Social Media Strategy And Branding: Deciding Between A Single Or Multi-Brand

Social media platforms create great scale. If Facebook were a nation, it would be the third largest in the world. When using a social media platform, because there is so many people in one place, a marketer must decide something early in their branding strategy. Are we going to have a single brand or are we going to have multiple renditions of the same brand?

The classic case of this is how the early car business was branded. In the early 1900’s, Henry Ford of Ford Motor and Billy Durant at General Motors had to make a decision on how the car should be branded. Both knew that the pre-eminent brand in automobiles would be the company that could produce a low cost car that the masses could purchase. If a single brand were created, this would contain costs. However, people want variety. Henry and Billy branded their products in different ways. Their dilemma is the dilemma of the modern social media marketer. Do we go with single or multiple brands for the same product?

The early car business is an excellent benchmark because what happened from 1908-1928 is a barometer of how modern products develop their brands. In the social media age, in general, a brand is created in three ways. A product is positioned. It is then repositioned. It is then positioned again. This happened in the car business.

Henry Ford made a brilliant assessment of the car market of 1908. At this time, there was a weak middle class. People were struggling. Henry Ford himself only paid his workers $.39 an hour. Creating a car for the masses hinged on one thing—the lowest cost. Henry created the greatest brand of all time, the Model T.

Billy didn’t see this. He created multiple brands at GM. As the market evolved, this assessment turned out to be as brilliant as Henry’s.

By 1923, the market had changed. Now there was now a middle class in America. People had disposable income. Albert Sloan, the new CEO of General Motors understood this. People wanted variety and they had the ability to pay for it. The car market was now repositioned. A new paradigm had developed in the car market. People now purchased cars to define their financial state in life. The new market would be based on making cars that people could afford, but low cost transportation was not the where the brand hinged. There was a car for entry level people. There was a car for middle class people. There was also a car for rich people Alfred Sloan coined the phrase, “A car for every purse”. This contrasted to Henry Ford’s phrase of 1908, “you can have any color you want as long as it is black”. Rich people would not buy a poor man’s car.

Henry didn’t understand this. Ford Motor Company almost went bankrupt because he didn’t realize how markets had evolved. As a rule, in general, single brands are not effective in the long-term. As markets evolve, different renditions of a brand are created. In many cases, you enter the market with a single brand, and then you expand. The great thing about social media is that its scale allows you to monitor the speed of the market. You now have a tool to monitor your markets in real time.

Dean Hambleton
[email protected]