Examples of Successful Umbrella Brands

Person standing at the top of a set of stairs holding an orange umbrella. Apple, Kraft, Adidas and GE logos.

Understanding what an Umbrella Brand or Family Brand is and exploring 15 examples.

It can often be a challenge to understand the relationships between products and their brands. Brand architecture can take many forms. The key is to understand examples, and here we have a wide variety of umbrella brands across sectors, from aviation to toys.

Umbrella branding is a strategy used effectively by some of the largest corporations. They can take success in one product category, and leverage it to launch into an adjacent category, growing revenue.

I want you to know when umbrella branding would be an effective strategy to grow your or your client’s businesses. And also, when an individual product brand may be more appropriate.

We explore who these umbrella brands are, what they sell, and why (or if) their products make sense to have under the same umbrella.

Examples of umbrella brands:

  • AXE / LYNX
  • Cuisinart
  • Tata Motors
  • Mr. Clean
  • Apple
  • IKEA
  • Scotts
  • Armor All
  • Kraft
  • Marriott
  • Best Buy
  • Adidas
  • Hot Wheels
  • Pokémon
  • General Electric

I expand on each of these examples below.


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Umbrella Brand Basics

What is an umbrella brand? What is a family brand?

A single brand on two or more types of products.

An umbrella brand is a single name and logo that is on two or more related products that serve different needs. For example, Heinz is an umbrella brand because the name is on a variety of products such as ketchup, mustard, vinegar, beans, and more.

Umbrella brands are also known as family brands.

A corporation or manufacturer uses an umbrella brand strategy when they do not want to have individual product brands. 

Umbrella brands always start as individual brands. For example, Heinz began by making pickles. But companies leverage success in one product category to move into another, a process called brand extension.

Why would a company use an umbrella brand? Why do companies use separate brands?

Umbrella brands reduce the investment needed in launching new products, assuming the new product is similar.

A company will spend time and money making people aware of a brand and communicating what the brand means. If an existing product has already done that work, then the investment needed to launch a new product is significantly reduced if the new product can share the existing brand.

But sometimes companies try to market very different products under the same brand. For example, Cosmopolitan magazine attempted to launch a line of yogurts. Read more about it in BMB’s list of examples of brand extensions.

The decision to use an umbrella brand for a new product is akin to using an existing factory to build a new product. If you can, then it is probably a good idea. But if you can’t, forcing it will lead to confusion.

A factory, like a brand, has benefitted from a lot of investment. The factory is valuable. Machines have been purchased, the staff has been trained, and managers have optimized the flow of work. If a new product needs to be produced and the factory has the means to do it with little additional investment, then it makes sense to make both products under the same roof.

A brand also has benefitted from a lot of investment. The brand has equity. Products have been launched, customers are aware of the brand, and marketers have honed the brand’s message. If a new product needs to be launched and it is aligned with the original brand without much change, then it makes sense to have both products under an umbrella brand.

But if the product is vastly different from the original product, then the existing infrastructure, both the factory and the brand, is not going to work. In the factory’s case, the machines and processes from the original product make it no easier to make the new product and trying to force it to will lead to confusion. In the brand’s case, the associations and perception of the original product lend nothing to the new product and will confuse customers leading to brand dilution.

Umbrella Brand vs. House of Brands

A house of brands is a parent company that markets different products with a variety of brands, some of which may be umbrella brands.

Companies like P&G, Heinz-Kraft, Reckitt-Benkiser, and Unilever are houses of brands. They make a wide variety of products and use a set of brands to market them. They are often mistakenly called umbrella brands.

Houses of brands are fine with the parent company having no connection to the product in the mind of the consumer. The important thing is that brand makes sense to customers.


