Branding Basics #15: The Law of Siblings

Branding Basics the Law of Siblings - header graphic


Dream of birthing a sibling brand?

The Immutable Laws of Branding seem to suggest that companies concentrate all their efforts and resources on a single brand for a single market. Stay focused, right?

Yes. But, there comes a time when it makes sense to launch a second brand, or a third, or a fourth. Watch out, though. If not handled properly, the second brand can dilute the first brand and waste resources.

To understand The Law of Siblings, it’s important to know the previous laws of branding. The most important law to review is the Law of Extensions #10. You need to clearly understand what a line extension is and why it will (probably) kill your Brand, before you take in The Law of Siblings.

A family of brands can be developed that will keep a company in control of a market segment for decades. It’s important to make each sibling a unique brand with its own identity. They should stand on their own, as totally separate brands. Each brand should be as different and distinct as possible, while still making sense as part of the “family”. You can have various brands belonging to one company, with one sales force and one marketing team.

Victoria's Secret, Pink, and Bath Body Works brands by LbrandsThere are many companies that have so-called “sister” brands that most consumers have no idea are connected. Victoria’s Secret, PINK and Bath & Body Works are owned by Lbrands, from Columbus, Ohio. They’re a segment leader that, “offer captivating experiences and make customers feel sexy, sophisticated and forever young.”

If Victoria’s Secret’s target customer is a mom or older sister, PINK targets the younger sister, while Bath & Body Works targets them all. The products go well together, and the locations are often found in malls a few doors down from one another. A college age woman with a romantic interest wants new lingerie and a body lotion to go with? Sold!

These sister brands all use an integrated, “Omni-channel” Digital Strategy, which means that the customers have a consistent shopping experience everywhere. Design, messaging and objectives for each brand are considered. They are all active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram. All platforms and devices customers may use to interact with the company are thought about. A customer may use more than one channel simultaneously. For example, a woman evaluating a new bra at a retail location may also check out the bra’s product reviews on her iPhone. Is her experience seamless?

Timberland brandTimberland and Vans both have cult-like status in their own worlds. They are under the umbrella of the VF Corporation, which is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina. The VF Corporation sells branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories.

The older brother brand, Timberland, is known for durable waterproof boots, especially the original yellow boot. They consider themselves retailers of “outdoor lifestyle footwear” and favour “eco-conscious products and practices”. They target “the ‘outdoor life-styler,’ who are both trendy and outdoorsy.” In 2015, they invested more than half of its media budget in digital experiences. They also boosted their efforts with fashion and style magazines, hoping to reach a growing female market.

The company seems to hold themselves accountable for what goes in their products and how they’re made. According to their website, Timberland has been, “steadily increasing the use of recycled, organic and renewable materials in Timberland products. In fact, to date they’ve given about 185 million plastic bottles new life in footwear.”

As well, Timberland is six years in to an ambitious initiative to help reforest Haiti and help rebuild its communities. It started as a commitment to plant five million trees in five years, but turned into much more. They formed the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, “and the establishment of a self-sustaining agroforestry program that creates environmental, social, and economic value for Haiti.”

The younger brother brand, Vans, is known for cool skater sneakers. They consider themselves the leaders of “youth culture inspired footwear”. In terms of marketing, Vans has certainly cemented themselves into the leading youth culture brand.

The Vans brand hosts major events that combine action sports, art, music and street culture, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a Hawaiian specialty series of professional surfing event.

Agenda-15-Branding-Basics-Law-of-Siblings-Vans-Warped-Tour-2016Other events include the annual Vans Pool Party, a private deep bowl skateboarding event (featuring the skateboarding world’s Legends, Masters and Pro’s) as well as the Vans Warped Tour, an outdoor multi-artist concert tour for teenagers. Want to feel old? Check out the scheduled bands, and see how many you recognize.

Just like their brother brand, Timberland, Vans tries to be sustainable. “We embrace our responsibility to help lead the industry toward a more sustainable future.” The Warped Eco Initiative works, “with local volunteers & venues to minimize the impact that the tour has on the environment.”

They also encourage concert goers (ages 16+) to donate blood with the non-profit organization Music Saves Lives. They offer a backstage wristband to the first 100 fans each day that redeem their Blood Donation Voucher at the Music Saves Lives tent.

They’ve also started a Pro Skate Park Series in select cities across the world. This year’s select cities are in Australia, Brazil, Canada, USA and Sweden. “Showcasing an international roster of top pros, and a total prize purse in excess of one half million U.S. dollars, the inaugural Vans PS Park Series establishes the premier global points ranking system for Men’s and Women’s park terrain skateboarding.”

What Lbrands and VF have in common is that they’ve followed The Law of Siblings by keeping these principles in mind:

  1. Focus on a common product area. A second brand can be launched to focus on a new subcategory within the same product family. VF sells branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories.
  2. Select a single attribute to segment, like age. Vans are geared towards teens, Timberland for outdoorsy adults.
  3. Set up a rigid distinction between brands. Vans are urban, while Timberland is all about the great outdoors.
  4. Create different brand names. Stay away from alliteration!
  5. Launch a new sibling only when you can create a new category. Vans’ has the cool skater sneaker and Timberland’s got the iconic yellow boot.
  6. Keep control of the sibling family at the highest level. VF calls its company culture “One VF”. That about says it all.


Take Away from Law of the Siblings
“There is a time and a place to launch a second brand.”


* We at Agenda Marketing are proud to support Break The Trend of Soundrive Records at the 2016 Vans Warped Tour