The key difference between a Brand Extension and a Sub Brand lies in how much effort, attention and detail is brought to that secondary product in relation to the parent brand.
With a Brand Extension, there is little-to-no effort put into developing a unique name, artwork or other branding elements related to the product itself. The entire focus is on the parent brand, and this product exists as a mere extension of its portfolio. You are simply using your brewery’s brand on a non-beer category product.
By contrast, a Sub Brand will feature a fully-developed name, logo or other branding cues in addition to those of the parent brand. The parent is still the main purchasing driver here, but other elements to bring more personality or clarity to the product are introduced.
If you’re stuck between whether you should launch your new product as a Brand Extension or a Sub Brand, a quick way to determine which is the right path is to consider the product’s future growth opportunities.
A common path for innovation we’ve seen with our clients goes like this:
Brewery > Seltzer and/or Canned Cocktail > Lemonade Seltzer Line Extension > Margarita Seltzer Line Extension > Mimosa Seltzer Line Extension > Variety packs with all of the above…
Each one of these follow-on extensions is a step further away from your parent brand and all that it stands for. So if you launch that seltzer as a straight Brand Extension—e.g. XYZ Brewing Hard Seltzer—each subsequent Line Extension will also be leveraging your parent brand.
This is where a Sub Brand can shine. Assuming this product makes sense within your broader positioning and messaging, creating a Sub Brand can give you just enough buffer to extend and scale this new product without diluting your parent brand’s positioning through subsequent releases.