He often had funny skits trying to assemble strings of words that "nobody has ever said". For example, the dragon's monkey ate my pancakes.

So being first doesn't matter. Google wasn't the first search engine, or even one of the first dozen, but it's the one everybody knows in 2010. Even giants like Microsoft are in awe of it's clout over that market. Remember Webcrawer, Excite, Altavista, AskJeeves, or Dogpile? Better yet, Jughead, Archie and Veronica? (No, I don't mean the comic books!)

Worth noting, however...

The only thing unique to this situation is age deference by a search engine, in regards to domains. But you already have an aged domain for the company, and this is simply a new product to expand the business. So for you, this isn't a worry.

To answer the litmus test:
1. Is there “some inherent risk or danger to the new venture that may reflect poorly on the main brand?”
2. Is there “potential that the whole product line may be sold off or spun off into its own entity down the line.”
No way!
3. Do “you want to create your own competitor, to effectively be on short lists (lists put together by clients making decisions) multiple times?”
No Again –

Case being that - He who wants dress shoes will not put Nike on the short list. But he who wants Nike will put Adidas on the short list because it is cheaper of the same functionality.
Noted. Having three "no" answers definitely points to that new product being added to Brand1, instead of having it's own brand. This also allows the new product to carry the "prestige/premium" aspect from Brand1, which may help it long-term. You might find that comforting, too, since there was some worry about being late to market. You can start it off with the right image.

This was our strategy with XXXXXXX(brand2). We saw that the XXXXXXXXXXX market was burgeoning and thought that adding an XXXXXXX product line to XXXXXXX(brand1) would tarnish its brand image of “premium priced – but quality.”
Exactly! That product meets litmus test 1! By adding that particular a new product to Brand1, you would have harmed the integrity of the brand. As such, creating Brand2 ("economy"/unmanaged) was a very wise move.

Until now, I didn't realize you considered Brand1 to be "premium" (and I DEFINITELY won't argue it being that, either! -- it most certainly is top notch in its industry).

Nor did I necessarily equate Brand2 as being sub-premium. Of course, I would NEVER suggest marketing anything as sub-premium, as a consumer interprets that to mean "crap". The term "economy" is good, although it does carry some negatives among some audiences. Again, provide an "out" call to action, to the Premium brand, in case that audience lands on your economy brand site.

Aside: I'm reminded of blank video tape sales in the 1990s. Sony used "Premium" as the sub-branding moniker for normal quality tapes. It went up to "Professional" and "Broadcast Grade" and some other non-sense BS terms. Those were sold in bulk, up to 20 tapes in a pack, for $1 each, while the better tapes were sold as singles or maybe in 3-packs for about $3-4 each. Other brands, like Maxell, used Bronze, Silver, Gold and several higher meaningless quality-sounding words. JVC and TDK used somewhat more obscure sub-brandings like SX and EX, or HSG and EHG -- which didn't help consumers. While JVC and TDK clearly made better tapes, the word "Premium" or "Gold" snagged more buyers. Sad, really.

Consider inserting the "premium quality" imagery into Brand1**, while focusing on the "economical" for Brand2. I've always known that your Brand1 was not budget priced, but that never bothered me, as it was truly a "premium quality" product and I felt the value was worth the extra cost. This is where counteractive marketing comes in ("why not to use cheap XXXXXX"), but that's a whole difference conversation.

** I've not checked the site yet, so maybe this is already in place? **

We strategized that by multibranding we could skim both XXXXXX and XXXXXXXXX market groups simultaneously - while adding brand equity (XXXXXX2 brand) in the process.
I like it. Indeed you can probably do this.

The only challenge is going to be age deference in SEO algorithms, as well as having to dual up the marketing for two main brands.

In fact, you may find Brand2 required more marketing than Brand1, so hopefully the profits margins will justify it. That's an issue when Product2/Brand2 is supposed to be the "cheaper" item. In fact, I think that's what may have led to some of the muddying of American auto brands through the 1990s. (That's a hypothesis level statement, which would require further review. So don't quote me!)

My vision was to create 5 complementary brands that would be known as “XXXXXXXXX Group.”
They would include:
1. XXXXXXX1 – Premium XXXXXX
2. XXXXXXX3 – Enterprise Grade
3. XXXXXXX2 - Economy, Would later evolve into XXXXXXXX
4. XXXXXXX4 – XXXXXX would also act as a consultancy arm that would help ISV’s evolve
5. XXXXXXX5 – Budget XXXXXXXX with a 1 Plan Only pricing scheme. The logo, and design, have already been created. We are ready to launch this one immediately actually.
This does somewhat change the conversation now. You're wanting to move to a corporate structure, and some of those business plans will clearly require separate sub operations to maintain. Multi branding becomes necessity at this point. However, you still want to minimize it. For example, Economy vs Budget -- to most people (myself included), this means the same thing. Of course, I've redacted the product differences.

