Some classic dysfunctions


Brand architecture, like any plan, is one thing. Implementation is another. In practice, we find four classic branding dysfunctions.

The case of the parent brand swallowed up by a daughter brand

Sometimes, in fact, one of the daughter brands can prove remarkably successful, attracting to itself all the advertising investment. The result is that the parent brand has been taken over by the image created by this exclusive communication. It can no longer play its role as parent brand and create new daughter brands.

This is the price of success: not only does the star product hide the others, but it drags the parent brand with it. For years the Nina Ricci brand was associated with a single perfume, its global success L’air du temps. This created a fundamental problem for licences: a luxury brand makes its profits through these. However, Nina Ricci no longer had its own identity, and potential licensees did not want to be licensees of L’air du temps, but of the parent brand. It was necessary to reconstitute the identity of the latter.

Volkswagen was swallowed up in image (and sales) by the Golf, a car which has known glory but which symbolises the 1980s!

Company–product disconnection

Essilor is the worldwide number one company in corrective optical lenses. When a consumer goes to an optician in the United Kingdom with a prescription, this optician sends the prescription to Essilor UK, which manufactures the lenses during the night in its very automatised and modern factory in Portugal and has them sent back by Fedex to the optician the next day. What a gigantic service provided to the opticians : this is a B2B winning-business model.

One exception is Varilux, the worldwide name for Essilor’s brand of progressive multifocal lenses. It has been quite well advertised at the end-user level, so that people ask for Varilux lenses. What is changing is the distribution: huge multiple chains of dispensing opticians are developing, such as Grand Optical and Afflelou.

Their innovation is to be able to produce directly in the store a large number of lens prescriptions, in one hour only. As a result Essilor is threatened. As a company it is not known by the end users. It is only known and respected by opticians: but some of them are grouping together and starting to limit Essilor’s role to the difficult prescriptions that cannot immediately be made in the shop.

In the B2B sector Sage is an illustration of this problem. It is a giant in terms of market sector (number three in the world in management software) and a dwarf in terms of image, whereas everyone recognises SAP, Microsoft, Oracle and Cegid. It is true that the company has a decentralised structure: communications are paid for by market, therefore by the products sold in each.

This has two consequences: tomorrow’s promising products are not communicated enough, and the communication places emphasis on the products, and not enough on the Sage brand. This may place a brake on organic growth. The Sage brand is well known to accountants (who buy its best-selling accounts software) but not people from other corporate functions, where tomorrow’s growth segments are located.

Brand shadowing results from an excess of endorsement or of emphasis on the umbrella

Sales of the product suffer as a result of this. When Ricard, the true pastis of Provence, launched an alcohol-free pastis called Pacific, it called it Pacific de Ricard, with packaging whose codes and label were resolutely Marseillais and similar to that of a traditional aniseed liqueur. Over the months, and following consumer analysis, the visibility of the Ricard brand was reduced. Nowadays it is seen as having the status of a maker’s seal. Pacific was given specific symbols that seemed disconnected from pastis: those of the Pacific Ocean and its islands.

Balkanisation of the brand

If segmented, differentiated brands are created under its aegis, the parent brand is impoverished and becomes simply an endorsing brand. Diluted, it no longer imposes a framework, an individual vision, its identity or its values. It is a known name, with a story, but one that is now overtaken by the stories written in the media by its autonomous daughter brands.

For example, the segmentation of Dim products with daughter brands ended at one point by turning them into stars. Dim became a name on the packaging of tights and stockings, minor in comparison to that of the daughter brands (Macadam, Dim’up, Diam’s and so on). Moreover, the coherence of a great brand was nowhere to be found. However, it is the parent brand, Dim, whose job it is to survive. In order to do so, it must remain intrinsically attractive, a source of desire.

It does so, admittedly, through its daughter brands, who ensure its relevance today in growing market segments. Nevertheless, the daughter brands must be dissolved when they lose their relevance, and new ones must be created. It is therefore necessary to ensure the pre-eminence of the parent brand. To do this, it is necessary to:

  • redefine the identity of the parent brand;
  • redefine a true source brand strategy, ensuring the pre-eminence of the parent brand;
  • align the daughter brands within the framework defined by the parent brand.

The parent brand, after all, is the surrounding framework. It is worth looking at this process in detail, since it should be implemented regularly in order to correct the effect of centrifugal forces.

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