Sometimes when you have an idea for a new business, it's so good that more ideas – similar, but not the same as the first one – pop out of your head very quickly. And because those ideas are sort of the same but not exactly the same, it can be very hard to work out if you should create a brand for each idea, or throw all those ideas into one all-encompassing brand.
Some people will tell you to run one brand per offering. That is, if you plan to sell car rides, pony rides and scooter rides, you should have a unique brand name for each of these offers. And a unique web address for each: carrides.co.nz, ponyrides.co.nz, scooterrides.co.nz and so forth. Then buyers will more easily find your website.
Some people will tell you that those car rides, pony rides and scooter rides are really all just “rides” (products) so why not just have one brand name and a good stretchy brand story that can work across all those products. Promote one brand but sell many products under that brand. In that instance, you can be called whatever you want. Web address is less relevant so long as you have a strong brand story, good SEO and the right messaging in market.
Both approaches work. We’d argue that there is no right answer for everyone, only the right answer for each individual business.
We have some very fortunate clients who were dealing with this very conundrum. They were fortunate because they owned two of the best brand names in the region. Wanaka Bike Guides and Discover Wanaka. Their brand names were to die for. Their URLs were to die for. Who doesn’t want www.discoverwanaka.co.nz as a URL? And if you’re looking to go biking and need a guide in Wanaka, surely, you’d search 'Wanaka Bike Guides'! But supporting two brands in market isn't easy.
These guys also ran another two other side businesses and so in total, they were actually managing four brands - four websites, four sets of social media, trying to answer the phone four different ways and building four unique sales propositions.
All of this would have been perfect if they were selling into four incredibly distinct markets like tree houses, apple orchards, roofing iron and laundry baskets. But they weren’t. They were selling a similar proposition, across four brands, into one crowded, busy, competitive market – tourism – and even with the coolest brand name in the district, the business wasn’t quite doing what it should.
As it turns out, their core goal was to give everyday people to the opportunity to discover Wanaka outdoors. This isn’t about jumping out of a plane at a billion feet or facing the extreme conditions of a snowy rock climb. This was about connecting with the thousands of ordinary people who come to Wanaka every year because they just want to experience the beauty of it.
- People who may not have ridden a bike in 20 years but once they do, they remember the freedom it gives.
- People who know there are adventures to be had but want to be able to take their 3-year-old kid and 80-year old dad along with them.
Discover Wanaka delivers that. And so did Wanaka Bike Guides and so did Southern Guides. The only brand that didn’t do this under their banner was Wanaka Wine Tours: the element of food and beverage changed the equation.
So why, when the proposition was generally quite perfect and the market distinct, was this collection of brands not singing? There were simply too many of them.
When you have multiple brands, you are constantly splitting your time and money across all of them, in the same way you would if you have four families. They all get a tiny piece of your resources but not enough to thrive. This was what was happening for Discover Wanaka’s cache of brands. Each was doing ok but there just wasn’t enough money or time to boost them all perfectly. Even just hosting four websites was a big cost let alone updating or promoting them.
The brave team at Discover Wanaka let us lead them on a journey from four brands to two. One core 'easy adventure' brand that would make the most of the coolest URL in the region (Discover Wanaka) and one separate food and wine brand that would allow them to play in a segment of the tourism market that their other offerings couldn’t (Wanaka Wine Tours).
They went from four websites to two. Four brand strategies to two. Discover Wanaka is now highly scalable. Where before adding an adventure meant another brand, now they can simply add another product.
Running multiple brands can sometimes feel like a good idea: spread the load and try to collect as many potential clients as possible across the market using different brand names to do so. With luck you’ll funnel them all back to buy from your other brands too.
But if the market is singular – as in your target audience is generally searching for the same thing – and you don't have a big wallet or excess time to invest in building out multiple brand strategies and promotions, go for less brands rather than more.