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Umbrella Brand Examples

AXE Umbrella Brand

Axe / Lynx

Parent CompanyUnilever
Umbrella BrandAxe (or Lynx in the UK, Ireland, Austrailia, and New Zealand)
Product Categories– Deodorants/Antiperspirants
– Body Washes
– Loofas/Scrubbers
– Shampoos
– Conditioners
– Hair Styling Products
– Fragrances
Product Names– AXE Dark Temptation Dry Spray Antiperspirant
– AXE Phoenix Body Wash
– AXE Shower Tool
– AXE Primed Just Clean Shampoo
– AXE Anarchy 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
– AXE Extreme Hold Gel
– AXE Gold Temptation Daily Fragrance

AXE is a brand of grooming products aimed squarely at young men. Due to conflicting trademarks, the Axe products are branded LYNX in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and EGO in South Africa.

AXE products are lotions, potions, and goos, but they do have a shower tool product that is a hard good. All of the products help the user look and smell their best, which is essential is you want to attract a woman, which is a primary concern of their target market: young men.

Playing to the male fantasy and ego, Unilever’s marketing of AXE promotes the idea that a well-groomed man can attract the fine-looking lady of his choice.

A decade ago, that meant corrals of girls mesmerized by the scent of AXE on a man to which now magnetically drawn. Now, that message does not play well. Men and women alike are wary of anything that would take away the agency of a woman, especially in a sexual circumstance. Now AXE marketing is about being ready to charm your crush: the girl you are sweet for.

Cuisinart umbrella brand. Kettle, toaster oven, stand mixer, knives, cookware, blender, and many more.

Cuisinart

Parent CompanyConair Corporation
Umbrella BrandCuisinart
Product Categories– Food Processors
– Blenders
– Mixers
– Juicers
– Coffee / Espresso Makers
– Toasters
– Electric Grills
– Kettles
– Cookware
– Kitchen Tools
– Knives
– Tableware
– Glassware
– And many more.
Product Names– Elite Collection 14-cup Food Processor
– Smart Power Duet Blender/Food Processor
– Precision Master 5.5 Qt Stand Mixer
– Pulp Control Citrus Juicer
– Automatic Burr Grind & Brew Thermal 12 Cup Coffeemaker
– Metal Classic 4-Slice Toaster
– 5-in-1 Griddler
– Programmable Kettle
– Chef’s Classic Stainless 11-Piece Cookware Set
– Curve Crock with Tools, Set of 7
– Advantage 12 Piece Metallic Knife Set with Blade Guards
– Abelle Collection 45 Piece Flatware Set
– Elite Vivere Collection Champagne Flute
– And many more.

Cuisinart is one of the most expansive umbrella brands; if a type of product is used or stored in a kitchen, then Cuisinart probably has one or more products competing in that category. Yet the brand seems to avoid brand dilution, and their products command a premium price point in all the categories in which they compete.

Cuisinart was not always an umbrella brand. Carl Sontheimer, an MIT grad and lover of French food culture, launched a food processor in 1973. His product languished at first, then broke out thanks to a writeup in Gourmet magazine.

The brand stuck to the food processor until the late 70s when they created brand extensions into stand mixers and blenders. These were adjacent product categories, meaning mixers and blenders are products that are very similar to food processors.

The Cuisinart brand became less associated with cutting, blending and chopping and more associated with design and ease-of-use. Marc Harrison, Cuisinart’s industrial designer, is famous for universal design: the concept that products should be made for anyone, including people with physical, mental, and sensory disabilities. Many of the design choices that make a product easier to use for people with a disability also make the product more user friendly overall.


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Tata Motors

Parent CompanyTata Group
Umbrella BrandTata
Product Categories– Passenger Cars / SUVs
– Commercial Trucks
– Vans
– Coaches
– Buses
– Municipal Service Vehicles
– Construction Equipment
– Military Vehicles
Product Names– Tata Tiago
– Tata Nexon
– Tata Prima
– Tata Cityride
– Tata Starbus
– Tata Reefer
– Tata Defence Troop Carrier SA 1212 4X4

Tata is a multinational vehicle manufacturer that started in India. They are one of the top three passenger vehicle brands in India, but they have business all over the world. Most of their factories are in India, but they have other factories in Argentina, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

After nine years of producing locomotives, Tata started making commercial vehicles in 1954 with Daimler-Benz AG as a partner. They started making passenger vehicles in 1988 and became the first company to make a car entirely in India. The Tata Group purchased the Daewoo Commercial Vehicles Company and Jaguar Land Rover.

