Welcome to the house of fun

Out there in the real world, some of the most significant marketing moments from 2016 point to brand architecture being a big topic this year.

Coca-Cola moved from a sub-brand structure to branded house. Marriott acquired Starwood to put it somewhere across house of brands, endorser brand and sub-brand territory. Even Unilever edged along the line from house of brands to endorser brand, with the Unilever logo appearing more prominently on packaging. All this is big news.

Back in professional services land, we’ve also seen stirrings. Having been acquired by Deloitte, Regester Larkin is now ‘Regester Larkin by Deloitte’. Mishcon de Reya has recently launched Mayfair Private and MDR Labs.
Since becoming the first law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange, Gateley Plc has launched Gateley Capitus and Gateley Hamer, a tax consultancy & chartered surveyor. Each of these examples is an evolution along the brand relationship spectrum.

Even if your firm isn’t expanding into new fields there may be value in exploring a different brand architecture. There are plenty of firms, for example, who have clearly segmented sector offerings. What value does your reputation in shipping bring to what you do in telecoms?

Equally, how are you trying to position your firm in the minds of families & individuals vs. what you want FTSE 250 companies to think of you? Is there any link between your approach to handling personal injury claims and the commercial advice you give to owner managed businesses?

While a different brand architecture could be the right answer, there are also dangers. How do you assess and decide the right structure? How honest are you willing to be about the strength of your firm’s brand and, therefore, the value it would add as an endorser brand or to a sub-brand? How effectively would you be able to market the different brands with the resources you have?

With the right segmentation, targeting and positioning, a new brand architecture could make it much easier to market the business in different markets. Done half-heartedly though, your new sub-brand could end up looking like nothing more than a new service line or practice group. Without the right execution there could be more, not less, confusion about who you are.

But risk vs. opportunity? Bravery vs. timidity? Success vs. failure? Isn’t that what makes marketing exciting? Let’s explore the house we work in.

Lee Grunnell, Regional Director, PM Forum London