MARKETING MIX: SOAP BOX; Sub-brands must now be desirable simply to survive

Marketing is really going to have to prove its worth over the next decade. Consumers have more money, are more confident and promiscuous in their purchasing and are more aware of their needs as they pass through life stages. Our children are far more brand-literate and brand-wise than we were. Even eight-year-olds have decided which companies and brands are relevant to their future lives.

Marketing is really going to have to prove its worth over the next

decade. Consumers have more money, are more confident and promiscuous in

their purchasing and are more aware of their needs as they pass through

life stages. Our children are far more brand-literate and brand-wise

than we were. Even eight-year-olds have decided which companies and

brands are relevant to their future lives.



What chance does the sub-brand have in this climate? The truth is that

most sub-brands are losing the war of attrition. For too many, marketing

has failed to make the difference. Their plight is not helped by the

fact that their corporate umbrella brands are losing their wars too.

Which have the same profiles, reputations and loyalty they once enjoyed:

Shell, Heinz, Clarks, Crosse & Blackwell? None really. Big companies

seem to have fewer people charged with overseeing and improving the

identities of both corporate and sub-brands. Those which do, have

succinct and meaningful corporate attitudes, such as Kellogg,

McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s (although the latter’s is waning somewhat) and,

at the smaller end, Club Med.



The real winners tomorrow will be the companies that do something about

changing consumer attitudes today. Marketing-led companies are rightly

re-appraising their portfolios because the harsh reality is that there

is inadequate support for their primary brands, let alone secondary

ones.



That we’ve ended up with too many sub-brands is not really surprising,

with companies innovating for years. Perhaps they also got too clever in

their tactics, assuming that consumers understood, or even needed, their

new sub-brands. Midland Bank’s Orchard and Vector were examples: too

complicated and unnecessary. They are now back on track with Midland and

‘The listening bank’.



All brands need to have single-minded propositions and not all-things-

to-all-consumers identities. They need saliency, appeal and

accessibility. Saliency is vital: if you are not on the shopping list

you won’t be bought. Appeal means not just being attractive but being

really desirable. Accessibility takes on real meaning for people moving

through life stages. Having your corporate and sub-brands accessible to

them, keeping them relevant, is vital.



Companies with single-minded equities will be best equipped to achieve

this. ‘Helpful’ for the Halifax, ‘care’ for Boots and ‘value for money’

from Asda. Their sub-brands can feed off these properties, embellishing

the mother brand through their campaigns. But companies will have to

work umbrella branding strategies harder to under-pin sub-brands.

Corporations like Reckitt & Colman, with complex sub-brand portfolios,

need to explore ways in which their names can add value to company, sub-

brand and new-product-development activities.



However, it is no longer enough just to be admired as a company or sub

brand; there are too many of them now. You have to be desired too. This

alone will sort the marketing men from the boys over the next decade.



Andrew Mitchell is managing partner of Mitchell Patterson Aldred

Mitchell



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