Tata is the most valuable Indian brand, according to Interbrand. Tata’s brand is on everything with four wheels: from sports cars to firetrucks. Their name is synonymous with quality and reliability. The people of India are proud to support local consumption, so Tata enjoys a prized status.

Mr. Clean umbrella brand. Cleaning fluid, spray bottle. Mr. Clean Clean Freak, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser lavender, Mr. Clean Sheets, Mr. Clean bloves, 2-in-2 brush, toilet scrubber, and mop.

Mr. Clean

Parent CompanyProctor & Gamble
Umbrella BrandMr. Clean
Product Categories– Cleaning Liquid
– Household Cleaning Pads / Sheets
– Multi-Surface Cleaner (Liquid / Spray)
– Dusters
– Brushes
– Mops
– Bowl Brushes
– Plungers
– Buckets
– Cloths
– Sponges
– Brooms
– Cleaning Gloves
Product Names– Mr. Clean: Clean Freak Deep Cleaning Mist
– Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
– Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Squeeze Mop
– Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Toiler Scrubber
– Mr. Clean Latex Disposable Gloves
– Mr. Clean Hard Surface Floor Duster
– Mr. Clean 2-In-1 Brush
– Mr. Clean Flat Back Bucket

I would have thought Mr. Clean would be an example of a sprawling umbrella brand with many products across many categories. But Mr. Clean has a tight family of products. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; Proctor & Gamble know what they are doing.

The Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser sub-brand is well known and loved. It is a cleaning pad with cleaning fluid infused in it and is that is slightly abrasive, meaning the pad sands off a thin layer of whatever it’s scrubbing.

Last year they launched the Clean Freak sub-brand. Clean Freak product is an innovative alternative to the cleaning fluid in sprits bottles. The liquid is re-formulated, and the sprayer can be used from any angle, even upside down.

Butler Home Products licenses the Mr. Clean brand name to put on their household cleaning tools: mops, dusters, brooms, etc. Most of the tools are pretty standard, but Butler does make some creative use of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Cleaning tools must be a hard market to differentiate your products within, so Butler hopes that customers’ positive associations with Mr. Clean and no-work cleaning will make their products stand out. From a trade marketing standpoint: stores most likely already have Mr. Clean products in the section, so it is natural to have more in other categories.


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Apple

Parent CompanyApple Inc.
Umbrella BrandApple
Product Categories– Laptop
– Desktop Computer
– Tablet
– Phone
– Smart Watch
– Headphones
– Smart Speakers
– Downloadable Music
– Streaming Music
– Credit Card
Product Names– Macbook Air
– iMac
– iPad
– iPhone 11 Pro
– Apple Watch Series 5
– AirPods Pro
– HomePod
– Apple Music
– Apple Card

The Apple brand is the most valuable brand in the world. They did not get to that point by continually going into new product categories. For many years, their product strategy was straightforward.

Steve Jobs’ product strategy was so simple that it famously could fit into four quadrants. He figured there were only two types of computing products: desktop and portable. He knew there were only two types of customers for computers: consumers and professionals.

His desktop computer for consumers was the iMac. His portable computer for consumers was the iBook, now the MacBook. His desktop computer for professionals was the Power Macintosh G3, now the Mac Pro. And his portable computer for the PowerBook G3, now the MacBook Pro.

Times change, Steve Jobs passes, and the Apple product portfolio expands. Apple has extended their brand into speakers, watches, and even finance. They have many sub-brands: Mac, iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple Pay, etc.

