What is Sub-branding? 3 Types of Sub-brands

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

What is Sub-branding? 3 Types of Sub-brands

An important type of branding is called sub-branding. It refers to the introduction of a subordinate brand that categorizes (part of) a product line within the whole brand system.
Sub-brands help to formulate and structure offerings and to modify a brandís identity, because sub-brands can change association.
For example, it can ease access to particular associations of the parent brand and allow the generation of more product-specific brand beliefs and associations. Sub-brands are thus a new dimension below the parent brand, developed in order to change and improve the brandís meaning.
Because sub-branding is important in brand strategy, it is important to know about the different types of sub-brand. The following sub-brand types exist:
1. Generic Sub-brand: In this case the new brand is just used as a category identifier. This means that the additional element of the sub-brand is only connecting the brand with the product category. An example is Diet Coke, that associates being on a diet with the parent brand Coke.
2. Genuine Sub-brand: This type of sub-brand is used when the objective is to generate unique characteristic at the sub-brand level. An example is Coke Zero, in which the unique equity is the very low level of calories in Coke Zero.
3. New Sub-brand: In this case the sub-brand that is developed has no association with the parent brand at all. Actually it is a completely new brand. An example of Coke is the introduction of a totally new brand called Sprite, a lemon-lime flavoured drink.

There are many factors that affect the successfulness of sub-brands. Examples are:
- The age of the parent brand
- The objectives of launching the sub-brand
- The size of the market
- The position of the company in this market

Therefore, it remains unclear what sub-brand type is most appropriate in specific situations. This can be seen by the fact that companies competing within a specific product domain are often using different approaches to sub-branding.

Source: Rahman, K and C.S. Areni (2014) Generic, Genuine, or Completely New? Branding Strategies to Leverage New Products, Journal of Strategic Marketing, 22:1, 3-15


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