In general, I'd suggest Budget(#5) could be part of the core #1, where Brand1/Premium is the self-labeled brand of the corporate entity. Then again, we get back to litmus test #1, where the new brand could harm the image of the main "premium" status of the main brand. So Brand5, a new brand, is a necessity.

Aside: This reminds me of GM trucks, the only General Motors product to really carry the "GM" branding. That's a product they really built their name on, and are very proud of. You're clearly not much different here, quite proud of your main brand (and I don't blame you -- it's good).

Looking over the list, I think you've done pretty good paring it down. Including the new product line from the above post, into Brand1, is wise. I don't see need for Brand6 there. Indeed, you've planned to add similar products into both Brand1 and Brand5. So you've actually increased your share for that type of product, by having both a premium and non-premium version available. Had you started a new Brand6, and wanted to offer both quality levels, you'd be at the drawing board again, trying to work out a way to not harm the upper end product by having them share a brand.

I bought the name XXXXXXXXX while I was XXXXXXXX 3 years ago. The “XXXXX” centric branding’s been in discussion for a loooong time. And it can still work with XXXXXXX(Brand4) as it’s dissimilar enough to not confuse, yet complementary enough to make sense and reciprocate value between brands.
I know that domain has been in "use" for a while now -- online but not really doing anything. That will help in the age-based SEO, so you won't be punished for the new domain. Won't help much, but won't be a disadvantage either, and that's what we're really going for.

I like this brand of yours. If I had to gamble, I'd bet on this one being the best of the "new" brands. I think there is a lot of growth in this sector. In time, I wonder if it will outpace the main brand, and due to the "centric" naming setup, thereby pass some prestige on to your current Brand1 (+group name) product? I've seen this.

In fact, I did it by accident once. Oops! Not a bad mistake. There was some new confusion created, however, which had to be countered by re-marketing the main brand up to the level of the popular one. But I digress...

But as things have it, I think that a "Brand6" is wholly unnecessary. XXXXXX Group will make more sense if Brand1 is the obvious Group leader. Imagine a new brand is created for this “up and coming” XXXX business. If it takes off, then Brand1 may become redundant and play second fiddle. Then the whole vision falls on its face and becomes irrelevant.
I tip my hat to you, in respect. Wise thought process!! Very good analysis.

Too many brands can just make a mess of things. It always comes back to X product and how it might harm X brand.

Aside (RE: harm) -- I'm reminded of Miramax, and it's R-rated movies, which was spun into it's own brand/company under Disney, to "keep the mouse safe". That is, until the usually-ignorant masses discovered the relation, which caused backlash. This is one case where the branding firewall failed. (But I would note that it did not "fail" as much as it was "overrun" by counter marketing by grass roots interests.)

"Too many brands" is always an issue after a merger, too, even when products are not identical. Bank of America, during the past 10 years, makes a great case study here. MBNA services, for example, did not necessarily overlap into BofA, but the MBNA brand carried some baggage that forced a rename. Indeed, similar products from BofA and MBNA eventually folded into a larger subsidiary brand that uses BofA branding on its products. (The entity is not BofA, but FIA, and that's not really important, just trivia bits for this conversation.) BofA could have kept two separate-but-similar products, had it wished. But that carries costs, both monetary and psychological. In the late 90s, BofA had quite a few brands, and those really have consolidated as time went on.

When internal and/or external audiences are confused between the differences in product lines (brands or sub-brands, everything that affects identity), then quite frankly you've screwed up. Again, GM and Ford come to mind.

Better stop before I get too complex.

Having flashbacks to my senior thesis from many, many years ago.
This is one of my favorite topics, and it's not often I get the chance to jabber on about it at length.

It’s healthy to be flexible with long term marketing strategies in order to stay relevant. But it’s just as prudent to have faith in your instinct and push forward with your underlying corporate philosophy and culture. I’ll scrap the XXXXXXX brand, but the rest are definitely going to become reality.
I think the keyword here is "corporate philosophy". While limiting brands is still prudent, the nature of such a multi-faceted business will require several brands -- especially if you're wanting strong growth in all sectors. And that appears to be the case. And I certainly wish you well in these endeavors. I've watched you grow from the early days.

Note that "corporate philosophy" also carries with it the understanding that all brands will share some sort of philosophy underlying the speciality. Again, going back to the Miramax/Disney example, they screwed up because R-rated movies was counter to the core beliefs of Disney (excluding profit - MONEY MONEY MONEY!)

