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May 18, 2007

To Masterbrand or Sub-brand? That is the Question

One of the oldest debates in branding is whether you introduce a new product under the existing parent brand or create a sub-brand name. Some marketing consultants essentially say that sub-brands don't work. That seems like an over-simplification to me, as well as not a universal truth.

toyota_prius.jpgToyota is extending its Prius sub-brand for its hybrid vehicles, removing the Toyota moniker, and, in effect, creating a new parent brand. Does Toyota know what they're doing? I think so.

In the consumer's mind, I believe, Prius equals hybrid, green and good. Therefore, I think its wise that Toyota's new hybrid models, which we'll start to see in 2009, will be called Prius A, Prius B and Prius C.

However, I think the A, B and C nomenclature is a mistake. Anyone that's received a grade in school would much prefer to get an A than a C. And what happens when Toyota introduces its sixth Prius model? Would you want a Prius F?

If you've read this far, I've fooled you. The Prius A, B and C are only internal code names, once again demonstrating that Toyota knows what they're doing.

cingular_ATT.pngAs you're probably aware by now, AT&T, which, a few months ago, was acquired by much bigger SBC Communications, which renamed itself AT&T despite its much larger size. That "was a bit like France marching into Brussels and renaming itself Belgium," said Stephanie Mehta of Fortune, in her article yesterday, Meet the new AT&T.

Although controversial, AT&T did away with the very well known and probably much hipper Cingular name. I predict that long-term, the Cingular brand will reemerge in some place in some way, like many other zombie brands.

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Posted by William Lozito at May 18, 2007 9:40 AM
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Excellent post.

Of course sub-brands work. As long as the product or the experience aren't watered-down versions of an original (at a lower price-point), why should they not work?

They're like introducing an exciting new character in a story to take it in new directions.

I also like the specificity of sub-brands. The Prius is a very specific type of car. Cingular offers a very specific set of services.

The sub-brands of Specialized bikes (Tarmac, Roubaix, Allez, Stumpjumper, Rockhopper, Big Hit, etc.) are also excellent examples of sub-brands that work because of their specificity.

A good portion of Cingular stores and customers used to be AT&T Wireless customers though, so the AT&T name is familiar to a large number of their base.

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