Marketers typically fall into brand portfolio management “after the fact”: you’re tasked with overseeing several brands—developed internally or via acquisition—but they don’t form a coherent whole. Perhaps most of your products or services share your parent company’s name but those acquired over the years do not? Or, conversely, your parent company has taken a “house of brands” approach to its portfolio (similar to Procter & Gamble) and developed many brands over the years that have become unwieldy and difficult to manage?
At the end of the day, all of the brands compete for your company’s marketing dollars. Some may even compete with each other for customers. How do you bring order to this messy situation in order to maximize your marketing resources?
Consider this example: Noetic recently completed work for a non-profit healthcare provider that had a strong brand but had grown over the years by merging with and “bolting on” other organizations with similar missions. Some of these organizations were subbranded under the parent’s name (creating very long, unwieldy names), while others maintained their independent existences (thereby losing the opportunity for joint fundraising and messaging). The CMO knew that she needed to bring order to her house before she could continue to grow.
Here are some of the questions we asked the organization’s leaders:
- Are your resources deep enough to support several brands? How many?
- Is each brand distinct enough to warrant its own existence?
- Will you lose target customers if you phase out subbrands (but not the products or services associated with them)?
- Will you experience MORE pain maintaining subbrands or phasing them out?
- What opportunities does restructuring your brand architecture create for your organization?
After conducting internal research and holding a brand workshop with key managers, we helped the organization come up with a plan: those subbrands whose target audiences overlapped most with the parent brand would be phased out over time and ultimately be branded with the parent organization. One subbrand serving teens that had built up years of equity and credibility with this audience would maintain its separate existence. Today, the organization is moving forward with clarity and purpose.
Most portfolio management dilemmas are challenges you happen upon after the fact or you inherit from those before you. If you find yourself with a messy brand portfolio, know that you are in good company. With some effort, creating a hard-working architecture that makes sense and works FOR you rather than against you is within your reach.
Noetic is a marketing consultancy specializing in brand strategy, research & training.
We are built upon an avid curiosity about varied businesses and their unique strategic challenges. We provide a fresh perspective and intelligent thinking without a rigid agenda that requires starting from scratch.
Our “I.D.E.A.” approach always starts with the vision our senior executive clients set. And our mission is to help our clients release their team’s full potential to achieve that vision.