BMB discussed the Apple HomePod as well as many other smart speakers with world-class industrial designers. How did the HomePod’s design fair? Check it out.

Does the Apple brand still have the same simplicity and elegance as always? Or does their brand mean less the further they get away from Steve Job’s simple plan?

I’ll let you decide.

IKEA

Parent CompanyInter IKEA System B.V.
Umbrella BrandIKEA
Product Categories– Chairs / Sofas
– Bookcases / Storage Units
– Tables / Desks
– Prefabricated Cabinetry
– Faucets / Plumbing Fixtures
– Beds
– Carpets
– Lighting
– Tableware
– Cookware
– Toys
– And Many More
Product Names– STOCKHOLM Sofa, Seglora natural
– HEMNES Daybed frame with 3 drawers
– MICKE desk
– TINGSRYD 2-piece door/corner base cabinet set
– NEIDEN Bedframe
– HAMPEN Rug, high pile
– NOT Floor uplight/reading light
– BROGRUND 1-spray showerhead with arm
– MOPSIG 16-piece cutlery set
– DINERA 18-piece dinnerware set
– KAVALKAD Frying pan
– LILLABO 20-piece basic train set

My advice for most brands is to focus on a few products or services and resist the urge to let success in one category temp them to try other categories. Having an unfocused product strategy can lead to a thinning of the organization’s resources and a dilution of the brand.

Yet IKEA has a sprawling set of products across many categories, and I think they have done nothing wrong. How could this be? How can a brand that makes everything from daybeds to showerheads be as deeply meaningful as IKEA?

The reason is that they are a manufacturer, distributor, and retailer. They are vertically integrated, and therefore play by a different set of rules than brands that have to sell through other businesses’ channels.

The brand extensions they have made have been motivated by trying to fully service the customers who come into one of their locations. It is only natural to sell a customer a kitchen faucet if they are purchasing their cabinets, sink basin, and countertop.

The conflicting motivations of IKEAs departments make it a challenging business to run. Making both cabinets and faucets makes the lives of the professionals in manufacturing and design much more complicated; the expertise and equipment with one don’t translate to the other, so it is like starting an entirely new business. But the products can be distributed together, and the customers at the retail locations are better serviced.

So yes, IKEAs business is complicated and only works for IKEA. But it is also extremely profitable.


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Scotts

Parent CompanyScotts Miracle-Gro Company
Umbrella BrandScotts
Product Categories– Fertilizer
– Grass Seed
– Herbicide
– Slug Control
– Outdoor Cleaning Solutions
– Mulch
– Soil
– Ice Melting Spread
– Lawn Product Spreaders
Product Names– Scotts Turf Builder Starter Lawn Food For New Grass
– Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sunny Areas Mix
– Scotts Grub B Gon MAX Grub Killer
– Scotts Weed B Gon MAX Ready-to-Spray Weed Control for Lawns
– Scotts Enriched LawnSoil
– Scotts Outdoor Cleaner Plus OxiClean Ready-To-Spray
– Scotts Elite Spreader with EdgeGuard Technology

To have a lawn that looks like it could be the fairway of pebble beach, a home and garden hero needs more than a few products and tools. Thus Scotts provides our home groundskeepers with all sorts of products from soil to slug killer. (Apparently, slugs need to be killed, who knew!)

Where the Scotts brand gets a little confused is their products for driveways and decks, namely the Scotts EZMelt and Scotts Outdoor Cleaner. Scott’s products should be about making lawns green and lush, not melting ice or scrubbing mildew.

But at least the Scotts Outdoor Cleaner Plus OxiClean uses one of my favorite brand strategies: co-branding. Learn more about this tactic.

