For many, mixed branding is a term that begins and ends within a business school classroom. However, several large-scale corporations have effectively leveraged this branding strategy to expand their audience without needing to build a new brand from square one.
This article will break down the meaning of mixed branding in the marketplace and point to three cases in which companies effectively leveraged mixed branding tactics to diversify their consumer appeal.
What is mixed branding?
Mixed branding is a type of branding strategy that involves using two or more brand names to market the same product to different audiences. Companies may determine that their brand identity doesn’t align with an audience segment that it wants to target. In this case, those businesses may find it advantageous to team up with or develop another brand to market their products more effectively.
Often, customers aren’t even aware that they’re buying the same products from the same company. Still, the secondary brand effectively aligns with purchasing preferences to make certain products more palatable to new audiences.
Microsoft & Xbox
Xbox and Microsoft both experienced the benefits of mixed branding. Xbox, a Microsoft subsidiary, served as a major opportunity to brand Microsoft tech products to members of the gaming community.
Why did Microsoft need the Xbox brand to reach this audience? In this case, it was mostly because of Microsoft’s reputation with the general consumer.
Microsoft is a large, serious company that produced effective, efficient technologies. It was seen as practical and likely wouldn’t have been light-hearted enough to appeal to younger audiences who are generally more interested in gaming.
Xbox’s imagery and branding are entirely invested in appearing youthful and cutting-edge. While the branding materials still maintain a sense of innovation, it is clear that Xbox branding colors and materials are more suited for a younger audience.
Michelin & Sears
The Michelin and Sears tire partnership is a successful example of store branding. Store branding is a niche branding strategy that involves a large-scale chain retailer within the brand partnership.
Sears is a popular store that everyday consumers trust to provide a wide variety of goods, including value clothing, appliances, tools, and more. In providing a one-stop-shop for its customers, Sears has become a reliable brand for people aiming to get all of their needs taken care of in one place.
Tires fall into the realm of what Sears could market to its loyal customers, especially considering Sears-branded auto centers provide services like tire changes to consumers. By offering tire change service, Sears can sell considerable amounts of tires and related products to those who make appointments.
This where Michelin comes into the picture. Sears wants to provide tires to consumers who trust and rely on the Sears brand. However, it may be too great of a risk for Sears to diversify and invest in creating its own tire products. To sell more tires, Michelin allows their products to be rebranded as Sears tires within Sears Auto Centers.
That way, Michelin can generate increased sales while Sears can maintain high-quality services without needed to expand into production itself.
Toyota & Lexus
Toyota and Lexus are part of a robust sub-branding arrangement that allows both brands to appeal to very different audience groups while still being part of the same larger company.
Toyota is the parent company of Lexus, but the two brands serve very different markets within the automotive industry because of the significant differences in their branding.
Toyota has long been established as a cost-effective automotive brand before introducing Lexus. The parent company was known to be focused on families that needed reliable yet economical vehicles that helped them accomplish everything in their busy schedules.
When Toyota wanted to break into the luxury car market, it was clear that it would be challenging to attract interested luxury buyers with the family-oriented value brand they had successfully cultivated. To break away from the brand identity of the parent company, it created Lexus, which was branded using sleek, contemporary fonts and colors.
The secondary brand allowed Toyota-made cars to appeal to two unique audiences with conflicting automotive priorities and preferences. Through targeted, effective mixed branding strategies, the company successfully sustained success with Lexus vehicles over time, seamlessly breaking away from the Toyota brand stereotypes.
Mixed Branding Strategies Diversify Companies
Companies looking to break into a new market or wanting to connect with a seemingly complex audience to reach can turn to mixed branding efforts for direction. Many companies that employ targeted mixed branding strategies can engage with new customers without sacrificing the benefits of their established brand and current loyal customers.
Through modeling mixed branding efforts based on the successes of Microsoft, Michelin, and Toyota, companies can piece together creative strategies that will add value to their operations.