An interesting thing happened this week. I was meeting with a CEO in India and we were talking ‘branding’. He said something really profound, and I think rather wise - ‘Nick, why do I need a sub brand?’
This simple statement had something about it that tickled my intellect. Surely, successful Passion Brands should appeal to everyone? Are companies patronising their customers by presuming they are youth, high net worth or mass affluent? Are these descriptors defined by marketing managers who try to build logic into a non-logical world - a way of understanding what cannot be understood in a simplified way.
The modern world is not about segmentation and categorisation, it is about personalisation and individualism. It is about brands creating meaningful, seamless relationships with their customers in all formats, real and virtual. This means understanding, listening and innovating in every aspect - bonding with your audience.
So, with this in mind, have sub-brands had their day? Possibly. Let’s consider for a moment a brand like Apple. This brand has universal appeal and it does it in a very simple way, buy providing personalised, great products, great services and simplicity in a way that everyone understands and everyone wants - whether it is online, in apps, in retail or anywhere the brand touches. They name their products and services, by they never interfere with the master brand. Shouldn’t every brand aspire to create this level of purity in brand experience? Yes.
It is no longer sufficient for brands to stretch their appeal by creating a portfolio of sub-brands or segmented offerings. Brands must be personal and relevant to everyone. Offer the flexibility required for customers to create their own experiences within the halo of the brand - that is if they want to win...
That said, there are some circumstances where sub-brands can work, specifically, where companies are considering a repositioning. Take State Bank of India (SBI) and their SBI In Touch sub brand aimed primarily at affluent Indian youth.
SBI was considered the old lady of India, unappealing to the young who are looking for something cooler, and more relevant to who they are. By creating a new sub brand that is married to their master brand, SBI were able to create massive appeal with young tech savvy Indians AND breath life into their master brand. It worked.
The latest trend I am seeing points towards success being defined through consistent experiences - not through an appeal to a particular market segment. How often have we as brand creators built brands to appeal to a particular segment, only to find that customers of all ages are attracted to their offering? Many, many times. In a world where the young are getting richer and the old are getting more tech savvy, can we really ignore the power of defining customer journeys and using these to empower the brands we create to have a universal appeal. It means we as brand creators have to think harder about the solutions we offer, and I rise to that challenge.
Simple + Consistent = Universal Appeal