Armor All

Parent CompanyEnergizer
Umbrella BrandArmor All
Product Categories– Car Interior Protectants
– Tire & Black Plastic Shine
– Plastic & Vinyl Restoring Fluids
– Car Wash Soaps
– Wheel & Tire Cleaners
– Leather Care Solutions
– Glass Cleaners
– Air Fresheners
– Odor Eliminators
– Car Wax
– Headlight Restoration
– Wash Pads, Mitts, Brushes, & Towels
– Dusters
– And Many More
Product Names– Extreme Shield Protectant Spray
– Ultra Shine Tire & Trim Shine Sponges
– Outlast Trim & Plastic Restorer
– Extreme Wheel & Tire Cleaner
– Snow Foam Car Wash
– Leather Care Wipes with Beeswax
– Auto Glass Cleaner
– Fresh FX Vent Clip
– Smoke X Rapid Odor Eliminator
– Ultra Shine Spray Wax
– Ultra Shine Headlight Restoration Wipes
– Armor All Microfiber Wash Pad
– And Many More

Some people want cars to shine. Their pride of ownership has them cleaning, polishing, and protecting every surface on the machine. They take their precious vehicle out to show-and-shines so they can have onlookers gaze upon them, and share the experience with other such petrol heads.

Armor All is a brand that intends to give these people everything they could need to have their vehicles looking and smelling their best. And they have an extensive product line that does just that.

It all started when Alan Rypinski purchased the marketing rights from inventor Joe Palcher for his rubber treatment fluid called Trid-On (which is No-Dirt spelled backward.) They sold it through their network of automotive dealers, mechanics, and stores until McKesson bought them out and made it a true national consumer brand.

The Armor All brand has been bought and sold more times than any brand I can think of. It has been owned by McKesson, Clorox, private equity firms, and Spectrum Brands. It’s latest owner is Energizer.

But even with all those owners and all those influences, the brand is tightly focused around the needs of car enthusiasts who want the ultimate shine and protection. The heritage has been maintained, with the viking holding the shield gracing the bottles since the 70s.


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Kraft

Parent CompanyKraft Heinz Company
Umbrella BrandKraft
Product Categories– Noodles and cheese dinner
– Stuffing
– Barbecue sauce
– Cheese spread
– Crumbled Parmesan cheese
– Salad dressing
– Mayonnaise
– Sliced cheese
– Marchmellows
– Seasoning / breading
– Candies
– Whip topping
– And many more.
Product Names– Kraft Dinner (now KD)
– Kraft Stove Top Stuffing
– Kraft Hickory Smoke Barbecue Sauce
– Kraft Cheez Whiz
– Kraft 100% Parmesan
– Kraft Caesar Salad Dressing
– Kraft Real Mayo
– Kraft Miracle Whip
– Kraft Velveeta
– Kraft Jet-Puffed Marchmellows
– Kraft Shake n’ Bake Chicken Seasoning
– Kraft Caramels
– Kraft Cool Whip
– Kraft Singles
– and many more.

Kraft is an excellent example to highlight the difference between a house of brands and an umbrella brand.

Kraft-Heinz, the parent company to Kraft the brand, is a house of brands. Kraft is just one of many brands that the corporation uses to put on the packaging of their product. They also own and manage Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Maxwell House, Oscar Meyer, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Planters, and many more.

Kraft, the umbrella brand, is one brand that goes on many products across the grocery store. The Kraft brand is on everything from salad dressing to caramel candies. There are several sub-brands of the Kraft parent brand: KD (previously Kraft Dinner), Cheez Whiz, Miracle Whip, Shake ‘n Bake, and more.

The Kraft brand name has a long legacy. The brand is over 110 years old. It was started by the Kraft brothers who processed milk into cheese distributed around the Chicago.

The brand is very meaningful to the people of the Baby Boomer Generation and the silent generation. Kraft was one of the brands that benefitted from the onset of mass media. The rapid adoption of radio and television meant that a select few brands could reach almost all customers in North America because there were only three television stations and a handful of national radio stations.

Kraft serves as an endorsement to many of these sub-brands and products. Many older people believe: if it is Kraft, then it must be a good product.

