We previously wrote about brand architecture, talking about the differences between branded house and house of brands, and sub-brands and endorsed brands. These four structures illustrate the relationship between the corporate brand and the consumer brands.
In the today’s post we will explain what the key differences between corporate and consumer brands are and what elements should be taken into account when analysing these two types of brands. We will also take a look at an increasingly popular subtype of a corporate brand – the employer brand.
A consumer brand is the most common understanding of what a brand is and relates to the product that is being sold to the consumer. Consumer brands build a set of associations people have with regard to a product or line of products and can range from B2C (business to consumer) names such as Coca-Cola, Dove or Pampers, B2B (business to business) brands like Accenture, Oracle or SAP and brands that offer both B2C and B2B products, with Microsoft, Google and LinkedIn some of the most prominent.
There are multiple positioning models describing brand strategies of consumer brands (brand keys, brand pyramids, brand wheels, brand diamonds just to name a few). At BrandStruck, we believe that the simpler the model, the better. That’s why for all our analyses we use the same framework, which consists of 4 elements: brand essence (one sentence summarising what the brand is about), brand values (key communications themes, the “what” of the brand), brand character (brand personality characteristics, the “how” of the brand) and a dominating brand archetype.
While consumer brands relate to products and services, corporate brands relate to companies. Good examples of this are global corporations like Unilever and Procter & Gamble, who have numerous consumer brands under their umbrella. However, the architecture can vary and some corporate brands are named the same as their consumer brands. For example, Microsoft, Nestlé and L’Oréal are both consumer and corporate brands. This sort of branding can work absolutely fine, as long as both the corporate and consumer brands share the same set of values and don’t try to convey contradictory messages.
In terms of brand strategy analysis, the elements of the corporate brand are different than those in a consumer brand. It’s mainly because of the fact that the two have different audiences. While consumer brands communicate mostly with end users, corporate brands talk to a wide range of stakeholders: investors, governments, local communities, employees, trade unions but also increasingly to consumers and customers who want to know who they buy from. The analysis of a corporate brand can include such elements as brand purpose and /or brand mission – why the company does what it does, brand architecture – how consumer brands are related to the corporate brand, company’s reputation, its EVP (employer value proposition), the financial condition and CSR impact.
Employer branding is a subtype of a corporate brand. Brands don’t always model themselves on how they want to be perceived by the consumer or corporate shareholders – some strive to make companies look like good places to work, with benefits to entice prospective employees. The branding relates to how potential employees will see the company, with a mix of intangible benefits (company’s culture and values, its brand purpose) and tangible benefits (salary, bonuses and other perks) being used to improve this perception.
Some companies have consistent consumer, customer and employer brands as they are all based on the same values. A good example of such business is Amazon, which communicates similar values for the three types of brands (innovation, excellence, customer obsession etc.). There are companies, which communicate different brands in different ways. An example of this is Facebook, who based their brand strategy on openness and connectedness at the face of the consumer; effectiveness, speed and hacker culture at the employer level; and global presence, leadership in technology and multibillion dollar status at the corporate brand level.
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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.
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