A product needs branding the same as a company does, but there are distinct differences in how to develop product brands. This branding should be unique to the product while also tying it in with the wider brand around it, this leads to product branding being somewhat of a tightrope walk between making the brand unique and making the brand fit.
It is easy to think that product branding is primarily in the consumer domain, but there are many great examples of B2B product branding.
While it may not be relevant to every company, for many it is a fruitful strategy to follow as it can provide a clear focus for your product ranges and it can add significant value to the total business offer.
Getting this synergy right and remembering not to just treat the product brand the same as the parent brand is of the utmost importance for product branding. The main difference to get out of the way initially between corporate brand and product brand is that corporate branding is very “big picture” in nature with choices related to the long term strategy of the company being at the heart this form of branding. On the other hand, product branding is very specific and should express the essence of the product itself. It is important to ensure that a product brand is very specific because it can help clients to easily identify and relate to the direct need for that product and helps it be competitive with other products in a much more effective way.
Like any type of branding, product branding comes from a clearly defined brand strategy with a series of factors including positioning, character, story and design. Rather than being just copy + pasted from the company’s branding it needs to be targeted at the different users the product wants to attract. This is where the difficulty comes in because different brands will benefit from different degrees of separation from the corporate branding.
Take for example: Adobe, a great example of how to effectively separate product brands and allow them to be distinctive from the corporate while still leveraging the Adobe name as an umbrella above. Photoshop is strongly positioned as a product brand in its own right, but we all know who developed the software.
The use of a consistent theme throughout the branding makes sure you know its Adobe but they are specific enough to be tailored to their specific market. Acrobat has a consumer focus aimed at people managing Pdfs, so the branding is a huge contrast to something like Illustrator as a business brand which is much more creative in nature and is part of the Creative Cloud grouping.
However on the other hand, a brand like IBM benefits from keeping all their product brands relatively close to the corporate brand so they are all recognisable as a part of the company.
This is beneficial as it keeps all the product brands strong with the same recognition and perception that IBM has cultivated for their corporate brand. The product brands are named to differentiate them but they sit clearly as assets of the corporate branding. This works for IBM because of the similarity in B2B target markets for their products. They have a strong sector based marketing approach.
This is where product branding borders the subject of brand architecture, because the extent to which a product brand differs from the corporate brand is linked heavily to the way a company wants to structure their brands. A company like Adobe has many different sub-brands that are for different applications and therefore benefit from distinctive brand focus within a set, but IBM benefits more from the similarity and closeness of their product brands because the corporate brand is the focal driver.
Whatever approach is more appropriate depends on the specific market, sector and target market but either way, product branding is something that should be carefully considered to find the right relationship with the parent brand.