Whose Brand Is It Anyway?

Something that has been on my mind for a while now is this idea of leveled or tiered brands. And also, the ability to buy and sell brands. Of course, brands are ever-evolving. They’ll go through many changes over the course of their lifespans (if they are to be successful). Sometimes though, these changes are quite large, and beg the question—is it still the same brand?

The short answer: yes. If a brand buys a brand, and keeps the name/logo/general identity—on the surface—it’s the same brand.

The long answer: no, not really. Not always. Brand’s are developed as a result of all previous activity, messages, and promises. If a new organization takes over a brand, there is going to be a certain percentage of this that is lost.

For The Right Price…

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, this provides a brand’s owner with more capital and access to a larger organization’s resources and network—they’ll stay in the creative seat, and their brand maintains most of its integrity as it expands with this support. It is give and take, not take take take.

Sometimes, there is this ‘buy-out’ / ‘sell-out’ mentality. That once the brand doing the buying takes over, they take over. There are new teams, new processes, and maybe even a new message. In this kind of scenario, huge percentages of the brand’s presale integrity can be lost and forgotten.

Consumers are, more often than not, aware of these changes. Whether it be from the news or announcements, even by noticing minute changes in product, price, placement, or promotion. Especially if the brand being bought is/was more of a craft style with an identity largely derived from its genesis story and longstanding teams.

If some form of investment, or stake in your brand, from a larger organization is something you’ve deemed necessary—go for it. But, ensure you and your brand’s integrity are valued, respected, and protected.

He’s a Real Brand’s Brand

Another version of this is when large, already successful brands develop sub-brands that often make no attempt to transparently show association with their parent organization. What I don’t love about this, is that it makes people feel like they have choices—but they don’t. Of course, everyone wants their brand to be successful. But, when you have years of experience and networks in the market, your furthered success is often at the expense of actual independent brands. Ones that would actually vary the market and provide consumers with actual choice.

Imagine going to Target and seeing the aisle that’s 85% Garnier Fructis were actually only 15% Garnier Fructis, and that 70% of their previous space had been ‘rented’ or ‘granted’ to smaller, independent brands that they partner with to help scale up the production and other aspects of those businesses? For a fair share of their profits? This kind of activity would provide consumers with way more actual choice, without dramatically disrupting a larger brand’s profitability. While also increasing that larger brand’s integrity and PR efforts. Why isn’t this happening so much more?

So—Whose Brand Is It?

It’s really a toss up for me. I firmly believe that a brand goes through big changes anytime it’s creative teams, leadership, and/or overall message makes a sudden transition. However, there are ways in which these transitions can be completed to minimize loss of brand integrity. And, there are ways to do it that will actually help maximize and gain some integrity.

There are benefits to different behind the scenes shareholder changes, investor relationships, and resource sharing. This can often be what it takes to really skyrocket a growing brand, and I am never against that.

However, it all depends on the larger organization’s intent. Are they acting responsibly, or with ulterior motives? If a brand wants to give back by helping bring up smaller, independent creators—great. These do exist. They work best when the original brand owners and/or teams maintain a fair share of control.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide an answer here that is applicable to all situations. What I can do, and hope I’ve done, is help you to see a new possibility. Inspired you to seek out and support independent creators, and brands that are still trying to make their come up. We need to see more of these partnerships, than mergers and acquisitions that do nothing but create monotonous, conglomerated people-pleasers. Instead of real brands.

Do you think larger, international brands should feel obliged to responsibly give back by assisting smaller creators with their endeavors? What are some brands you can think of that do this effectively? Who are some of the worst offenders, making it more of a challenge?

Looking forward to discussing with you in the comments!

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