Al Ries 'On Marketing'

The Dubious Practice of Double Branding

A Name Twice as Long Is Not Necessarily Twice as Good

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Branding is so popular in boardrooms today that some companies are overdoing it. "If one brand is good," goes the thinking, "then two must be better."
Is Nescafé Taster's Choice really a better or more powerful name than Taster's Choice? | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

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Years ago, Taster's Choice overtook Maxim to become the No. 1 freeze-dried coffee in America. One reason was its superior name. Taster's Choice implied a benefit. The brand name Maxim was meant to allude to parent Maxwell House, the country's leading coffee brand at the time.

The seldom-told story of the Taster's Choice name is that Nestlé management in Switzerland wanted to call the product Nescafé Gold to take advantage of Nescafé, the world's largest-selling instant coffee. U.S. management, on the other hand, insisted on the Taster's Choice name and eventually won the internal as well as the external battle.

2003 name change
Well, the folks in Vevey finally got their way. Since 2003 Taster's Choice is now officially Nescafé Taster's Choice.

It's a trend. Glide is now Crest Glide. Cottonelle is now Kleenex Cottonelle. SpinBrush is now Crest SpinBrush. And so it goes.

Consumers, however, will usually use one name instead of two. Nobody in their right mind
would write Nescafé Taster's Choice on a shopping list. Or Crest Glide. Or Kleenex Cottonelle. It's just Taster's Choice, Glide and Cottonelle.

Furthermore, the most powerful brands are those that stand on their own, without corporate endorsements or master-brand hocus-pocus. If Nestlé bought Red Bull (an acquisition they should definitely consider), should the brand be re-badged as Nestlé Red Bull? I think not.

Single words are stronger
Strong brands are invariably a single word or concept. Absolut, Barbie, BlackBerry, Duracell, Gatorade, Häagen-Daz, Jell-O, Listerine, Mercedes-Benz, Olive Garden, Q-tips, Ritz-Carlton, Rolex, Tylenol, Victoria's Secret.

Adding a corporate endorsement to these (and many other single-concept brands) would weaken them, not strengthen them. "DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz" is not a concept that is going to attract any additional customers to the Mercedes brand.

One reason new products are often double branded is research. Few mega corporations would consider launching a major new product without extensive consumer research, which often involves brand names.

Take Crest Whitestrips, for example. Even though the product has little to do with toothpaste, Procter & Gamble still stuck its toothpaste name on the brand. Why? Research suggested that consumers would have more confidence in the product if it had the Crest name on the package than if it had a totally new name. (To be honest, in Cincinnati Crest is not a toothpaste brand, it's an oral-care brand.)

Skewed research
Research can lead a company astray because consumers prefer the known to the unknown.

Before Dietrich Mateschitz launched Red Bull, he hired a market-research firm to test the concept. "People didn't believe the taste, the logo, the brand name," he said. "I'd never before experienced such a disaster."

But he launched it anyway. And today Red Bull does $3.4 billion in worldwide sales.

You'll find very few Red Bulls in the portfolios of Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Heinz, Kellogg and General Mills. A shocking name (Red Bull) combined with a new category name (energy drink) is just not going to test very well.

Nowhere is double branding more rampant than in the automobile industry. Yet some of the most powerful automotive brands don't use double branding at all. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Volvo, for example, just use letters and numbers to differentiate their models. Some of their numbers actually make sense, as in the 3 series, 5 series and 7 series from BMW.

Acura brand
One double brander (Acura) found that its Legend model had higher name recognition than the master brand. So for the 1996 model year, the Legend became the TL. In five years, Acura's name recognition went up 25%. Compared to 1996, Acura sales last year were up 86%.

Compare Acura with the double-brander Chevrolet. In the same time period, Chevrolet sales were down 5%.

Or rather Astro, Avalanche, Aveo, Blazer, Cavalier, Classic, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express/G, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Monte Carlo, Silverado, SSR, Suburban, Tahoe, TrailBlazer, Uplander and Venture sales were down 5%.

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Al Ries is the author or co-author of 11 books on marketing, including his latest, The Origin of Brands. He and his daughter Laura run the Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries. Their website is
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