What is the core philosophy of the group? Do you have one yet? (bolded due to importance!)

And then how does each brand fit into this vision? Imagine a puzzle. A basic one, 6 pieces, for an infant, not 100-500. Each piece should complement a bigger picture. Again, Miramax/Disney, which I consider to the fruits of an "allowed risk" interpretation from item #1 in the litmus test -- and it's the WRONG interpretation. You're firewalled (security with some traffic holes), not impenetrable (no traffic).

To some degree, growth is really a determining factor on new brands, too, and should probably have made the litmus test. I falsely assume this was going to remain a small/medium sized operation. When you're trying to grow into a multi-million/billion dollar operation, it can affect identity decisions. At some point, you don't want your "Walmart section" of the company to be associated with the "Macy's section" of the company. Large growth also expects that each brand/company will have many product/sub-brands, so it won't look wimpy and sparse. There's still some prestige factor to consider, in terms of quantity. Nobody puts a dollar in an empty tip jar, but everybody gives to a near-full jar. If your company/brand looks mostly empty, people won't buy. Three brands with one product each is pointless, while three brands with 13 products each makes sense.

You seem to be more solid in your branding strategy than when we first talked. And your desire to maintain multiple domains can still play into that -- even if it's solely from a marketing stance. Not the BS crap blackhat type sites, but legitimate microsites that bolster products/sub-brands for those main brands you've created or are creating.

Your plan is sound, as far as I can tell. I'm assuming you've done your market research -- and based off comments you've made, I'm betting you have. For me, you're entering what I call the "fun part" -- creating all the creatives (logos, designs, slogans/taglines, etc).

It's a ton of work, no doubt. Been there, done that, have the t-shirts. Yet I always go back for more.

FINAL NOTE: This isn't my best writing here, especially after I made edits. Consider it a brain dump. My news editors would cringe.

And back to email...Again for anybody that stumbled onto this page...

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09-03-2010, 08:41 PM
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kpmedia kpmedia is offline
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Here's a great example of a marketing failure that made the news just today:

If you were going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a higher education, would you want the end result to be known as a "D+" education? Probably not. And therein lies the problem some have with Drake University's new marketing campaign.

Touting the ways it can help students "be transformed by an experience that puts opportunity into action and gives purpose to your passion," the Des Moines, Iowa-based school has elected to dub its added pedagogic value the "D+ Advantage" campaign. The tagline for the promo campaign: "Your passion + our experience."

Of course, as many Drake faculty, students and alumni have pointed out, D+ is universally synonymous with sub-par academic performance. As Ad Week's Tim Nudd noted, the campaign "seems to position Drake as a school whose standards barely exceed total failure."

However, Drake officials are standing by the D+ campaign -- which college officials crafted with outside PR contractors. Defenders of the ad blitz described it as "edgy and intriguing" in a letter to faculty and staff this week. The letter explained that the campaign "was designed to catch the attention of high school students who are bombarded with college and university materials to the point that they are often in information overload and unable to differentiate among the many institutions that have contacted them." The letter didn't explain just why an educational institution would want to attract a corps of students lacking the ability to distinguish among institutions of higher learning, but that presumably is the research domain of an equally edgy focus-group team.

One thing seems clear: When you see the outsize D-plus logo on the Drake homepage above, it's hard to quarrel with the basic analysis laid out by the Awl's Katjusa Cisar: "The marketing team that dreamed up Drake University's latest campaign, 'The D+ Advantage,' got so carried away by an apparent allusion to positively charged molecules that it thought it could either ignore or, alternately, capitalize on one obvious fact: the logo is the grade for pathetically under-average schoolwork, a D-plus."
A few reader responses from Yahoo pretty much sum up my thoughts, too:
The failure isn't so much in the D+ campaign but that the marketers egos couldn't see or admit to the failure even after it was pointed out to them. Learning to admit and own your mistakes is one of the greatest educations.
Not only a dumb ad, but also it clearly indicates that those in charge there have little to offer in the intelligence market.
Different administrations just don't seem to be able to understand that words and symbols could be interpreted any way other than they mean it. Additioanally, administrations have spent large sums of money for consultants and outside firms to provide ridiculous recomendations.
Perfect example of what NOT TO DO for branding or organizational identity.

Think about what your brand is reflecting. While this (should be) PR 101 type material, it seems to escape not only website and small business owners, but even so-called "professional agencies" that supply advice. Yikes!

Don't create a brand (logo, tagline/slogan, name, etc) that does more harm than good.

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