Flying in formation

Jet Airways failure brings the strategy of having many sub-brands in the limelight

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Flying in formation

Jet Airways, once a behemoth in Indian aviation was (in)famous for having a host of sub-brands. JetLite and Jet Konnect were the low cost brands offering no-frill services to passengers. But to a guest who'd pay a handsome amount for a "Jet" ticket, the lack of plush lounges, ample legroom, in-flight food and entertainment while travelling via sub-brands would instantly tarnish the image of the parent brand in their perception. This sub-brand confusion is believed to be one of the triggers to have created havoc with Jet, which once prided itself on offering a top-class flying experience.

The British Virgin Group is another brand that created more sub-brands than it could manage. From Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Mobile to Virgin Water Purifiers, Virgin Cola, Virgin Cosmetics, the brand lost the game with inconsistent logo usage, colour, typography and most importantly, shoddy products, all of which spiked confusion in consumer minds about the parent brand and its ethos.

Experts say creating sub-brands is not for every brand. "I don't recommend having sub-brands. Sub-brands derive their equity from the parent brand. Unless that equity is equally spread and distributed across the sub-brands, one of the brands is bound to suffer. Cross-pollination of brand equity is bad," says Harish Bijoor, veteran brand consultant.


  • Experts say creating sub-brand is not for every brand
  • A brand can think of creating subs only when has established vision, ethos, and equity
  • Parent and sub-brands should have common ideology resonating older as well as the new target audience

Experts say, a brand can think of creating sub-brands only when its master brand has established its vision, ethos, and equity in a sound manner. "When a big brand expands its offerings to the masses, the aim is to attract a new audience," says Sonam Shah, founder and CEO, Treize Communications.

"When you are sure that you have a strong successful master brand that consumers love; and your future products/services though varied can be tied together by the same brand thought, there is some merit in introducing sub-brands. But consumers should be able to see a clear connect between the sub-brand and the master brand in terms of vision and values," says Shashwat Das, founder, Almond Branding. Das adds that while the sub-brand inherits values from the parent brand, it needs to carve an identity of its own and carry a specific purpose.

Experts cite the example of Amazon. The ecommerce giant recently overtook Google and Apple to become the world's most valuable brand, valued globally at $ 315.5 billion, according to BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand Rankings 2019, a report by Kantar, the data investment management arm of WPP. AmazonFresh is Amazon's grocery delivery offering, while AmazonGo is a chain of brick-n-mortar convenience stores. Likewise, Apple, which is the second most valuable brand in the Kantar rankings, valued at $309.5 billion, has a clear product distinction in its sub-brands such as Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, Apple iTunes and Apple iPod. "The brand value and ethos of the parent Amazon or Apple are reflected in each of the sub-brands. But the sub-brands bear a clear differentiation in terms of their offering to the consumer. This is what should be looked at while venturing into this risky game of sub-brands," say experts.

Citing the example of Britannia, Das says when the brand consolidated its product portfolio under pillar brands, each had a clear purpose. "Britannia Tiger was a kids nutrition biscuit brand. Britannia Good Day was a cookie brand, while Britannia NutriChoice focused on the health aspects."

According to Shah, a clear communication process needs to be charted out mentioning how the product premium or service will now be available to a larger audience. "The price point, benefits, features and most importantly, how the new brand will take ahead the legacy of the parent brand should be communicated clearly," says Shah, adding that the brand and the sub-brand should have a common ideology which should resonate with the older as well as the new target audience.

Moreover, the brand should ensure the logo for the sub-brand is different, while holding onto one common factor of the parent brand, says Shah. "Either the font or the colour could remain same, thus showing that the values and the ethics of the parent brand will be carried forward."

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