Thinking About Branding

Figuring out how to use brands is hard.  It’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of marketing.

There are a range of options.  For example, you can extend your existing brand.  Create a new brand.  Use a sub-brand.  Team with a co-branding partner.  Acquire an orphan-brand.  And on and on.

I last wrote about branding in my post BoltBus Provides A Branding Ticket To Ride, in which I praised Greyhound for creating the BoltBus brand to target new consumers and penetrate a different market segment.

Here are some new examples to stimulate the branding juices.

First up is Hyundai.  I’m a fan of their Buyer’s Assurance Program and Hyundai Uncensored marketing campaign.

The Korean automaker has come a long way since it exported its first car to the United States in 1986.  Now more than half the cars sold in the US are made here.  Hyundai makes cars in Alabama and has more than 20,000 employees at US dealerships.

Photo: Hyundai Equus – Hyundai Motor America

What really got my attention was a Wall Street Journal comparison between the Mercedes S550, which starts at $91,600 and a new $55,000 sedan called the Equus, set for sale this November.  Mercedes and Hyundai in the same sentence is amazing brand progress!

Hyundai’s second most expensive car, the Genesis, which starts at $33,000 was launched in 2008.  Just how far can they take the Hyundai brand?  Do they need a separate high-end nameplate?

Other car makers have taken the brand segmentation route.  Toyota created Lexus.  Honda launched Acura.  Volkswagen has Audi.

Despite the optimism – “Equus will attract a new type of buyer to the Hyundai brand” – consumers want easily recognized and clearly perceived cache and prestige when breaking the bank for a high-cost car.  Hyundai is probably driving uphill on this one.

Let’s take a quick look at three other recent branding decisions.

United Airlines is merging with Continental.  They’re going with the United name and Continental’s brand identity (logo treatment, graphics) in a kind of best of both worlds approach.  I guess it works but the plane looks a little funny (it says United but looks like Continental).  Does this solidify the airline’s positioning and brand image with customers, or facilitate a smoother internal transition?

Starbucks needs a range of brand options for growth.  The company acquired Seattle’s Best Coffee in 2003, and just launched a major new marketing and distribution-building campaign for this brand.  You can now get SBC at Subway Restaurants, AMC Theatres, Burger King and even Royal Caribbean International.  This follows the launch of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew instant coffee.

Photo: Trump Tea

Then there’s Donald Trump merchandise.  I get the men’s clothing (The Donald J. Trump Signature Collection).  It makes sense and is an easy connection to his brand image.  Trump Super Premium Vodka?  Okay.  Trump Ice spring water?  No.  And, the latest, Trump Tea?  No way.  That’s brand extension and licensing gone too far.

And finally, while not a new example, would the Kashi products be as effective if they carried the brand name of parent company Kellogg?

Headline For Marketers

When it comes to branding decisions, remember that the idea is to develop and nurture viable platforms for sales and profit growth.  Adopt and apply a decision-making process that’s marketing-focused, pragmatic and flexible.  Make sure you consider the segmentation issues, as well as financial support and organization implementation capabilities.  There are going to be tradeoffs, but keep in mind that a brand can’t be everything to everyone, and don’t be afraid to create and carve out unique brand identity and positioning when needed.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

2 thoughts on “Thinking About Branding

  1. I absolutely love that Donald Trump came out with a line of teas. I looked at the website ( and the product is really cool. You’d think that Trump drinks scotch in the afternoon. Thinking about him drinking a cup of tea instead, makes me want to seriously consider respecting him. I’m going to buy some tea and leave the scotch alone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.