What Is Umbrella Positioning?
Businesses that manufacture or sell a range of related products must decide on an approach for marketing their product line. Some businesses opt to create a distinct brand for each product with distinct symbols, names and packaging. Umbrella positioning, better known as umbrella- or family-branding, offers an alternative approach.
Umbrella positioning refers to the practice of bringing an entire line of products under one brand for marketing and messaging purposes. The approach emphasizes the brand and employs uniform visual elements and a single brand message, such as Apple’s branding on innovation and minimalist design. In some cases, such as General Electric, every product a company produces falls under the umbrella brand regardless of its relationship to other products.
Advocates for the umbrella strategy claim it offers a number of advantages. Businesses can see savings on total advertising and marketing costs, as brand advertising and marketing promotes every product the business makes. In theory, umbrella positioning leverages a halo-effect of positive feelings from one product under the brand that a consumer likes or trusts to all other products. This transfer of positive feelings encourages the consumer try other products the business makes. If, for example, your company makes a deck sealant that pleases a given customer, that customer may extend those feelings to your company’s floor sealant as well and select it over alternatives. Some businesses also use umbrella positioning to move into entirely new product lines, with the expectation that brand strength can convert customers.
Umbrella strategy detractors claim it creates significant pitfalls. Umbrella positioning can keep products with poor conception or design selling as result of the halo effect, which can damage the brand in the long run. Umbrella brands can create confusion among customers as to what the company wants to sell and result in brand avoidance. Line extension, a common practice for umbrella brands, can cannibalize sales of other products the company produces, yielding little benefit for the investment in product creation. Businesses can also confront the problem of brand dilution when too many products or products in dissimilar categories coexist under a single brand.
For businesses creating products in a specific category, umbrella positioning can provide a means of brand building. A line of related products can reinforce the idea of the company as an expert in the field, without sacrificing the ability to remain focused in its marketing efforts. Businesses worried about brand dilution can also consider a sub-branding strategy that fuses the existing parent brand with an entirely new brand to provide a level of differentiation.