Branding Basics #13: Law of the Company

Refresh your knowledge of Branding Basics with #13, Law of the Company - graphic


For some reason, nothing causes as much confusion during the branding process as the use of the company name.

The matter of how to use a company name is clear-cut from a marketing standpoint, and yet most companies do not follow the laws of branding, and defy logic.  The brand name should always take precedence over company names because Consumers Buy Brands, they don’t buy companies.

When you do pair a company name with a brand name, clearly and consistently, the brand name is Primary, and the company name is Secondary. People will always say the brand name versus the company name, as long as there’s a viable option.

For example, someone shopping for a hybrid car would say, “I’m going to test drive a Prius after work today!” rather than, “I’m going to test drive Toyota’s main hybrid model after work today!” Right?

A brand is a brand, and the company is the organization that produces the brand. It’s not the brand itself.


A company is a company as long as it’s not being used as a brand. Sometimes, a company name is also the name of an original, singular, product. In this case, the brand strategy would be to use the company name as the brand name.

  • The Coca-Cola Company produces the Coca-Cola brand. What’s a Coca-Cola? Cola
  • The WD-40 Company produces the WD-40 brand. What’s WD-40? Lubricating spray
  • The Zippo Manufacturing Company produces the Zippo brand. What’s a Zippo? Windproof lighter (did you know they also sell knives?)

A company ought to always look at branding from the customer’s perspective. A great brand name is short, memorable and can be used to describe the product.  Tylenol is what you take for headaches and Band-Aids are what you put on cuts.  When customers have to use both the company name and the brand name together, there is usually a branding problem.

For many brands, the balance is to put the company name in small(er) type above the brand name. Customers who are motivated to use the brand name won’t really notice the company name, and those who do care, will easily be able to find the name of the company behind the brand.

The trouble lies inside at corporate. They often want the company name larger, like Gillette. Prior razors were introduced with a small “Gillette” above the brand names.  But, when the Sensor was released, they set the company name “Gillette” in the same size as “Sensor”.  Why is this not a good idea? The brand name should dominate the company name.  By the time the Mach3 razor came out, Gillette let the brand name dominate.  And it does, even if it’s subtle. You can use Mach3 as a descriptor, in many cases. If you saw a usually scruffy co-worker with a freshly shaved face and he said, “I gave my Mach3 a workout this morning”, you would know that he was referring to his smooth face. And, the Sensor? RIP. It’s no longer in the product lineup.

Gillette-Mach3 gillette-sensor-cartridges

Take Away from Law of the Company

“Brands are brands. Companies are companies. There is a difference.”