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Brands Within a Brand: How to Avoid Dilution

Can you give services or products their own brands without diluting your company's overall brand?

When we talk about a brand, we're talking about a company's identity—its way of being in the world. At its most basic, a brand is what a company says and how it says it, combined with its look and feel. 

It's tricky enough to get one brand right. But when a company also has a group of services or products that warrant their own distinct identities or sub-brands, that gets even trickier. 

If not done strategically, sub-brands can easily overwhelm or distract from the company's overall identity. As a result, prospects get confused about what a company offers, which in turn hurts sales and growth. At its worst, poorly executed sub-brands can even damage a company’s reputation.

Too Many Logos is Just a Symptom

Roger That client Scribe Media did a great job of streamlining their approach to product branding in the brand refresh and website redesign they carried out with us last year. 

Like many startups, Scribe is a company that moves incredibly fast and is continuously iterating and improving upon itself. When Matt Young started designing for Scribe, he  noticed early on that he was getting a lot of requests for new logos as the company launched new products, initiatives and campaigns.

"We were reinventing the wheel within our brand five or six times a year,” Matt recalled. “We were spending all this effort and time and energy on something that was unintentionally diluting our brand equity.”

If you find yourself with too many logos, that may be a symptom of a deeper problem with your brand strategy and user experience.

Grouping services or products into categories can be a useful tactic as long as it’s done in a way that makes sense for your customers. A great test for whether a product or service deserves its own brand is to consider the audience, value proposition and market position for each one – and compare them to those of the company. If they're similar, a separate brand identity will likely hurt more than it will help.

The tipping point for Scribe came when they chose to reposition themselves as the leader in professional publishing to reach a more influential audience. Redesigning the website was an opportunity to streamline a scattered set of logos and design styles into a more cohesive and scalable brand.

"Book Writing, Book Publishing, Book Coaching and Book Marketing—That's what we do for our authors.  It's so much easier to describe what we do now that we’ve grouped our products into clear categories, where before it felt like a bunch of disparate products,” he said.

On its new website, Scribe groups its services under the sections of Book Writing, Book Coaching, Book Publishing, and Book & Author Marketing. Matt says this change has made it much easier to communicate about what Scribe does.

Better yet, as the company continues to grow, Scribe can funnel new offerings into those four buckets instead of starting from scratch for every launch. It not only allows the team to move more quickly and efficiently, but also creates clarity and a better experience for their customers.

What Ties it All Together?

Just because a service or product group has its own identity doesn't mean the sub-brand should be a total departure from the company's overall brand. The most effective examples of this are where the brands share a visual theme to tie them together. Your brand should be instantly recognizable, no matter which product category you're looking at.

Google Workspace icons compared with Scribe Media service icons.

Matt says this visual cohesion came pretty naturally for Scribe because they had always designed around the central themes of flight and space – their way of visualizing the concept of launching a book. The four category logos evolved out of the all marks they had created over the years: a megaphone that also looks kind of like a satellite; a lightning bolt which evokes energy to launch a rocket; a quill and a paper airplane that each tie together the ideas of writing and flight.

"Since we had been pretty thoughtful about working off this visual theme of flight or space the whole time, it made it really easy to shuffle things around," Matt said.

Whether or not your company had that kind of foresight, the point is this: having a strong central brand with a clearly defined visual expression makes it easy to create cohesion while branding different service or product categories. It's another way that investing in your brand provides a foundation to support growth, whatever direction it may take you. 

Striking a Balance

Branding services or product categories without diluting your overall brand can be a tough needle to thread, but Roger That can help. Our Brand Sprint process covers all the right questions to define who you are as a company, and explore whether your product categories need their own identities or not. Schedule a free 20-minute consult call, and let's talk about how we can strike that balance together.