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How would U.S. consumers respond to a super brand that was stamped on an automobile, a refrigerator, a personal computer, a cleaning product, and a beer, especially if each of the products was produced by an industry leader from within each category?

Let's call the brand "Perhaps," and assume for the moment Ford Motor Co., General Electric Co., IBM Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and Anheuser-Busch were to form a brand consortium to develop and market Perhaps cars, Perhaps refrigerators, Perhaps personal computers, etc.

This seemingly far-fetched scenario describes a real strategy launched in Japan by such powerhouses as Asahi Breweries, Kao Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

The brand name is Will, as in Will cars, Will personal computers, Will beer. Could the Will brand or the branding concept -- driven by a bid to attract a new consumer segment -- be Japan's next major export to the U.S.?

"It's an interesting idea because the cost of launching and maintaining a brand is so enormous, and [many] companies can't ante up," says Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, a branding consultancy. He sees the potential for U.S. marketers to adapt this strategy as being "more than a possibility," and one that wouldn't have to be limited to one consumer segment based on household income, for example.

"Someone will try it; It's an idea waiting to happen. The cost of launching and maintaining a true brand is beyond the scope of most companies. We will see companies forming alliances to create critical mass and build one brand," he predicts.

The actual products or services being promoted under a single superbrand would probably have to be more focused than the Japanese model, says Mr. Adamson. He suggests that banking, insurance and online checking services may lend themselves to this type of branding strategy."The trick is to do it right, and

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