Marriott umbrella brand. Traveler hotel, luxury hotel, long term stay hotel, resort hotel, and Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

Marriott

Parent CompanyMarriott International, Inc.
Umbrella BrandMarriott
Product Categories– Premium Hotel
– Traveler Hotel
– Resort Hotel
– Long Term Stay Hotel
– Vacation Time Shares
– Loyalty Program
Product Names– Marriott
– Marriott Vacation Club
– Courtyard by Marriott
– Fairfield by Marriott
– Protea Hotels, Marriott
– AC Hotels, Marriott
– Residence Inn by Marriott
– Townplace Suites by Marriott
– Marriott Executive Apartments
– Marriott Bonvoy

I almost did not include Marriott as an umbrella brand because I did not believe that it met the threshold of diversity that defines an umbrella brand. Doesn’t a luxury hotel serve the same function as a travelers’ hotel?

What I learned is that the Marriott brand is on four distinguishable services: hotels, rentals, timeshare resorts, and their loyalty program. Their hotel brands like Courtyard and Marriott properly serve people who need a short stay away from home with a high touch level of service. People who are temporarily living in other cities can use their rentals, like Marriott Executive Apartments. Timeshares are for people who would have purchased a vacation home, but instead, they can buy shares and enjoy the flexibility of going to many different options for their vacations. Their loyalty program can grant free accommodations for people who stay in their brand of hotels more often.

The Marriott umbrella brand lends credibility the niche brands. Many people have stayed in a Marriott hotel and have an expect a level service and quality; people trust the Marriott brand. The brands presence makes a nice brand, like Townsplace Suites, makes prospective guests feel less anxious about trying the new brand.


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Best Buy

Parent CompanyBest Buy Co., Inc
Umbrella BrandBest Buy
Product Categories– Electronics Store
– Mobile Phone Store
Product Names– Best Buy
– Best Buy Mobile

There are not many retailers that use umbrella brands. Even though some of their stores might be smaller and others larger, some may be in a mall, and some may be stand-alone, they still serve the same purpose and thus are the same product.

Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile are different types of stores. A customer would go to one or the other with very different needs. You would go to Best Buy if you would like a piece of electronics. You would go to Best Buy Mobile if you wanted to change your phone or mobile carrier. Note that Best Buy stores usually have a mobile phone department, so the larger format stores cover both needs.

Best Buy is a large format electronics store with locations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They have a small presence in China as well, operating 70 of their 1,213 stores. They sell all things electronics: appliances, computers, cameras, televisions, and accessories. They also sell smartphones and can sign you up for mobile carrier plans, of which they get a commission from the carrier.

The Best Buy brand had earned a high degree of trust from customers when they buy electronics, which can be a risky and confusing proposition for many people. That trust in the brand made it easier for them to sell cell phones and plans than the carriers themselves or independent stores.

Their success selling mobile phones in the main stores (they sold them even before there were smartphones) and the lucrative nature of the commissions they received from the carriers incentivized them to branch out. They extended their brand and opened smaller format stores in malls and strip malls that only sold phones, phone accessories, and phone plans. These stores are called Best Buy Mobile. Customers know that these stores don’t have the breadth of product that the full Best Buy stores do.

It goes to show that developing a sense of trust with your brand now can open up new opportunities in the future. Brand marketing is strategic.

Adidas

Parent CompanyAdidas AG
Umbrella BrandAdidas
Product Categories– Shoes
– Sandals / Slides
– Pants / Leggings
– Shorts
– Skirts
– Sports Bras
– T-Shirts / Tank Tops
– Hoodies / Jackets
– Bags / Backpacks
– Hats
– Socks
– Balls
– Guards / Padding
– Phone Cases
– Sunglasses
– And Many More
Product Names– NMD_R1 V2 Shoes
– Adilette Aqua Slides
– Tiro 19 Training Pants
– Aeroready 3-stripes 8-inch Shorts
– Ultimate365 Printed Knit Skort
– 3-stripes Tee
– Favorites Hoodie
– 4ATHLTS Backpack
– Comfort Visor
– 3-stripes Cushioned Crew Socks 3 Pairs
– UCL Finale Istanbul League Ball
– Predator 20 Pro Shin Guards
– Samba Molded Case Iphone 11 Pro
– AOR027 Sunglasses
– And Many More

Adidas is a multinational company headquartered in Germany. As we learned in our article about the seven sources of brand names, “Adidas” is a short form for the name of its founder, Adi Dassler. He made athletic shoes in his mother’s laundry room after World War 1.

