The Branded House vs. the House of Brands

Brands are powerful signifiers of value. In a recent discussion, I was reminded of the success "the branded house" has achieved in the scientific and scholarly publishing world. A "branded house" exists where a singular brand is used across the majority of an organization's products. Nature provides a good example, with their 40+ journals in the Nature house.

There is a reason the branded house springs to mind more easily -- it is less diffuse than its cousin, the house of brands.

The house of brands might be most familiar if we go outside of our professional space and into the world of retail, where a house of brands like Procter & Gamble exists. P&G has 21 brands individually valued at more than $1 billion in annual revenues -- brands in the P&G house, like Pampers, Tide, Pantene, Gillette, Crest, Always, and Downy, are familiar to nearly everyone, yet the P&G name sits in the background, a quiet presence overseeing the house of brands.

In professional and scholarly publishing, McGraw-Hill represents a house of brands, with textbooks and information services that deploy the familiar red-and-white McGraw-Hill logo on their spines, but are better known by their domain-specific brands -- "Harrison's Internal Medicine" and their Access series.

The branding choice between the "branded house" and the "house of brands" is important. The "branded house" is easier to deliver, and more memorable, so may have a better ROI for smaller organizations addressing homogeneous audiences. The "house of brands" approach often develops over time as a history of mergers and acquisitions across multiple, large, disparate product sets and customer bases.

Whichever approach is taken, consistency and care make a big difference. Tend to your brands. Most firms underinvest in branding and brand management, yet this is an area with typically remarkable returns after ongoing investments.

House of brands, or branded house -- either way, your brand is your most valuable asset. Please treat accordingly.