Whilst evaluating strategies for building a brand, you may find yourself wondering, What is a sub-brand? And, Do I need one?

The corporate branding experts at How to Build a Brand define a sub-brand as a product or service that is affiliated with a parent brand, but has its own brand name. Equivalent terms are brand extension, line extension, and subsidiary brand.

Maybe you’re working on building a brand. And maybe you’re wondering if a sub-brand could further your efforts. Read on to learn more, and to determine if now is the right time to launch a sub-brand.

Sub-Brands and Building a Brand

Parts of a company’s brand architecture, sub-brands both support and benefit from the parent brand. Each sub-brand possesses qualities that tie it to the parent brand; yet each has its own distinguishing qualities. Sub-brands can have their own specific brand identities, but must always strengthen and echo the values and message of the original parent brand. In many ways, a sub-brand can be considered the well-nurtured and cultivated child of a brand parent. All of your brands, including sub-brands, make up your brand family.

Sub-brands diversify your company’s finances. Any member of your brand family can be sold to another entity without affecting the financial aspects of the others, which increases your company’s financial multiplicity (and therefore, its durability).

Maybe your parent brand is doing well, but only appeals to a limited sector of the market. There might be one or two aspects that you could change about the product to make it irresistible to another market sector. This new product could be established as a sub-brand, which would allow it to take advantage of the notoriety of its parent brand while tapping into a whole new segment of consumers.


An example of this brand family approach is Coca-Cola (parent), Diet Coke (sub), and Coca-Cola Zero (sub). Diet Coke has a unique flavour, not designed to imitate that of original Coca-Cola, while Coca-Cola Zero is intended to taste more like original Coke. Few men were drinking Diet Coke, categorising it as a “woman’s drink,” so Coca-Cola Zero was marketed in a black can with more “real cola taste,” just for those men who wanted a ‘masculine,’ calorie-free cola. Coke answered a calorie need with the Diet Coke sub-brand. They then moved on to answer the feminine stigma problem with Coca-Cola Zero. And of course, these are only a few of Coke’s sub-brands. Coke even has grandchildren – Diet Coke’s black cherry, green tea, lemon, lemon-lime, lime, orange, and raspberry flavours.

In order for sub-brands to enjoy the notoriety that comes with being its parent’s child, the parent brand must have notoriety of its own. It might seem like common sense, surely, but this needs to be said. Too often, sub-brands are launched before the original brand has had enough exposure and time to develop a solid reputation. In a case such as this, the sub-brand is, in essence, a new venture without a standing in the market.

Every sub-brand, even if it’s part of a brand family with other sub-brands, is marketed separately, with its own target audience, brand strategy, and marketing campaign.

Maybe your next move in building a brand should be adding a sub-brand, or maybe now isn’t the right time. How to Build a Brand can help you to solve this mystery with targeted advice for building a brand. Simply contact us via email at [email protected], by phone on +44 (0) 208 123 6776, or through our Facebook page.

And if you’re interested in more information on building a brand, you’ll find invaluable branding advice in our Brand Brains publications. We also think you’ll find our FREE 6-step B.R.A.N.D. Leader programme to be indispensable whilst building a brand.

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