The business started when his brother joined him, and they formed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (or ‘Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik’ in German). They pioneered the application of cleats to the bottom of the shoe. The spikes helped the feet of athletes grip the playing field.

Their big break came when they convinced US sprinter Jessee Owens to use their spiked shoes in the 1936 Summer Olympics. After Owens dominated, taking home four gold medals, Dassler shoes gained the reputation of being the best shoes for competition.

The Dassler brothers bitterly parted ways, and Rudolf started a new shoe company called Ruda, which was eventually rebranded to Puma. Adi changed the name of the existing company to Adidas AG. Puma and Adidas have been in a bitter rivalry ever since.

Now, they have ventured into many product categories beyond sport. They are more known for their high-quality apparel than their shoes. They have always been at the forefront of the athleisure trend with fashionable urban folk loving to sport their three-stripe hoodies and jackets.

While their product line looks sprawling, the brand is still focused on sport. The fashion and lifestyle aspect of the brand always comes second. They understand that their success and reputation in sport makes possible the fashion aspect of the brand.


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Hot Wheels logo. Hot Wheels Bone Shaker. Hot Wheels collector car. Hot Wheels track set. Hot Wheels ID portal. Hot Wheels Race Off mobile game.

Hot Wheels

Parent CompanyMattel, Inc.
Umbrella BrandHot Wheels
Product Categories– Toy Cars
– Collector Cars
– Toy Car Tracks
– Video Game / Track Hybrid Products
– Video Games
Product Names– Hot Wheels 2019 Bone Shaker – HW Game Over Series
– Hot Wheels Lamborghini Sesto Elemento – HW Exotics Series
– Hot Wheels Colossal Crash Track Set
– Hot Wheels id Race Portal
– Hot Wheels Race Off

Hot Wheels has been around since 1968, but their product strategy has not gotten to off track. (See what I did there?) They stick to the 1:70 scale diecast cars and the tracks that they travel on.

Their qualities of focus and commitment to craft are admirable. They must have been doing something right because in 1997 Mattel, Hot Wheel’s parent company, bought Matchbox, the other significant toy car manufacturer.

Hot Wheels marketers are in touch with their customers and have modified offerings that speak to each segment. The kids who play with the cars can play their mobile game, Hot Wheels Race Off, and integrate their track play and mobile gaming with Hot Wheels id. The older folks who collect the cars have more expensive and limited runs of vehicles with more considerable detailing. They also make 1:18 scale models.

Hot Wheels has had TV shows for many of the fifty years they have been around, but there is currently no Hot Wheels show airing right now. Their most recent show was Hot Wheels: Battler Force 5. Hot Wheels does produce video content for it’s YouTube page.

All brand managers should take a lesson from Hot Wheels. If you understand and focus on what people like about your core product, maybe your brand will enjoy fifty years of success too.

Pokémon

Parent CompanyThe Pokémon Company
(owned by Nintendo Co Ltd., Game Freak Inc., and Creatures Inc.)
Umbrella BrandPokémon
Product Categories– Console Games
– Mobile Games
– Trading Card Game
– Feature Films
– Television Series
– Manga / Comic Books
– Plush / Stuffed Animals
– Toys
– Apparel
– And Many More
Product Names– Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield
– Pokémon Go
– Pokémon Trading Card Game
– Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution
– Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon—Ultra Adventures
– Pokémon Adventures Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1
– Pokémon Detective Pikachu Movie Interactive Talking Plush
– Tomy Pokemon Throw ‘N’ Pop Duel Pikachu Pokeball & Cubone Repeat Ball Figure Set
– Pokemon Pikachu Bolt Boy’s T-Shirt

Entertainment brands are often found on a diverse set of products because of licensing. The brand awareness and love for the brand they develop through their movie, show, or video game can be leveraged to sell many different types of products: toys, apparel, and more.

