Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Sub brands rule

The story goes that after UK's state-owned car-maker British Leyland took over the sporting Jaguar marque, they renamed the famous Jaguar factory at Browns Lane as "BL Large/Specialist Vehicle Operations Plant". At which Jaguar's founder Sir William Lyons was so disgusted that he marched into the factory and removed his portrait from the boardroom wall.

Acquired "sub" brands can often carry more heritage, authority and meaning than the parent brand, but are routinely deemed by those in charge to need to fit (as in disappear) into the larger corporate image, however drab and unimpressive. Often this is done out of sheer ignorance of what brands mean and the asset they represent, and often it is an act of political machismo, to reinforce the relative status of organisations (you're part of us now). And sometimes it is a result of a simplistic desire for consistency, as though that was of itself a good thing.

The brands that have fans, however, are rarely the engulfing conglomerate but more usually the smaller entity. [I do know there are exceptions here.] My theory is that this is because in smaller organisations the brand and the vision are nearer the coalface, more likely to have real meaning, more likely to be directly connected to what staff do and customers get. It's straight brand, without the mixer. The bigger the entity, and the more components parts the brand has to embrace, the less focussed it can be, and the more it is likely to tend to the brand-as-label rather than brand-as-essence.


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