Company Brands vs. Corporate “Baby” Brands.

As we build our brand strategies it is imperative to understand the value of the parent company brand in relationship to the many sub category ‘baby” brands that we create within our business.    Sub-category brands often need to appeal to the very specific brand influencers of the products they are selling as they try to connect more closely with that consumer.   However, company brands must encapsulate all the products that they manufacture and sell, as well as these sub category brands, in such a way that it reflects on the company’s brand values with the consumer.   As is the case with Levi Strauss…Levi’s brand stands for many very strong attributes such as quality, durability, fit, function, and value and that is reflected through out the brand messaging done for the brand and that can obviously reflect positively on the many sub category brands that the company owns such as Dockers, yet Dockers has its own distinct brand messaging reflecting on casual work week apparel that still keeps you looking sharp while dressing down for a casual day at the office. 

We see this in the automotive world as well.  An example might be how BMW has a core brand message about its company brand “The ultimate driving machine” its messaging for its SUV’s or its M Class sports cars is unique to them. 

Check out this article and gain a better understanding of the importance of identifying the unique characteristics of your various brands and how to communicate that message to your audience, and yet build cohesiveness to the strategy across all products as well. 



Company Brands : Corporate Parents: Don’t Lose Yourself In ‘Baby’ Brands

by Chris Wirthwein


Pop quiz: Which highly valuable brand is often left to languish?


  • While brands such as Pontiac and Oldsmobile have fallen by the wayside, the GM name has endured.
  • A strong corporate brand can help companies weather a product fiasco.
  • Top CMOs understand the value inherent in a strong company brand.



  1. The newly launched product brand striving for recognition in a saturated marketplace.
  2. The “new and improved” service brand seeking to regain market share ceded to a competitor.
  3. The company brand.

If you selected option 3, the company brand, good for you. Best-selling author and brand guru Al Reis, who gave birth to the concept of positioning, stated, “Every company should have a powerful company brand, but they don’t.” And although Reis didn’t distinguish between B2C and B2B brands, a strong company brand is especially essential for B2B companies that typically operate with smaller marketing budgets and more defined target markets than their B2C peers.

Consider a B2B company such as Caterpillar, NCR, or Siemens, all of which offer a breadth of B2B products and services across a range of industries. Yet across their diverse product and service portfolios, the company brand remains constant. Even companies that are strictly focused on consumer product brands need to nurture the company brand. GM sells many makes and models of vehicles, but while brands such as Pontiac and Oldsmobile have fallen by the wayside, the GM name has endured.

Of course, a CMO’s rationale to carefully manage the company brand shouldn’t be based on following the behaviors of other companies. Instead, CMOs should consider several practical reasons why corporate brands warrant attention. In “The People Powered Brand: A Blueprint for B2B Brand and Culture Transformation,” Joe Bannon and I describe four reasons why the company brand deserves significant attention:

1. Scope of influence: The corporate brand affects the entire enterprise, including its people, products, services, customers, and stakeholders. In contrast, most product brands mainly touch subsets. The corporate brand stands for how a company does things in all of its dealings and markets, and represents what customers can expect of every product and service. It may even stand as a de factoguarantee of a company’s products and its people’s performance. Even wildly successful brands occasionally launch a product that fizzles or downright fails, but a strong corporate brand can help companies weather a product fiasco.

2. Endurance: Today it is common for companies to place a hyperemphasis on product brands. In fact, many companies pursue an innovation strategy designed to produce a constant stream of new and ever-improved products. Teams of people in sales, R&D, manufacturing, customer service, billing, and every other department deal with product brands on a daily basis. Yet it is the enduring corporate brand that has the greatest number of touch points inside and outside the enterprise.

3. Difficult to duplicate: Copying products has never been easier or more prolific, and it’s bound to get even easier. Just look at the “feature war” taking place between mobile phone and electronics manufacturers. Innovative product designs and feature sets quickly become standard or outdated in an innovation-minded world. But can someone copy a company’s brand, culture, and essence? Nearly impossible. When executed properly, a strong corporate brand creates a lasting competitive advantage in the marketplace.

4. Exclusivity: For some companies where no tangible goods change hands, the company brand and the product it offers are essentially the same. Think of information technology providers, accountants, engineering firms, and consultants in scores of industries. In each of these environments, the company brand is what customers purchase.

For B2B CMOs looking for a quantifiable reason to nurture their brands, consider a 2012 McKinsey & Company study that underscored the value of a strong B2B brand. Examining the correlation between brand strength and financial performance, the analysis revealed that companies with brands that are perceived as “strong” generate a higher EBIT margin than other companies. The strong brands outperformed weak brands by 20 percent–a 13 percent increase over 2011.

Smart CMOs understand the value inherent in a strong company brand. In a world where markets anxiously await the “next big thing,” it can be easy to let the company brand languish. Yet the corporate brand–whether B2C or B2B–serves as a valuable common bond that transcends trends and times.

About Chris Wirthwein

Chris Wirthwein is CEO of 5MetaCom, an advertising agency, strategy, and brand advisory firm focusing on B2B brands.

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