But Pokémon is an interesting example of an umbrella brand because it has always been an umbrella brand, and its success came from the synergy between its different products.

The original Pokémon video game launched in 1996 and the Pokémon anime series debuted in 1997. Kids (like me) received more enjoyment from the game because they could see the characters, creatures, and concepts in the cartoon, and vice versa. It was amazing to see Ash’s Pigeotto use the ‘whirlwind’ attack just like your Pidgeotto in the game.

Add in the trading card game and the manga/comics, and you had many ways for kids to engage with Pokémon. All of the brand extensions made certain concepts core to the experience: trading, evolving, competition, loyalty, and friendship.

The different Pokémon products are so synergistic that the intellectual property is owned and shared by three separate companies. The Pokémon Company is a joint venture owned by Nintendo (who publishes the games), Game Freak (who develops the core games), and Creatures Inc. (who develops other games and the trading card game.)

The Pokémon Company has always licensed the IP to people who want to make shirts, hats, and toys featuring the characters and concepts. But they reserved the right to make the games and the animated series themselves.

Because they were late to bring Pokémon games to mobile phones, they have had to be more permissive so they could stay relevant. They allow Niantic to develop Pokémon Go and Dena Co to develop Pokémon Masters, and others to develop other mobile games and apps.

General Electric

Parent CompanyGeneral Electric Company
Umbrella BrandGE
Product Categories– Power Plants
– Turbines
– Generators
– Boilers
– Aircraft Engines
– Nacelles
– Wings
– Landing Gear
– Fairings and Strakes
– Silicon Carbide
– Avionics Systems
– Financing for Planes & Power Plants
– Refridgerators / Freezers
– Ovens
– Microwaves
– Range Hoods
– Dishwashers
– Washers
– Dryers
– And Many More
Product Names– Modular Power Island
– 9HA.01/.02 Gas Turbine
– Gigatop 4-Pole Generator
– GE90 Engine
– RIU-303 (Remote Interface Unit – Avionics)
– GECAS Sale Leaseback for an Airplane
– GE Profile Series 21.9 Cu. Ft. Counter-Depth Side-By-Side Refrigerator
– GE Profile 30″ Smart Free-Standing Convection Range
– GE Profile 1.5 Cu. Ft. Countertop Convection/Microwave Oven
– GE Profile 36″ Under The Cabinet Hood
– GE Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher
– GE 5.0 cu. ft. Capacity Smart Front Load ENERGY STAR Steam Washer
– GE® 7.8 cu. ft. Capacity Smart Front Load Gas Dryer
– And Many More

When I think of a mature brand, General Electric (GE) comes to mind. The company is so old that is was started by Thomas Edison after inventing the light bulb!

Let’s appreciate how rare it is for a company to last over 130 years. They must be doing something right.

As you would expect from a mature company, GE has ventured into many different industries and product categories. But so say GE has a diverse set of businesses would be an understatement. They have business in appliances, aviation, finance, energy, healthcare, lighting, oil and gas, power generation, and more. And all of these use the GE brand.

Should GE use an umbrella brand across so many industries? Probably not. Their brand equity does not cross industries. A politician looking at bids to build their region’s next powerplant is perhaps no more or less likely to choose GE because he’s had a good experience with his GE refrigerator.

But the GE name has such legacy, such brand awareness that it is a powerhouse. Which divisions give up such an asset? Which division gets to keep it?


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Colin Finkle

Colin Finkle is a brand marketer and designer with ten years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies tell their story at retail. You can see his work at ColinFinkle.com

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