In B2B branding, tech and IT services firms have mostly embraced the masterbrand approach to architecture and portfolio strategy. Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, Oracle, and HP Enterprise rely heavily on their big brand clout, based on their belief that B2B clients value the efficiency and peace of mind of a one-stop-shop above all else.
The poster child for a single, B2B masterbrand strategy in tech is Cisco. The company created an M&A machine to maximize efficiency in stripping out virtually all of the B2B brand names it acquired and integrating the assets into the Cisco brand (except Linksys, which focused on B2C).
The Value of Subbrands
However, with disruptive technologies roiling their sectors, it would be wrong to conclude that a single, be-all, end-all brand is what it will take to succeed in IT services or management consulting going forward. Today’s tech services and management consulting are diverse and fast changing fields that require people with unique skills to deliver value for clients. A single brand without any distinguishers or subbrands to support the claimed expertise will find it hard to be believable when competing with highly specialized players. In addition, reliance on one umbrella name could lead to missed opportunities for more targeted offerings. Investing in subbrands is an effective way to reassure prospects and customers that the organization is up to the challenges of this dynamic environment.
Going Against the Masterbrand Tide
A deeper look reveals one B2B tech services behemoth that understands the value of subbrands. Accenture created the Accenture Interactive subbrand to make its digital chops believable. This was a shrewd decision given the brand was known originally for outsourcing and massive (custom) systems implementations, and more recently for business and techology innovation and insight. Through multiple acquisitions in fast succession, Accenture has added digital talent as well as brands with real equity in their fields to build out the Accenture Interactive offering, most recently Droga5. We’d expect to see the Droga5 name live on for some time, if not indefinitely, as Accenture migrates the brand‘s equity (and employee and customer loyalty) to the Interactive subbrand.
Startups Need Subbrands, Too!
Some tech and consulting start ups could benefit from subbranding early on. If the plan is to pursue multiple markets and customer segments simultaneously in a land grab from the get-go, having the name of the company too closely aligned with any one service could be limiting.
Quixey was a well funded, mobile search app that failed for a whole host of reasons, including its fraught relationship with Alibaba. Strong subbrands might have helped Quixey avoid over-reliance on Alibaba by building credibility that its own deep linking functionality was customized for the variety of in-app search markets it attempted to penetrate.
Is your brand portfolio designed to deliver the credibility it takes to succeed?
We generally see more brands getting into trouble by trying to support too many brands than by focusing on too few. However, there is a time and place for subbrands, and right-sizing the portfolio could be the breakthrough you need to maximize your credibility in the eyes of customers and prospects.
Learn more about Brand Architecture in our updated toolkit.