Brands in Action: Raising a family of brands

We know what’s important when creating a brand, but what about when you have a whole stable of brands representing independent, yet complementary offers?

Creating a brand proposition which brings a family of brands together in a meaningful and logical way is no mean feat, but we caught up with someone who’s done it well.

Paul Squires is the founder of UK content and media group, Perini.  We asked him about what it takes master the art of offering key products and services through a range of strong, independent brands.

Tell us a bit about Perini, what’s the story?

Perini is a vertically-integrated content and media business. It’s basically a family of brands, whose activities span publishing, advertising, and strategy. The organisational design is such that the front office – the brands – are independent and distinct, but the back office is one unified operation.

How was it created as an umbrella brand? (Was this always the intent?)

In creating the company, I started with creating something called Perini, and then substantiating what that means, through a set of four principles which flow through the business and its brands.

The Perini brand was always designed to be one which was an “umbrella”. In creating the portfolio of products and services that I wanted the business to offer, it seemed clear that it could not all be handled by one brand. That’s where Imperica and Perera came in, which themselves were created as brands 15 and 25 years ago, respectively.  So, you could say that I’ve taken a while to think it all through.

How were Perera, Imperica, and Xpeso introduced as sub brands?

Perera was introduced first, over the summer. During that time, the business processes were made right, and the offer was expanded, based on some learnings from those critical first few weeks. For example, it became apparent that while some understood that Perera was a multi-disciplinary content and media agency, it wasn’t clearly explained, so its positioning and offer was revised and clarified.

Imperica was launched as a separate entity, and positioned very much as an “online magazine”. Its first incarnation was to be more satirical, but also have some challenging, quality journalism in there too. That was shelved, as it seemed that it wouldn’t have much longevity in the market, and it’s quite a risky position to take for a new publication. Eventually, it seemed clear that there is room in the market for a quality, niche publication covering the intersection between a number of marketing and creative disciplines, about people not products, with long-form content. That’s the Imperica website that you see today.

Xpeso has yet to be formally introduced, so the learnings will be taken from the above.

The key to all of this is to find quite specific positions where you can – hopefully – gain some sort of competitive advantage.

What makes them distinct?

They are all offered to different audiences and sectors. Perera’s customer base is predominantly made up of clients that wish to push their digital strategy, and make something really great. This has many forms, but basically that’s the idea.

Imperica’s audience base is wide, but its core is a group of people in creative disciplines (advertising, marketing and publishing) who are highly conversant in digital theory and practice.

Xpeso’s customer base will be publishers who wish to generate display advertising

How do they all fit in with the Perini brand?

Their values, attitude, and behaviours are consistent. This is where things become quite delicate, almost paradoxical. What I mean by that is this business has quite a “maverick” feel to it: quite radical, free-thinking, and energetic. This needs to be done in such a way that corporate clients do not feel put off by it – so it needs to be implied, but never explicitly stated.

Perini should add to the operating brand, rather than confuse or dilute it.

How did you link them together without diluting them individually?

The brands are explicitly independent, and should never cross-link. You will never see a link to Perera from the Imperica website, for example. However, what you will see across all brand websites is the same page talking about Perini, along with a link back to the Perini website.

I had taken the same broad principle from my time as head of online at E.ON, where a lot of time and careful consideration was taken to connect Powergen – which had huge brand awareness with UK consumers – with its parent.

The other point worth making is that I wanted to avoid the belief that the online magazine was just an intelligence-gathering exercise for the agency. Having different brands helps to overcome that issue, as does the free offering of Imperica’s content through a Creative Commons licence (in fact, all content across all of our websites is offered through such a licence).

How would you recommend SMEs keep a collection of brands distinct but complementary?

It needs to be fully thought through. SMEs need to consider if there are any reputational and/or commercial advantages over a single brand entity.

A multi-brand strategy is perhaps most of use for those wishing to start “portfolio” businesses – those which offer many different products. Having a multi-brand strategy helps to de-risk the approach, as if one particular product or offer doesn’t work out, it can “fail fast” without pollution into other parts of the business. This is one of the key advantages that I have found, and if managed properly could allow you to quickly drop an activity without necessarily closing its legal entity.

What SMEs should take away from the Perini story?

SMEs need to consider how to manage their brand, whoever they are, and whatever they do. Brand is everything – it flows through every single action that you take, and every single interaction that you make. It’s your company’s DNA, it’s more than a logo and colour scheme. That is the first and probably the most important point to make.

The second is to carefully consider each audience or customer base before you jump in. Research and evidence of entering a market is one thing – but how will you enter it? What will you look, act, and feel like? Think about that every time, rather than simply entering with the same brand by default. Make it a unique experience for you, and for your customer. To paraphrase a well-known saying, differentiation begins at home.

With huge thanks to Paul Squires.  You can follow him on Twitter here, and see the Perini website here to find out more about the Perini family.


One Response to “Brands in Action: Raising a family of brands”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Howard Moorey and Kate Spiers, Kate Spiers. Kate Spiers said: Brands in Action: Raising a family of brands: […]

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