Defining your brand as markedly unique or as a supportive part of a larger brand image.
This question has been debated for years in corporate and product marketing circles. Should a product or business segment have its own unique and independent brand, or should it be a subset extension of the larger corporate or market segment brand? To veteran marketers the former is called the P&G model, referring to Proctor & Gamble’s long standing policy of uniquely individual product brands. The latter is demonstrated in many business models and often referred to as “integrated branding”. Both have their pros and cons, and for the individual developing their personal brand, both models should be considered.
The P&G model consists of a broad corporate theme, with independently driven brands under the parent company. In fact, their products are so diverse that the average consumer has no idea that they are owned by the parent company. Their products include: Aussie® hair care, Tide®, Cheer®, Tampax®, Iams® pet products, Eukanuba® pet products, Crest®, Cover Girl®, Downy®, Dreft, ® Charmin®, Folgers®, Gain®, Gleem®, Herbal Essences®, and many many more. For a complete list you can check out their brand lines at http://www.pg.com/products/pg_products.jhtml. These products all have their own identity, color palettes, slogans, and individual marketing campaigns. The one thing they do have in common is a general market audience. In fact, the products are often competing products. There are several different laundry detergents, feminine products, hair care lines, and pet products.
Why would they spend so much time and effort marketing different products to the same audience??? The answer is to capture more of that audience as a whole. It costs them very little to modify a product slightly, or to modify the marketing of similar products slightly, and to see which performs better. It also means that they give the audience choices without losing any of that audience to a competitor.
Can you see places in your business or your career where this might apply to your own marketing strategy? Can you modify your product line slightly to gain more of your market segment? Can you offer choices to your market without diluting your individual offerings? Can you define the overall needs of your target audience and create offerings to meet those needs?
Now, what about the drawbacks to this form of marketing strategy? Proctor & Gamble is a multi-billion dollar industry that leverages their efforts on an economy of scale. For the smaller or independent professional, this is often simply not a viable option. The energy and resources required to drive one brand are significant. When you start to develop more than one, the financial and physical resources multiply quickly. Proctor & Gamble has the resources to support all of their brands successfully. If you do not, you need to consider consolidation. It is better to develop a strong solid brand foundation than to create multiple weak sub-branded products or services.
Creating a larger brand image for yourself is often simpler, and more powerful for the independent professional. Consider Nike. From shoes and clothing, to athletic equipment, their overall brand is consistent. Their brand message has not changed in years: “Just Do It.” And the strength of their image allows them to readily introduce new products into the market with an immediate market response and expectation of brand alignment.
This model is much simpler to manage and contains consistent reinforcement to the target market. Nike’s signature “swoosh” is a quickly identifiable symbol, and all products donning the swoosh are instantly recognized as part of the Nike line.
This same concept can apply to individuals developing their own brand within a corporation or an industry. Think about the benefits you have in aligning yourself with the existing brand of your parent company or industry. Are you a member of professional organizations? By depicting the member logo on your business card or website, you instantly gain the brand credibility of the organization. Be careful, however; this works in reverse as well. If the organization gets bad press, you can be affected by it too.
Inversely, can you strengthen you own market position by diversifying from the norm of a parent company or market brand. You can significantly create a name for yourself by setting yourself apart from the rest in your market. You can be the fitness expert, that understands the value of occasional junk food, the financial advisor who is unafraid to share the stories of personal financial failure in the past, or any other unusual segmentation that sets you apart from the rest.
There are pros and cons to embracing a larger unified brand, and pros and cons to developing individual brand elements. The key to success is accurately evaluating what you can handle, how much it will take to do it well, and the net result desired within your market audience. If you allow yourself the strategic time to project your options, the correct path will become clear. The trick is that many individuals and many businesses do not take the time to consider these paths fully. Research your competition, research your buying audience, and future map your vision for your business. It will be the best investment you can make in your brand strategy.
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