So you have been developing your online brand identity, making sure that your website is both enticing and user friendly. But, now imagine this challenge:
“There are five brands within a larger corporate brand. Each brand is required maintain their own online identity, but must also stay connected to the parent company.”
Yeah, I would define that as a very large, but very exciting challenge.
However, this is only one scenario for a company comprised of multiple brands. For one company it may be better to keep the brands separate (not creating any connection between the online identities of each brand), while for another company it may be best to completely intertwine all the brands under one umbrella. There is not a single answer for if and how a parent company should connect their various brands online, but below are a few examples of possible routes.
Creating Connections Between Multiple Brands
The following is a breakdown of the different approaches that parent companies have used to connect (or not connect) their brands together. Using real-life examples, I show how some companies have been able to successfully implement strategies to either connect or maintain separate brand identities, and how “consistency” and “connection” seems to got lost in translation for other companies.
Multiple Brands Separate Identities
For some parent companies, maintaining completely separate online identities for each of their brands is the best option, and a critical component of their overall brand strategy. Two companies that have chosen this route, and have successfully created unique online identities for each of the brands within their company, are Coca-cola and Limited Brands.
While Coca-cola is the parent company to a variety of popular beverages, they treat each of product lines as unique and separate brands. For example, below are the home pages for the Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta and Minute Maid websites. Notice that they each have their individual design, look, and feel, unique to their product.
Limited Brands is the parent company for Victoria Secret, Bath and Body Works, Pink, La Senza, and Henri Bendel. Each of the smaller companies within the Limited Brand utilizes a different brand strategy and maintains their own online identity.
Connecting Multiple Brands
The Gap company, which is made up of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta, takes a different approach to being a parent company. Gap leverages their multiple brands to offer customers many choices within one company, and to reach a variety of customers. To prevent customers from going to a competitor’s website to search for a clothing item, Gap created a connection between each of their brands’ websites. They have made the top navigation include links to all their websites, so that if a customer can’t find what they are looking for on the Old Navy website they can easily jump over to the Gap website to keep shopping. This helps to keep customers on their sites longer and decrease the amount of lost sales.
Disconnection Between Multiple Brands
Some parent companies are able to connect their differing brands through one commonality, such as how Gap connected their brands through apparel; but, for other companies the connecting factor is too broad and attempts to form a relationship between the varying brands begins to unravel.
Kraft foods produces of some of our favorite food and beverage brands, including Oscar Mayer, Kool-aid, Kraft Cheese, Jello, Philadelphia, Miracle Whip, and many more. While the brands do have a commonality, they also each have their own unique identity (at least off-line). However, when comparing the different Kraft brand websites, it feels as if some brands are trying to connect to each other, while others are trying to disassociate themselves as much as possible.
Each of the individual brand sites are located with the Kraft domain, but different strategies are used to display each identity. A number of the Kraft Food brands live within uniquely designed websites that do not connect back to their parent brand, such as CapriSun, Oscar Mayer, and Kool-aid. But other brands, such as Jell-O and Philadelphia, seem to be built using almost the same layout. If this layout were to be used for all the individual brand websites, it could possibly create an inconspicuous connection between all the Kraft Food brands.
There is also a third approach that is used for some of the Kraft Food brands, where the brand does not have its own site but resides within the main Kraftbrands.com template, such as Kraft Cheese and Maxwell House Coffee. While each of the websites is successfully promotes the individual brands, there appears to be a disconnect on if and how the brands are connected together within the larger Kraft Foods brand.