Building Reputation in a Multi-vs-Single Brand World

July 24, 2012

Building Reputation in a Multi-vs-Single Brand World

You have probably read enough about our survey The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust. The first segment of the study, released in early 2012, reported on the growing interdependence of product brand and corporate reputation. The findings alerted marketing and communications executives to a tectonic shift in communicating the voice of the “enterprise” to key stakeholders. The survey, conducted with KRC Research, was among nearly 2,000 consumers and executives in two developed markets (U.S. and U.K.) and two developing markets (China and Brazil). The second release focused on CEOs and their role in reputation-building from the viewpoint of consumers and executives. This third release, just issued today, explores how executives in companies that market their products under multiple brand names differ from those companies who market mostly under one single brand name in their approach to building reputation. It addresses why it may be critical for product brands to be transparent about their ownership, even in cases where a company has made thoughtful and strategic decisions to lessen the exposure of the corporate brand.
We learned that 75% of executives at companies that manage products under multiple brand names now believe that a strong parent brand reputation is as important as the company’s individual product brands. As I was quoted in today’s release and executive summary: “Historically, multi-brand organizations more extensively marketed their product brands over their corporate brands, but their future success might entail determining how to bring the corporate brand forward to realize the full potential of all their reputational assets.”

I always get asked what surprised me. First, despite the advantage of leveraging the parent brand to enhance the reputation of the product brands, the survey found that many multi-brand executives aren’t fully embracing consumers’ increased scrutiny of the company behind the products they buy. While more than eight in 10 single-brand executives recognize that consumers are increasingly checking labels and doing research to identify the company behind the brand, significantly fewer multi-brand executives recognize how proactive and discerning consumers are about what they buy.


Single-Brand Executives

Multi-Brand Executives

Percent completely/mostly agree…



More and more, consumers are checking labels to see what company is behind the product they are buying



More and more, consumers are doing research to learn about the companies that make the products they buy



* indicates the group is significantly higher

 The second surprise was that despite the fact that multi-brand executives say they are promoting company reputation as much as product reputation (81 percent and 80 percent, respectively), they fall short in communicating some key drivers of company reputation compared to their single-brand counterparts, particularly how employees are treated. There was a particularly large gap between single- and multi-brand companies when it comes to communicating about their workplace (73 percent vs. 52 percent, respectively). Companies that are proud of their records for employee satisfaction should not be reluctant to communicate these qualities and tout their awards or placement on ‘best of’ lists. These credentials help drive the overall reputation of a company, regardless of how many brands it markets, and possibly influence purchasing behavior.

Take a look at the summary for greater detail. When I was talking to PRWeek about the findings, they said they were surprised how little information was available on this topic. We agree. When we did the background research on the increasing indivisibility of the corporate and brand reputation today, we were floored by how little had been done and how companies had been relying on “this is how we’ve done it” thinking. We hope that we at Weber Shandwick are filling in some critical gaps on this dimension of corporate vs. brand reputation in a no-secrets-consumer-is-in-the-driver’s-seat Internet world.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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