At first glance, the difference between a Sub Brand and an Endorsed Brand can be hard to define. Both approaches are similar in that they both leverage the parent brand as a part of their presentation. In action, this means that both Sub Brands and Endorsed Brands will almost always feature a logo (or at least the name) of a parent brand as part of its packaging and marketing.
The core difference between a Sub Brand and an Endorsed Brand lies in just how much emphasis is placed on the overarching parent brand, and likewise, how much emphasis is placed on the name (or logo) of the individual product itself.
While there are similarities between these two approaches— indeed, the line between them can become fuzzy and confusing at times—there are important nuances that we’ll dive into over the coming chapters.
But first, we find it useful to preface these concepts with quick rules of thumb so you can start to spot the differences at a glance.
Generally speaking, if your parent brand’s logo is the focal point of the packaging (e.g. largest element) and the individual product name is less prominent, this indicates a Sub Brand. Alternatively, a parent brand identity may be featured with about the same prominence and the individual brand, but it will likely appear front and center at the top of the package, effectively giving the parent brand greater focus.
If a parent brand’s name or logo is smaller than the name or logo of an individual product, this usually indicates an Endorsed Brand. This strategy allows the individual product to come forward, while the parent brand is included secondarily as an endorsement.
This approach allows one to lend the credibility and context of a respected parent brand without overshadowing the new product’s personality. Endorsed Brands will not necessarily feature a parent brand’s logo, either. If you see any small bylines with language like “By Brewery XYZ” or “From XYZ Brewing,” this is almost always an indicator of an Endorsed Brand strategy.
The most important criteria for delineating between a Sub Brand and an Endorsed Brand is the concept of the main purchasing driver.
Are customers compelled to buy a product because of the reputation and clout of an existing parent brand that they know and trust?
In a Sub Brand strategy, the parent brand is the main purchasing driver.
If, on the other hand, customers are motivated by the promises and benefits of an individual product brand, and the parent brand is relegated to a small, somewhat unimportant presence, then the product itself is the main purchasing driver (and you have an Endorsed Brand).
In the case of Endorsed Brands, the individual product and its promises and associations take center stage in helping a customer decide whether to buy (and being endorsed by the parent brand is a nice bonus—a guarantee that the product should be good).
Each strategy has its place in a well-conceived Brand Architecture system. Knowing when to apply one strategy over another starts with understanding their top-level differences.
Now that we’ve given you the broad strokes, let’s take a deeper look at each of these approaches.