I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Parent brand and baby brand

Once upon a time there was a proud parent brand that gave birth to a baby brand. The parent brand was so proud of the baby brand that she bought baby all sorts of fine posters and website designs and other paraphernalia declaring the baby's birth to the proud parents. Then the baby brand grew up and wanted an identity of its own. Suddenly the parent brand was not so happy and proud; it wanted everyone to keep on declaring the baby brand "child of" the parent. The child brand, now a full-fledged young adult, verbally declared its independence of the parent brand and told everyone who would listen about his independent identity, but still needed its parents' money so couldn't break out completely. Neither side was happy.

What is the optimal relationship between a parent brand and a child brand, a brand that is part of the parent brand yet distinct from it?

There are three choices.

* At one extreme, the parent brand can declare that everything the baby does, is part of the parents' own actions and a reflection on her. In that case the baby brand must constantly reflect the parents' name in every communication, declaration, and conversation.

* At the other extreme, the parent brand can grant the child brand independence, and hope that the child decides to thank the parent every once in a while.

* A middle of the road solution is for the parent brand to allow the child to be semi-independent, keeping the parent's name and "living on the same block" but asserting its own identity.

How the decision gets made in the real world has to do with a lot of things--rational considerations, political interests, and so on--but partly it has to do with psychology: how secure the parent brand is in its own identity. The more insecure the parent brand, the more it fears that it is not contributing value, the more it clutches on to the child. On the other hand, the more disorganized the parent brand, the less it clamps the child's identity to itself as part of a cohesive whole and the more it just lets the child brand "do what it wants." The optimal balance, usually is for the parent brand to at some level acknowledge the existence and importance of the child brand, but at the same time to let the child brand have its own identity and operational freedom. (That is, unless the child brand is so radically different from the parent that it would be better to pretend that there is no relationship there; or if the child brand is so dysfunctional that the parent brand needs to care for it totally.)
In your organization, if there is a conflict between a parent brand and a child brand, it may be worth having the important conversation of where the child brand sits in relation to the parent, and how an optimal balance can be achieved. It is a difficult balance to obtain, but one that is worth pursuing.